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.
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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.”
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 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.”
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.”
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:
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I was one of (however we’re sold in 1972) that bought a yellow 600 hatchback in Carmichael, CA for $1,700. It was like driving a go-cart! I averaged about 40mpg, sold it after a year for $1,500. Should have kept it!