Can A Vintage Honda Econobox Make Your Morning Commute More Exciting?
Photography courtesy of The Finest
If there was any automotive good that came from the 1973 oil crisis, it was the rise in popularity of Japanese imports. Prior to the fuel shortage, Americans bought ponderous, plush, and prodigious land barges, which were whatever you want to call the polar opposite of efficient. When gas (which we yanks foolishly call the flammable liquid) turned from a disposable and abundant luxury into a rationed necessity that quadrupled in price, Americans desperately needed something more efficient.
Despite a few S series roadsters making their way into the country via grey market, the N600 was actually Honda’s first officially imported vehicle for sale in the USDM. The N600 first went on sale stateside in 1970, but despite being incredibly efficient, compact, laughably slow-but-fun-to-drive, and affordable ($1,395 new), sales tallied just 25,o00 some odd units. Due to low sales and the sub-800-cc emissions exemption being abolished, production ceased in 1972—ending just before the oil crisis.
In 1973, Honda released the N600’s successor, another compact you may have heard of: the Civic. If the oil crisis had happened a year earlier, speculatively the N600 name could have carried the Civic’s oil crisis saving grace, but I digress. What I do know is this cherry final year 1972 Honda N600 is one of the last of Honda’s first car in America, and likely one of the nicest left. Though it had low sales figures, the N600 paved the way for future Hondas—at an eye watering 19-second zero-to-60 pace.
The history of this particular N600 is vague in the auction description, but its 12,xxx miles since new certainly infer it’s had a pampered life. Oddly, a Honda/Acura technician traded in this H-car time capsule to Bridgewater Acura based in New Jersey after completely restoring the car using NOS parts. An NSX owner discovered the car through a forum and purchased the classic compact shortly after.
Masters in motorcycle engine mechanics, the N600 received a peppy ~40 horsepower all-alloy air-cooled four-cylinder capable of revving to 9,000 rpm, thanks to its roller bearing crank. Due to the compact packaging and weight savings—to include a plastic dashboard, rear hatch, and parcel shelf—the N600 achieved an impressive ~28.8 pounds per horsepower. Low on power doesn’t equal low on fun. With a top speed of 80 mph, the Japanese Mini makes an argument for the “it’s better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” mentality.
It’s 2016, and although we’re not exactly in an oil crisis (or are we?), fuel isn’t cheap. If you’ve got a boring commute, why not liven things up with a charming Japanese classic? With the priciest N600 trading hands for $23,000 back in February 2013, they’re still relatively affordable. Easily achieving 32+ mpg, it’s not even that unreasonable to consider making this your new daily driver—just be sure to use all of the onramp to build speed before merging, and keep a few spares with you.
– Final year of the first Honda sold in America
– Restored using NOS Honda parts
– 12,xxx miles since new
~40 horsepower four-cylinder engine, four-speed dog leg transmission, independent front and dead-axle leaf spring rear suspension, servo-assisted front disc and rear brakes. Wheelbase: 2,000 mm.
Chassis no.: 00000AN6001051822