In 1969 the N600 sedan was introduced to the US market, while the sportier Z600 coupe soon followed in 1970. Barely tipping the scales at 1,300 pounds, these small cars are barely 10 feet in length. A compact little hatchback riding in 78.7-inch wheelbase, the Honda 600, or 'Z' was the first car to be sold mass market by Honda. A two-door kei (Japanese small vehicles) car/city vehicle, the 600 was introduced in 1970 and was produced for only two years. From 1998 through 2003 Honda launched a kei-class SUV with the same name, yet was unrelated.
Sales in the U.S. ended in 1972, a year before the introduction of the Honda Civic. The 600 was the 'sport coupé' of the N600 and production number peaked at 40,586 for its short run. The 600 and the N600 were sold beside each other at American motorcycle dealerships. Typically names with numbers are used to designate the engine size. The Z600 name reflected the 598 cc engine size. In Japan and Australia the smaller-engined Honda Z360 had a 354 cc twin engine. In the U.K. the two-door compact was simply called Honda Z and came only in 600cc form.
The Z600's 598 cc SOHC engine was rated at 36 horsepower. A revamp in December of 1971 brought with it a water-cooled engine producing 36 hp at 9,000 rpm. The following month the 31 PS engine used in the lower spec versions also became water-cooled. Before this the Z360 used an air-cooled 354 cc 2-cyliner SOHC engine with a 4- or 5- speed transmission powering the front wheels. Act and Pro version had a 31 hp output while the sporty TS and GS models had an output of 36 hp at 9,000 rpm.
On the inside of the snug little two-door was enough room for two adults in a surprisingly spacious cabin with a very small rear seat. A small, shallow cargo space was hidden behind a rear glass hatch with a black plastic surround. The spare wheel and tools were housed in a compartment beneath the cargo area, accessible through a lid behind the number plate. After November 1972 and an update, the extra lid was removed. The new EA 22 cubic inch engine, only available in a more powerful 36 hp version was also new at this time. The 600 sported coil sprung and independent front suspension and leaf springs on a live beam axle rear suspension. When compared to other micro cars of the time, the 600 was quite powerful with its two cylinder motorcycle engine. The vehicle featured front power disc brakes and 4 speed all synchro transmission and a tachometer.
A 1971 Honda Z600 driven by Erin Burns set a new speed record for stock body production cars with 750 cc engines with his 'Evil Tweety'. The record was set at 103.978 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats on August 19, 2008. Chris Clay took 'Evil Tweety' to a new record the next day for altered gas vehicles with 750 cc engines at 106.531 mph. A Saab 96 beat these two records three short years later.
During its two-year production run a total of 40,586 N600 sedans and Z600 coupes were sold in the U.S., with the majority sold being the sedans. Today very few of these models have survived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Z
By Jessica Donaldson