Honda just completed the restoration of the first car it sold in America, and the diminutive hatchback shows just how far the Japanese automaker has come in the past few decades.
The car that led to such Honda hits as the Accord, Civic, and CR-V is a tiny N600, a model almost looks too small to be a real car. The first American Honda carries Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 1000001, and is known as “Serial One.” Honda documented the restoration process in a 12-episode series of online videos that just wrapped up along with the restoration.
The N600 first appeared on U.S. shores in 1969. Honda had already achieved considerable success here with motorcycles, while car sales were dominated by American brands and their gas-guzzling behemoths. At 122 inches long, the N600 could actually fit within the wheelbases of many typical American cars of the time, Honda notes.
Honda’s entry into the U.S. car market also took place during the golden age of American muscle cars, when big V8s and performance ruled the day. But the N600 was about as far from a Hemi-powered Dodge Charger or Ford Mustang Boss 429 as you could get. Its 598-cc two-cylinder engine could only get the Honda to a top speed of 81 mph. It did put Honda in a good position when the 1970s oil crises took hold, though.
Almost 50 years after it was built, Serial One was discovered by Tim Mings, an N600 specialist who claims to have restored over 1,000 of the cars. He purchased Serial One sight unseen sometime ago, not knowing about its special place in Honda history. Over the past six months, Honda has documented his work on the car, which was unveiled at the Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California.
The restored Serial One N600 is an important reminder of how far Honda, and cars in general, have come in the past few decades. Will today’s Civic look just as quaint compared to the Hondas of 2066? Only time will tell.