Some cars are polished, some accept patina. This one appears to accept leprosy. A scruffy little Honda covered in blight and biconcave like a dog-chewed golf ball, it looks like a mashup amid Mad Max and a Despicable Me minion. Can you get an eye infection from attractive at pictures? Maybe we charge some array of disclaimer.
But as animal and scabby and possibly tetanus-laden as this car adeptness look, it is additionally genesis. This is the American Honda Motor Company’s aboriginal antagonism machine, a race-prepped N600. It’s a 18-carat Baja 1000 warrior, and an absurd survivor. It was additionally bootless in period, is added than a little dangerous, and absolutely active it about is apparently a Actual Bad Idea.
But, aftermost year, we had a go at it anyway.
Tim Mings, buyer of Honda N600 specialist Merciless Mings, began the awkward operation of accepting this old adversary to ahem to life. In the Sesame Artery of automotive enthusiasm, Mings is Oscar the Grouch. He is bad-tempered and angry and a allurement for little tin cans with Honda badges on them. There’s apparently no bigger N600 able on the planet, and the cars accumulate award their way here, to his barn on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
“The adventure of Honda American antagonism begins here,” he says. The Baja car fires up with a complete like a lawnmower agronomics into a bedrock garden. He gives me an angry grin.
We covered Mings a few years ago aback he stumbled beyond and after adequate the actual aboriginal Honda car to access on U.S. soil. The Honda N600 address VIN #001 was one of 50 1967 prototypes acclimated in testing, and one of alone a few that able the crusher. Mings begin it by adventitious trailered on a ancillary street, aching years of crud off the VIN bowl to ascertain its provenance, afresh brought it aback to aflame perfection.
Not so abundant this thing. The little 598cc two-cylinder agent sounds acutely angry at actuality alive from slumber. It has a few hot-rod genitalia anchored to it, and adeptness be authoritative as abundant as 50 hp. Double-digit application shouldn’t be alarming in a car, but it’s added than you’d appetite to accept activated to your accessible extremities, and “chainsaw accident” is actual abundant the vibe the N600 is giving off. It growls out unburnt hydrocarbons and refuses to abandoned properly.
Here’s the quick history assignment on Honda’s aboriginal cars. The actual aboriginal in North America were S600 roadsters, awash out of a scattering of motorcycle dealerships in Canada. Aboriginal on U.S. clay was the N600, an adjustment of the N360 kei car, adapted with a beyond 0.6L agent for artery travel.
Think of the N600 as a array of proto-Civic, and you’ll get the accepted idea. It advised 1200 lbs, fabricated 35 hp from a tiny inline-2 (the sand-cast engines in the prototypes fabricated 45 hp), and was about light, cheerful, and mostly had the lifespan of a amber coffee mug.
American Honda confused about 25,000 N600s afore the Civic accustomed as a added bound artefact bigger ill-fitted for North America. Actuality so disposable, it’s not absolutely account abating them, so alone a scattering are still on the anchorage today, admitting you see them casting off in aback lots all over L.A.
“If it doesn’t accept a Merciless Mings sticker on the back,” Mings says, bluntly, “it’s apparently not running.”
He begin the Baja racer mouldering in a Seattle workshop, blimp with a host of additional genitalia (including the aboriginal base diagram), arranged it into a Ford Transit, and hauled it bottomward to Los Angeles. A new ammunition corpuscle and some cursing, and the affair absolutely ran.
I ascend over the cycle cage into the bald metal interior, toggle the ammunition about-face on, and crank the starter. The Baja car snorts up, hardly smoother now that it’s broiled up—that lawnmower is now mulching pea gravel. Mings removes the “parking brake”—a abbreviate breadth of 2 x 6—and I arch off out of the automated breadth area the Merciless Mings boutique stands.
The Baja N600 feels beneath like a bad-tempered old antagonism car than it does a aggressive surplus agent advised for Oompa-Loompas. It morphs alike the smoothest California streets into washboard, has the axis amphitheater of the USS Nimitz, and is about as loud as afraid your arch in an automated dryer. And about as comfortable. And as hot. In the desert, it charge accept been a pint-sized toaster oven.
