While restoring the car, its new owners uncovered a fascinating history. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Amidst a sea of ground-pounding Detroit muscle at the 2021 Goodyguys Summit Racing Nationals, this pocket-size Honda stood out like a chipmunk running in the Kentucky Derby. It’s easily a third of the size of a 1970s-era Cadillac, with a sliver of the horsepower.

Yet when we heard that it had an impressive autocross resume, we had to track down this Honda’s owners to learn more about it.

The car belongs to Karen and Brian Joseph, a husband and wife team of vintage Honda aficionados. Their passion runs deep—Karen daily-drove a Z600 back in the early 1970s and they’ve been amassing an impressive collection of these tiny Hondas ever since.

Dig vintage Hondas? Check this out: This Incredibly Rare 1966 Honda S600 is an Evolutionary Link Between Honda’s Cars & Motorcycles

This one in particular came from the fabled Ron Hackenberger Auction a few years ago. “There were four or five Hondas in that auction,” Karen says.

The N600 and Z600 cars are noteworthy as they were the first models Honda exported to the United States—before these cars, Honda in America was strictly a motorcycle company. While the N600 was a more conventional passenger car (with a similar profile to a Mini Cooper), the Z600 was Honda’s sport-oriented coupe.

Depending on the year and trim, they made about 40ish horsepower and, thanks to a 1,200-pound curb weight, they topped out around 80 mph. “They sold about 18,000 of them,” Karen explains. “And in 1973, Honda brought over the Civic to replace it.”

Its “Dick Poe Honda, El Paso” dealership badge is still on the back. Note the spare tire in the hatch below the license plate too. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Originally from Texas, this particular Z600 is amazingly rust-free and still wears its original paint. Karen walks us around the car, showing us where the usual trouble spots are, those places where corrosion can quickly doom these little Hondas to the scrapyard. She also describes some telltale signs of body repairs she’s seen on other vintage Hondas—her keen eye undoubtedly trained over decades of Z600 ownership.

Karen tells us that their Honda makes 36 horsepower from its 600cc two-cylinder engine. For perspective, a modern Honda CBR600 sport bike delivers around 100 hp. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Karen says this Honda didn’t need much to get it back on the road. New tires and a battery, fluid changes, basic maintenance, and some meticulous buffing and detailing was all it required. “We wanted to keep it an original paint car,” Karen explains.

All that care and attention didn’t relegate the Honda to trailer status either. “We drive it a lot,” she says, grinning. “We drive it on the freeway. It’s really fun, because people will point and take pictures.”

The supplemental gauge cluster (lower left) and fire extinguisher were there when the Josephs bought the car, making them curious about its history. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

But what’s really interesting about this plucky little Honda is its history. We were fascinated by an old photograph clipped to its windshield that showed the car ripping through cones in some long-forgotten autocross course. “We talked to the original owner’s son,” Karen reveals. “And it turns out that they both had these cars and autocrossed together.”

The previous owner’s son provided this picture of the car from over 40 years ago when it was competing in SCCA autocross racing. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

In fact, this very car won the 1975 Pan-American Region SCCA Autocross Championship. Better still, the Josephs built a rapport with the original owner’s son, and he was kind enough to provide some historical pictures and even some unobtanium original parts.

The Josephs continue to wring it out to this day, and had just run it on the autocross course set up a few hundred yards away from where we spoke. “We redlined it today,” Karen chuckles. “We did 66.1, which is a pretty good time for this little thing.”

Check out more pictures of this ultra-awesome Honda Z600 below:

The previous owner’s son was nice enough to give the Josephs a pair of original foglights that he had kept for decades. That generous donation allowed the Z600 to return to the way it looked back when it was storming autocross courses. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
There’s a small cargo compartment behind the rear seats. And yes, this Z600 has seating for four. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Back in 1972, a new Honda Z600 would set you back a mere $1,620. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in 1972 Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.