We live in an era where 600+ horsepower supercars are surprisingly common and affordable. The Shelby GT500, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and Tesla P85D all offer immense power and speed for between $55,000 and $110,000. But you don’t need a cutting edge car and hundreds of horsepower to have fun, as Jay Leno demonstrated driving around an old Honda roadster powered by a crotch rocket engine.
The Honda S600 is a rare beast in America, and Matt Brown’s faded and rusted 1964 vintage may piss off some purists. But to me Brown is a hero, keeping an old car alive and improving it’s powertrain in just about every way possible. The original S600 had a motorcycle-inspired engine under its teeny-tiny hood displacing just 600ccs (0.6 liters), and while it had a dual-overhead cam setup and a 9,500 redline, it didn’t make a ton of power.
Brown fixed that by injecting the 1000ccs of Honda CBR1000RR motor into the S600, using a combination of BMW and Mazda Miata components to merge it to the Honda’s chassis. In doing so, he did away with the original S600’s chain drive (which Leno chides him for tossing out), and almost everything else. Really just the body is the same, though the 160 horsepower plus nitrous injection means it’ll put much bigger, more powerful cars to shame.
As Brown says, this car is either a love-it or hate-it endeavor, but for carving through California’s famous canyon roads, few cars are better suited.