Stills taken from Honda video.
Were it up to Honda, the very first car the company built for the United States would’ve gone through a crusher nearly 50 years ago, relegated to becoming another anonymous chunk of scrap metal. Instead, and this time with Honda’s support, it made its way through a recent restoration and will go on public display for the first time ever later this month.
The survival of the car, a 1967 Honda N600 with serial number 1000001, has depended largely on two men: The first a scrapyard dealer in Gardena, California; the second Tim Mings, a Honda 600 expert and restorer. The former, as the story goes, sold three of the 50 N600s that Honda brought to the United States that year for testing purposes despite orders from Honda to scrap the whole batch. The latter, decades later, rounded up all three of the cars in his Duarte, California, shop.
Originally painted Ceramic White, serial number 1000001 had been repainted Kermit green at some point and collected a fair number of dents in its time on the road. But under the surface rust, shredded headliner, and crusty dusty interior, it remained pretty much as Honda first assembled it. “I’m the first person to take it apart since it was put together in 1967,” Mings said. “It’s kinda humbling that I get to be the guy that does it.”
Along the way, as a series of Honda-produced short videos shows, Mings encountered a number of quirks to the pre-production test cars, such as a flywheel used on the Japanese-market N360 rather than the expected American-market N600. “There’s lots of little subtle differences,” he said.
Though Mings, who obtained 1000001 in the mid-2000s, expected he’d have the restoration finished somewhere around 2015, work on the car didn’t actually commence until about March of this year, with Honda expecting a 12- to 18-month turnaround. Instead, Mings, who insisted that “this car deserves to have the very best treatment possible,” has the Honda restored and ready to show at this year’s Japanese Classic Car Show. Following the show, the N600 will go to one of Honda’s museums.
In addition to the unveiling of Honda 1000001, JCCS organizers have also planned 50th anniversary celebrations for the Toyota Corolla and for Brock Racing Enterprises, along with a tribute to racer Yoshimi Katayama.
The 12th annual Japanese Classic Car Show is scheduled for September 24 in Long Beach, California. For more information, visit JapaneseClassicCarShow.com.