Its serial number is 1000001. And it’s where Honda’s American story begins.
The 1967 Honda N600 Serial One was the very first Honda automobile brought to the United States. However, the original Serial One unknowingly purchased by legendary Honda N600 mechanic Tim Mings a couple of years ago looked nothing like the pristine restored vehicle pictured above.
Serial One’s journey from junk pile to rebirth is a testament to the legendary skills of Mings, the only full-time Honda 600 mechanic in the world. He has restored hundreds of Honda 600s and knows every nut, bolt, washer, gear, and wire that goes into them.
But before we describe the Serial One’s journey back from junkyard oblivion, let’s take a look back at Honda’s N600 its historic significance to the Japanese automaker and to the automotive industry.
Small Size. Big Ambitions.
With its minuscule 2-cylinder, 42-hp, 598cc motorcycle engine, power disc brakes, simple yet surprisingly roomy interior, and 4-speed all-synchro transmission, the tiny N600 that hit U.S. shores in the late 60s and early 70s was an oddity to Americans used to big and powerful land yachts.
Yet despite its underwhelming engine, the plucky N600 still managed to get up enough steam to be respectable. After all, it only weighed a scant 1,300 pounds and measured just 10 feet in length. Although the “100 mph” printed on the speedo was, to say the least, rather fanciful and somewhat ridiculous. “…be aware that it is a car that shouldn’t go more than 65 mph down the road,” Mings once explained to Hemmings Motor News.
Indeed, the little ’67 N600 was simplicity itself. It was designed to demonstrate that Japanese automakers could, in fact, build reliable automobiles and sell them in the States. And it proved that an Asian-sourced car that had low emissions, good fuel economy, and was reasonably fun to drive could indeed be mass marketed to the American public.
Moreover, the N600 paved the way for Honda to introduce the legendary Civic in 1973, which further solidified the automaker’s foothold in the U.S. market. According to the Honda Fact Book, during its heyday, there were approximately 35,000 N600’s like Serial One sold in the U.S. between 1970 and 1972.
A Hot Car Collector Commodity.
However, like the forgotten stepchild who lived on table scraps, the Honda 600 was, according to Mings, quickly orphaned by Honda motorcycle and car dealers who weren’t even obliged to carry parts for it.
Nevertheless, the N600 has endured, becoming a sought-after car for collectors and automotive enthusiasts. Initially costing a mere $1,300 in 1967 (the equivalent of roughly $7,500 in today’s dollars), a correctly restored 600 may fetch upwards of $10,000. However, Serial One is priceless; both to Honda and to automotive history.
A Labor Of Love.
Sitting in “Merciless Mings” auto shop in Azusa, California, the rusted, lime-colored Serial One looked disheveled and decrepit, much like any other car relegated to the slow, rusting death of a junkyard. But as soon as Ming wiped off the years of grime covering up the car’s VIN number, he realized that he had stumbled upon something truly unique.
“I stand in awe when I think about it how this is the very first one made, restoring it and that, at the end of the day, it’s going to go to the Honda Museum where everyone will see it and enjoy it,” said Mings.
His painstaking restoration process took approximately 18 months. Mings and his team replaced virtually every part on the 600, carefully and lovingly coaxing it back to “like-new” condition.
“Every part of this car that could possibly come apart, I took it apart,” Mings explained. “The turn signal switches, the windshield wiper motors, the instruments. Every last piece. I will never restore another car as important as this one.”
Reborn For The Ages.
As if it came directly from the showroom, the reborn ’67 N600 bears little resemblance to the shabby hunk of metal that first made its way to Tim Mings’ garage. It looks brand-spanking new and ready to drive off the lot. It was the star of the September 2016 Los Angeles Japanese Car Collector’s Show (JCCS) as it proudly takes its place in Honda history once more.
Mings and his family were there for the official reveal. Like a proud father introducing his child to the world for the first time, Mings flung off the black drape covering the N600 and soaked in the moment, as admirers and Honda representatives applauded his handiwork. You could see the emotion on Mings’ face because he knew that his masterwork would now be leaving him to take its rightful place of honor at the Honda Museum.
“The power of dreams. It’s kind of emotional, actually, when you come to think about it…,” mused Mings. Thanks to him and his talented N600 restoration team, the dream lives on, brighter than ever.
Tim Mings Restoration introduction video embed code:
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Watch more videos of how the incredible N600 restoration project unfolded at www.serialone.com.
1967 Honda N600 Serial One By The Numbers
- Engine — Air-cooled, all-alloy SOHC inline-twin, transverse-mounted
- Displacement — 599cc
- Bore x stroke — 74 x 69.6mm
- Compression — 8.5:1
- Horsepower — 42 @ 6,600 RPM
- Torque — 37.6 @ 5,000 RPM
- Main bearings — Four
- Fuel system — Variable-venturi Keehin carburetor
- Transmission — Four-speed, all synchro
- Steering — Rack-and-pinion; 3.1 turns lock-to-lock
- Brakes — Independent dual hydraulic system, power-assisted self-adjusting front disc
- Front — 7.1-inch disc
- Rear — 7.1-inch drum
- Wheelbase — 78.7 inches
- Overall length — 125.6 inches
- Overall width — 52.2 inches
- Overall height — 52.4 inches
- How The Honda N600s Once Looked. Photo by Jeff KochCurb weight — 1,355 pounds
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