Many of today’s green cars are stingy on fuel, and speedy on the road. But nobody could have imagined combing fuel-efficiency and brisk acceleration when this Honda N600 was sold new in 1971. The N600 boasted fuel efficiency up to 40 miles per gallon. But when tested by Britain’s Motor magazine, they reported traveling from zero-to-60 mph in a leisurely 19 seconds.
Also, few people would have foreseen that American roadways would be filled with small fuel-efficient cars from Japan. After all, the N600 was Honda’s first import to the U.S. Diminutive N600 sedans and Z600 coupes were sold by side-by-side at Honda motorcycle dealerships. The 36-horsepower minicar was dwarfed by typical American cars at the time. It measures just over 10 feet long, and weighs approximately 1,300 pounds. About 30,000 to 40,000 of the models were sold through 1972. According to web reports, only about 300 or 400 are still operational—making this one for sale on eBay a true collector’s item. The Honda N600 was replaced in 1972 by the first-generation Honda Civic, which has been a top-selling compact car in America for generations.
The N600 featured a number of technological innovations for its day: an all-alloy engine, front power disc brakes, and four-speed all-synchro transmission. But mostly, it’s regarded for its extraordinary packaging. “With only 122.8 inches, Honda couldn’t waste any space and expect passengers to be the least bit comfortable, so they went to front-wheel-drive,” wrote Motor Trend in a 1972 review. “They wrapped the whole engine and transmission unit in one piece with a common crankcase. The compact drive unit, plus the lack of drive shaft and rear end assembly made for maximum space inside. They then put a wheel on each corner and wrapped the affair in a rigid unitized body.” Reducing size and weight continues to be a key fuel efficiency strategy of today’s cars.
Honda used the N600’s small size as the chief selling point of the 1971 television commercial that introduced it to Americans. Because it was the first and only Honda on the road at the time, the ad tagline was simply, “Honda, the new little car that’s already perfect for your town.” Maybe this cute-as-hell Honda N600 is perfect for your driveway as well. It doesn’t take up much room.
For more information about fuel efficient cars, visit eBay’s Green Driving Center.