When people say they don’t make cars like they used to, they’re normally talking about design. But automakers today simply don’t make cars as small as the Honda Z600, one of the first cars the Japanese brand ever sold in America.
Powered by a 598 cc two-cylinder engine, the Z600 was one of Honda‘s early attempts at making the leap from motorcycles to cars. An impressively tiny thing, this particular example was bought and restored by one of Honda’s early American dealers.
Buck Woodruff was the youngest Honda dealer in Georgia when he opened his franchise in the mid-’70s. He opened his dealership at the age of 25, a few years after this was replaced by the Civic, but he was looking for a classic project car to put in the dealership and to work on with his son Harrison, who is nearing that same age.
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Sold before the gas crisis, when big-displacement engines were still popular, the Z600 was a real oddity on America’s roads.
“Yes, it was [a tough sell] because this was introduced in the middle of the muscle car era, which was still going on,” explains Woodruff. “But Mr. Honda was very technical and very much a visionary in his time. The precision was the focus and efficiency was the focus, and America caught on.”
Unlike those massive V8-engined behemoths, this two-cylinder featherweight had just 36 hp (26 kW/36 PS) to play with, per Hemmings, but that also meant that it could, according to Woodruff, go 60 miles per gallon (3.9 lt/100 km) of fuel consumed.
Despite being so small (in every regard) Leno is impressed by the car when he gets behind the wheel. Noting how comfortable it is, he says it has more room than his Lamborghini Miura, and it accelerates pretty well, too.
That doesn’t mean it’s a completely smooth ride, though. Seen chugging along late in the video, Leno suggests that a pinhole in the gas cap must be blocked, interfering with the flow of fuel. Indeed, once the owner removes the gas cap, the problem is solved.
A little go-kart of a car, it proves to be an impressive machine because of its small size, not in spite of it. Like most classic cars, though, it also proves to be a little moody.