By Steve & Tamami Laser; with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan
When we attended the last Tokyo Motor Show, one of the concept cars that we wished would go into production was the Honda S660 roadster. It was billed as a modern successor to Honda’s first car, the Sports 360 from 1962, which was also on display. Today, Honda announced that the S660 will go into production with sales beginning next month in Japan.
We took this photo of the S660 concept following Honda’s press conference at the last Tokyo Motor Show. (©2013 CarNichiWa.com)
The S660 is the latest in a long line of Honda roadsters that include the Sports 360, S500, S600 and S800. While these cars are rarely seen on U.S. roads, they’re prized by collectors for their agile handling, high-revving engines and remarkably small dimensions.
This beautifully restored example of Honda’s first car, the Sports 360, was also on display at the Tokyo Motor Show. (©2013 CarNichiWa.com)
We’re taking this trip down memory lane for those who may not remember, or perhaps weren’t born, when Honda’s first cars were introduced. The story continues with the Honda Beat, another small roadster built in the 1990s with a midship-mounted 660cc engine. That was followed by the Honda S2000, a much larger car that was sold until it ended its 10-year run in 2009.
Honda says sales of the all-new S660 will begin on April 2 at dealerships across Japan. In addition, on the same day Honda will begin sales, in a limited quantity, of the S660 Concept Edition, a special model that commemorates the market launch of the S660. Honda says only 660 units of this special edition will be sold.
The development team for the new S660 was led by 26-year-old Ryo Mukumoto, who was only 23 when he was assigned his dream job of bringing the new car life. Developed under the keywords “Heart Beat Sport,” the team pursued a full-fledged sports car that offers excitement and a “heart-throbbing experience in everything about this vehicle strived to realize the joy of driving that only Honda can create.”
The S660 adopts a mid-ship engine/rear-wheel drive layout and a low center-of-gravity as well as near optimal 45-55 front-rear weight balance for performance cornering, which the development team emphasized to maximize the fun of driving.
With a combination of hand-built and robotic assembly, the low-volume S660 is targeted initially at 40 units per day or about 800 per month. Minekawa asked customers to “be patient” while they wait for their special-ordered cars.
The S660 features an open-top body that achieves both high rigidity and light weight. This body developed exclusively for the S660 creates an open-air cabin space that enables the occupants to “feel the wind, see the sky and enjoy an extraordinary experience while also enjoying a cabin space to feel enveloped with the vehicle.”
Under the exterior design concept of “energetic bullet,” the body was made low and wide with tires pushed out to the corners. As for interior design, the team pursued a space designed especially for performance driving. The overall visual and tactile interior quality is said to be enhanced by high quality appropriate for a full-fledged sports-type model.
Based on the in-line 3-cylinder DOHC Turbo engine from Honda’s popular N Series, a newly designed turbocharger was adopted for increased response in this micro-sized sports car.
The S660 comes with a newly developed 6-speed manual transmission and is also available with a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with 7-speed paddle shifter that features a sports mode.
A lightweight and detachable soft-top called a “roll-top” was adopted to help reduce weight. The driver’s seating posture, hip point and the location of the accelerator and brake pedals are optimized to realize a driving position that gives the driver a feeling of driving a go-kart.
Prices for the S660 in Japan range from ¥1,980,000 (about $16,500) to ¥2,380,000 (about $19,800) for the Concept Edition. While we would love to see Honda’s new S660 in the U.S., all we can do for now is dream. In addition to the challenges faced by low-volume production, this small car would need to be re-engineered to meet U.S. emissions and crash-tests standards.
S660 information applies to models sold in Japan. Features, prices and specifications are subject to change without notice.
News source and photos (except as noted) from Honda Motor Co. Ltd.
Story ©2015 CarNichiWa.com