15 January 2018
More than an old car #50: Honda S600
Honda is certainly well-known among most of us Singaporeans--it is one of the most popular car brands here and even if you do not own one, you would have sat in one in the form of an Uber/Grab. Not to mention that it has captured the hearts of many JDM fans who adore the humble Civic, or fall in love with the silkiness of its VTEC engines. However, this 1966 Honda S600 should deserve praise as it helped to establish Honda as a favourite car manufacturer.
It all began with Honda's founder, Soichiro Honda, who had an interest in cars. In 1937, he founded Tokai Seiki, a company that manufactured piston rings for car engines. Due to the war, the factory was destroyed and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. was incorporated in 1949. Previously, Honda specialised in making motorcycles that were popular among buyers, while its first production automobile appeared in 1963. Over the next few decades, Honda worked hard to expand its product lines and technology as times changed. It has remained the car of choice for buyers around the world.
The Honda S600 first appeared in 1964 and was based off the earlier S500 model. Other than its unique small size, the wheels had a chain-drive suspension just like the ones you see on a motorbike. Many people fell in love with its surprisingly powerful engine which could redline at an incredible 11000rpm, which was unknown in sports cars back then. For comparison, a Toyota Vios today redlines only at 7000rpm. At one time, it held the title for the fastest 1-litre car in the world. It was powered by a 606cc inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 145km/h with an estimated acceleration of 16 seconds [0-100km/h]. It weighed 715kg and was 3.3m long.
Production ended in 1966 with a total of 11,284 convertibles made. This is the only specimen in Singapore and it looks like a nippy ride, especially with the top down! Vintage Japanese cars stand out amidst the predominantly continental brands, mainly because there are not many here. It also has an original registration plate, lending it a nice classic touch. Currently, it is under repair at a car workshop and it is commendable that the owner has still kept it for so long. I would dare say that most of you did not know about this Japanese gem until today!