It has been two years since I debut my latest project at the 12th annual JCCS Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, CA. To say the least, it drew a lot of attention! People were blown away with my vision and the execution of this tiny Honda. In fact, so were the judges. I was awarded the coveted “Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Workmanship”. Magazines and the Internet also loved it. It has full feature articles in both Japanese magazines, Daytona and Option and appears on the Internet at SPEEDHUNTERS.com.
These past two years I have had my fun driving and showing the car. It really attracts a crowd with its presence. Once people see the engineering and craftsmanship, they are completely blown away! Not to mention the sound of the high revving motorcycle engine. However, the time has come to move it on to another enthusiast to enjoy. I’m more of a builder, not a car show person and have my new project to focus on.
I have always had a love of small unusual cars. I have owned MGBs, Datsun 2000 Roadsters, a wooden chassis Marcos 1600GT, MATRA D’Jet 5, Porsches, BMWs, and my new project a FIAT 850 Sport Coupe. I have been building, restoring and racing cars for 35+ years. My Honda N1200 project came about after I spent 6 years and a lot of money doing a nut and bolt restoration on my 1971 BMW 2800cs coupe. It’s a beautiful car, but there are others like it. It’s easy to restore a car back to original if you have the time, money and skill, but doesn’t allow you to express your creativity. I wanted to pick an unusual and rarely seen car. I stumbled across a rust free 1971 Honda N600 with a blown engine and thought . . . . . . . ?
This is where my Autocross and Vintage racing experience comes into the picture. I have always wanted to build an outrageous street legal race car. I knew there were going to be many creative and engineering challenges. Just what I was looking for!
My first challenge: How do you make an outrageous street legal race car out of a four seat, front wheel drive car with only 36hp? Simply put . . . . . it is impossible. I decided from the start to use only the rust free shell of the N600 and build a proper race car to put under it.
The car was built to SCCA road racing safety specifications. My design incorporated proper roll cage fabrication, tubing thicknesses, electrical cut offs, FIA approved custom fuel cell, a racing seat and belts. The drivetrain is a FJ1200 bored out to a 1250 that has been highly modified; 44mm flat slide Mukuni carburetors, a Dynatek stand alone dual coil ignition system with rev limiter, pistons, cams, valves, carbon fiber racing clutch, custom exhaust, ITG air filter. My engine builder suggests a 12,500 rpm redline, but I have the rev limiter set to only 11,000 rpm. It is estimated to have approximately 175 hp. Many people have told me it is the best sounding race car they have ever heard.
The driveline uses the motorcycle’s sequential transmission, but I have installed a reverse transfer case that can handle 500hp so it has reversing capabilities. It puts the power to the ground through a 3.42 differential with a KAAZ limited slip and 225/45/13 Toyo Proxes R888 tires mounted on 8” Basset wheels. The suspension uses Carrera shocks and incorporates an adjustable Speedway engineering sway bar.
Putting an air-cooled motorcycle engine into a car engine bay required some unique cooling requirements. There is an air ducting box around the cylinders that is fed by a Spal fan. The hood has been louvered old school style. I also installed a large Setrab oil cooler with a Spal dual fan pack. The headers have been ceramic coated and wrapped with heat shielding ceramic cloth.
The original Honda N600 was completely stripped of all parts and the floor cut out. The wheel well structure had to be greatly enlarged to accommodate the much larger tires. The engine bay also had to be opened up to install the engine. Gusseting was added to strengthen the shell where needed. A custom FIA approved fuel cell was made by Fuel Safe. The entire chassis and suspension pieces were powder coated. The body can be lifted off by two people. It is attached with 12 bolts to the race chassis. The fenders were hand formed out of 16 gauge steel and metal finished. The car wears a base/clearcoat paintjob using high quality PPG paints. The rising sun graphic on the roof was done with a paint mask and resides deep within the paint’s show quality finish. No cheap vinyl graphics here! The interior dash was custom made and covered in real Connelly leather I had from a previous project. All metal pieces: fasteners, latches, levers, hinges, trim are new, refinished or polished.
So what is it like to drive? Not like any street car you have ever driven. The cockpit is very spacious once you get inside. The steering wheel, levers, pedals and seat all are positioned well. You sit very low in the center of the car where the back seat used to be. Visibility is good all around. But remember, it is a race car on the street. It is loud and has a stiff ride. The turn in is immediate and it stops on a dime. You can shift through the first 4 gears when launching without moving. It has that much power! It weighs 1500 pounds and a 51% front – 49% rear weight distribution without driver. That changes to a 48.5% front – 51.5% with a 200lb driver. I initially tested it at a large SCCA Solo 2 event held at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. I was turning times similar to the last generation ZO6 Corvettes that were there. It is quicker and handles even better now since the Speedway Industry anti-roll bar was added.
This car would be a great track day car. You could have a blast embarrassing many performance based car in a comically small Japanese car. Even though I do race cars, I didn’t want to put it on a track in fear of damaging the show quality paint. Conversely, it is also an attention grabbing street toy and car show winner. However, it is a really bad grocery getter and you can’t pick up the kids from school in it. It is a completely unique car that can be enjoyed in multiple ways. It can be yours for $25,000.