Honda Packs Big Ideas Into the Small S600
The word “genius” is bandied about pretty easily these days, the internet having the unique effect of turning people into self-contained PR teams for their own pet causes and interests, where hype and one-upmanship are held as virtues rather than the cheap and petty tactics they were once regarded as. That being said, Soichiro Honda was inarguably a true mechanical genius, gifted not only with an innate and God-given understanding of his field, but also with a child-like inquisitiveness and fearlessness that allowed the company bearing his name to pursue wildly unconventional solutions to persistent problems. This brave and liberal attitude towards experimentation brought about numerous engineering breakthroughs (as well as spectacular failures, most of which never made it to production), the shadows of which still cast long three decades after his departure from company involvement. In this mold the Honda S600 was cast.
Released in early 1964, the S600 was Honda’s first mass-marketed car, and was heavily based on the previous S500, of which only just under 1,400 were made during an 11-month-long production run ending in 1964. Offered as a roadster or a less-common coupe, both were tiny with dimensions similar to those defined by Kei car regulations, but were not actually of that class. Brimming with fascinating and imaginative engineering wrought on a miniature scale, the S600 was heavily inspired by Honda’s contemporary work with motorcycles and Formula 1 racecars.