In 1970 this car contested the then-new Baja 1000 in the easily of Bill Robertson Jr. and Dave Ekins. An N600 was an abnormal choice, but not an abrupt one. Ekins and Robertson were accomplished off-road racers and pioneers. In 1962, they paved the way for the aboriginal Baja 1000 aboard a brace of then-new Honda CL72 250cc “Scrambler” motorcycles, Honda’s aboriginal clay bikes.
Courtesy Dave Ekins
Ekins was brother to Bud Ekins, the stuntman from Bullitt and The Great Escape, and both brothers had been teammates with Steve McQueen in all-embracing off-road motorcycling trials—the N600 raced beneath the cardinal 278, as McQueen generally did. Aboard their 250cc Hondas, Dave initially ran the 1000 afar from Tijuana to La Paz in a almanac of 39 hours and 54 minutes. Robertson was aloof an hour and a bisected behind, accepting absent a butt several afar from the finish.
In 1967, the year those aboriginal Honda prototypes hit U.S. soil, the Baja 1000 became a race. Bruce Meyers bankrupt Ekins’ almanac in his Meyers Manx buggy in April, and by June and July, assorted cars were battling the distance. Ekins and Robertson absitively to carbon their spearheading Baja run in a four-wheeled Honda product.
Courtesy of the Petersen archives
They did so in 1970 in this N600, adapted for off-road antagonism with a cycle cage, big tires, and a retuned engine. On paper, the fuel-efficient and reliable little Honda should accept been aloof as acknowledged as its two-wheeled brethren. There was aloof one ample Achilles’ heel.
“The car had been able by a road-racing accumulation in Michigan,” says Ekins, speaking from his home in Calabasas. “I was able to briefly analysis it on a dry basin bed in the Mojave, and it worked, but there are no bumps on a basin bed.”
The N600’s abeyance had been aloft by 4 inches to access the travel, but it still retained the accepted stops. At abounding droop, the CV axles would appear adrift, and the car would acreage after the adeptness to get its bare ability to the ground. Ekins or Robertson would booty himself out of the co-driver’s seat, convulse beneath the car, and jam the hub aback in.
“We fabricated it about 68 miles,” Ekins says. “It would accept bare a lot added testing and development to get it accessible for Baja, but we had to use what we were given.”
Ekins and Robertson wisely absitively to alarm it quits afore accepting abandoned in the average of nowhere.
It’s account acquainted that, the year previous, Pete Brock had piloted a works Datsun Bluebird SSS (basically a 510) to a admirable fourth-place accomplishment in the Baja, and he aloof larboard the car abaft in the desert. That the N600 got towed back, and after survived over the years, is article of a miracle.
Returning to the barn in one allotment additionally feels like a miracle. Yet as aged as it currently is, the Honda N600 never faltered already it got going. It’s a bananas old scrofulus Yorkshire Terrier of a thing, but it’s still a Honda.
Today, Honda Performance Development will advertise you a actual competent turn-key Civic Type R touring car, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged agent congenital in Ohio. Or, if your wallet extends to it, you can bead a half-million on a NSX GT3 and go try your luck adjoin Ferraris and Aston-Martins.
Or you can artlessly acclamation on Honda Offroad Racing’s 550-hp Ridgeline, as it adds to its abounding bays chiffonier of chic wins and podiums. Powered by a twin-turbo adaptation of the Ridgeline’s 3.5-liter V-6, it’s the airy brood of the Baja N600.
Ekins was reunited with the N600 aftermost year, two trailblazing arid warriors afraid easily already again. The man went the ambit over the Baja. The little car didn’t. Yet, attractive aback over 50 years of American Honda Performance, conceivably the Baja N600 deserves respect—if not as a champion, afresh as a survivor.
Some antecedents are winners out of the gate. Some are alone demography the aboriginal accomplish on a best journey.
10 Picture 2020 Honda Civic – 2020 honda civic
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