The N600 microcar bearing serial number one was unearthed in a pile of junk and has been brought back to life.

After achieving huge success with its motorcycles, Japanese automaker Honda entered the North American car market in 1969. And the first car it offered was the miniscule N600 microcar.

Measuring just 2,995 millimetres (117.9 inches) from nose to tail, the N600 was more than three-and-a-half feet (1050 mm) shorter than a Volkswagen Beetle, which was considered an extremely small car at the time. In fact, the N600 would probably fit in the trunk of some of the land yachts U.S. manufacturers were producing in the late 1960's.

Power came from a jewel-like, 0.6-litre twin-cylinder engine, which served up 45 horsepower and would spin round to 9,000 revolutions per minute. Top speed was all of 130 kilometres per hour (81 miles per hour). But because it was so slow, so tiny, and had a keen, front-wheel drive chassis, it could be driven absolutely flat out everywhere.

The coupe-styled Z600 joined the range shortly after and both stayed on the market until 1972, when they were replaced by the Civic. Only around 25,000 N600's and Z600's were sold, but they served as a launching pad for the vast success Honda has had in the U.S. over the last 40 years.

Los Angeles-based Tim Mings is the foremost expert on Honda 600's. Indeed, he is the only full-time specialist in the world. And, by some miracle, he unearthed the very first N600 - and therefore the first Honda car - that had ever been imported into the U.S. How could he tell? It bore serial number one on the chassis plate, which is pretty unequivocal.

Tim embarked on a complete, nut-and-bolt restoration, which Honda chronicled in the 12-part documentary series Serial One. You can watch the last episode above, in which Tim reminisces about the process, and the car is finally unveiled at the Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California.

The little N600 goes through a complete transformation, from ruined wreck to shining centerpiece. Seeing it makes Tim pretty emotional. It's been a long road, after all.

 

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