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1965 HONDA S600 COUPE

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£26,000

This Honda S600 Coupe is a superb example of the high-revving lightweight sports car, which was the marque’s first mass production passenger vehicle, and which firmly established the brand as a builder of clever and high-quality products. It is powered by a remarkable 606cc water-cooled DOHC inline-four, fed by four Keihin carburettors, and coupled to a four-speed close-ratio manual transmission, which delivered spritely performance and top speed of around 90mph.

Throughout the early Sixties, Honda was on a roll. In 1961, two years after first racing at the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races, the marque secured wins in the 125cc and 250cc classes in the hands of British rider Mike Hailwood. In 1963, the brand revealed the legendary ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ advertising campaign for its remarkable Super Cub model - a bike that remains the best-selling motorised vehicle of all time. And in 1964, it unveiled the handsome S600 sports car, which tipped the scales at just 730kg in Coupe form.

While the styling of the S600 and its predecessor the S500 were said to have been inspired by British GT cars of the era, the engine was a masterpiece entirely of Honda’s own creation. Most similar cars at the time used a heavy iron block and single-overhead camshaft design, but the S600 employed an advanced dual-overhead camshaft layout with four carburettors, and a 9,500rpm redline. Honda’s motorcycle expertise was of course a key factor in the invention of such a character road car engine, and it instantly set the Japanese sports model apart from the competition. As a further endorsement of its credentials, the S600 has just featured on Hagerty’s ‘Bull Market’ list for 2021, denoting its increasing profile within the collector car community.

An original factory right-hand drive car, this S600 is understood to have been delivered to South Africa, and it remained there until 2016, when it was acquired from the estate of a deceased collector. He had commenced a rebuild, but sadly passed away before the project was completed. It was then imported to the UK, where its current owner is well-known motoring journalist and TV presenter, Jonny Smith.

Upon finding that the car remained very honest and remarkably free of rust, Smith decided to treat the S600 to a sympathetic restoration. The paintwork and mechanicals were refurbished, while the wonderfully original interior was left largely untouched. Only around 1,800 examples of the S600 Coupe were built, and as it was never officially sold in the UK, it remains an especially rare sight on these shores, believed to be one of just three such cars in the country. All of the import paperwork has been done, so it is now a taxes-paid vehicle in the UK, ready for registration by the next owner.

When the car arrived in the UK, it was found to have hail damage on the roof paintwork, and some fading around the rest of the car caused by being in the strong South African sun. It was subsequently stripped and given a repaint in the period-correct ‘Honda R2 Scarlet’ by Retro Classica of Milton Keynes. All of the elegant brightwork was in good order and was kept original, while new windscreen and rear window rubber seals were sourced and fitted. Since the photographs were taken, the correct stainless steel trim strips have been fitted in the door apertures, and a replacement script wing badge can also be supplied to the next owner. The car rides on a correct set of 13-inch wheels, which are in great shape.

Today, the paint finish presents very well, with the vendor noting a minor scratch and blister on the bonnet, and a small chipped section around the rear hatch shut area, which is hidden when the boot is closed. There are a few minor hairline cracks or crazing in two indicator lenses - which are believed to be entirely original - and there are some scratches on the glass. Underneath the car, the vendor reports that the car is as solid and honest as these cars come, with no rot, and with the underbody and separate chassis painted in black by the previous owner. The finishing touch is a custom Quicksilver dual stainless steel exhaust system, which was built to the correct specifications at considerable expense and now sounds fantastic. Bidders can see the underside and exhaust in more detail via the embedded video below.

Inside, the black vinyl upholstery and grey fleck carpets are understood to be original and remain exceptionally well preserved throughout. Likewise, the original black vinyl on the door panels is also in superb order. There are some minor tears to the edges of the headlining in a few places, small hairline cracks in the dashboard top, and ring burn marks from the end of the cigarette lighter on the radio blanking plate - but these hardly detract from what is otherwise a well-presented cabin. The rear quarter plastic covers on either side of the boot area have been repainted in off-white, while the luggage space itself is in good condition, with elegant chromed twist-lock double stays for the hatch panel. The instruments and switches on the dashboard are in excellent condition, with an aluminium fascia panel housing the dials, and with an original wood-rimmed steering wheel.

The well-presented engine bay houses a correct type DOHC 606cc engine, which was treated to a top end rebuild as part of the restoration, with parts sourced from Japan and Germany. It was meticulously refurbished with new seals, rebuilt original Keihin carburettors, and refreshed ancillaries. The original radiator was restored and fitted with new rubber hoses, while a new water pump was installed, and an original electric fuel pump was sourced and fitted. The car was put through rolling road tests to fine-tune the engine and record the dynamometer printout shown in the photo gallery. While the vendor reports that the body mount bushes are slightly worn, they are not in need of any urgent attention.

A significant part of the restoration was the complete strip and rebuild of the S600’s rear axle. It has a complex setup that incorporates a conventional differential mounted under the floor just behind the seats, with aluminium castings at either side that house chain drives for the rear wheels, and which double as the trailing arm suspension. This rare and fascinating mechanical system was fully refurbished with new sprockets, bearings and seals at substantial cost, with all work carried out by Project Heaven in Peterborough. There are no modifications to the factory specification, so the car remains highly original, and has covered less than 100 miles since its three-year recommissioning project.

The car’s superb cosmetic and mechanical condition is shown in the photos below, but it has also been featured extensively on Jonny Smith’s YouTube channel - an example of which is the embedded video below. Bidders should note that the number plate currently on the car is its original South African registration, as it has not yet been registered in the UK - though of course all import duties and taxes have been paid. The car is fitted with correct Dunlop SP Aquajet tyres on all four corners, which are date-coded to 2019 and remain in as-new condition.

Accompanying the car are all of the export and import documents, as well as an original and pristine S600 brochure - albeit in German - plus numerous photos of the restoration in progress, and the original enamel Honda key. The vendor has a physical S800 manual, which is a helpful reference for shared components, and while hard copies of the S600 handbook are unobtainable, PDF scans of an original book are included. Finally, the winning bidder will also be given an original spare wheel carrier and spare wheel - which is not currently fitted as the vendor prefers the cleaner look without the carrier hanging from underneath the rear end.

The S600 was the first car to truly put Honda’s engine technology on the map, setting the tone for all of the innovations that would follow, with the marque’s VTEC system and legendary Type R engines now celebrated among enthusiasts. Moreover, its high-revving motor and two-seater layout has seen it presented as “the grandfather of the S2000” by Jay Leno, who has one of these incredible cars in his own collection.

This Honda S600 Coupe is an exciting classic sports car, presented in excellent condition. With only three such cars believed to be in the UK, it is an exceptionally rare sight - and while 1,800 were delivered worldwide, many have been lost due to accidents or neglect. Given that this car was a contemporary to the likes of the MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite, it makes the British coupes look antiquated by comparison, boasting remarkable engineering credentials for a mid-1960s Japanese model. For someone seeking a lesser-spotted classic, this restored S600 Coupe remains complete and correct, and represents an opportunity not to be missed.

Please note: the very early 1965 Honda CZ100 ‘Monkey Bike’ seen in the gallery will be offered via a separate online auction coming soon, and would of course make a wonderful companion classic to this superb S600 Coupe.

The description of this auction lot is, to the best of the seller's knowledge, accurate and not misleading. Collecting Cars requests a range of detail about the lot from the seller, and performs a level of due diligence. However, bidders must satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of the description, and conduct any research they feel is necessary before committing to a bid. Please see our Terms and Conditions for full details.

As this car is not UK-registered, it cannot be run through Collecting Cars’ standard online HPI check process.


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