Take a deep dive to Honda’s early years in the U.S. with the model that started it all

The Honda N600 may not look like a special car. It certainly doesn’t look special considering the evolution of automotive design. But those who know their history, specifically Honda’s history in the U.S., will tell you that the N600 is a lot more special than what meets the eye. The N600 holds a particular distinction that each and every owner of a Honda vehicle or motorcycle in the U.S. can be thankful for. It was the first car Honda ever imported into the States, paving the way for the automaker to enjoy the kind of success it has had in this region for the better part of almost 40 years.

One guy who knows a thing or two about the N600 is Tim Mings, a man who Honda itself considers is the foremost authority on the N600. Mings is the subject of a new weekly documentary series called “Serial One.” In it, he takes up the challenge of restoring the N600 that he’s owned for years, not knowing until recently that it also has the serial number “N600-1000001,” making it the first production model sold in the U.S. For somebody who has admitted to working on more than N600 models over the past 20-odd years, having the first production model is a nice tip of the hat to Mings passion.

This episode is the first part of the documentary series. We don’t actually get to see the actual restoration of the N600 because Honda’s likely trying to space that out for future episodes. But we do get a nice introduction to Tim Mings and his story on how he came to be the N600 whisperer. It’s a fascinating thing to watch and it’ll definitely get you interested in watching the entire documentary, one episode at a time.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it matters

If you really wanted to go back to the roots of Honda’s presence in the U.S., the N600 is quite literally the starting point for the company’s eventual time in the country. That, and a handful of other reasons, is why I’m going to be keeping a close tab on this weekly documentary series.

To be clear, I don’t know a whole lot about the N600 other than seeing it in passing on a few occasions. I didn’t know that the N600 had this kind of history, nor did I know how important Ming’s first-production model is to the company. Apparently, the restoration of the this N600 will conclude with the actual car itself being displayed in Honda’s own museum.

I don’t know how many episodes this documentary series will have, but I do know that I’ll be watching every episode until its conclusion. And for what it’s worth, I’ll definitely remember the name Tim Mings. It takes a special kind of love and affection to appreciate a model like the N600 and yet, he has built his entire life on being the preeminent authority of the model. It’s nice that Honda itself is focusing the spotlight on this man because in my mind, every time the N600 is mentioned, the name Tim Mings will immediately come to mind. I can’t imagine no higher praise for the man and the car.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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Press Release

The story of American Honda’s first N600 vehicle in the United States in 1969 unfolds through the eyes of a determined mechanic, taking viewers on a journey to restore the first American Honda VIN, "Serial One." Launching today on Honda’s social channels and at serialone.com, Honda’s new weekly online content series pays homage to the company’s roots in America and reflects the challenging spirit of Honda by featuring an in-depth look at the step-by-step restoration of the N600 by Los Angeles-based mechanic Tim Mings.

In 1969, after a decade of growth that led to Honda becoming the top-selling motorcycle manufacturer in America and the world, Honda embarked on a new mission to sell cars in the United States. Honda entered the U.S. market with the Honda N600, which was just 122 inches in length and could actually fit between the wheels of some full size vehicles in America, which measured up to 225 inches in length and weighed nearly twice as much as the NSX.

The N600 had an all-alloy engine that could achieve 9000 rpm and reach speeds of 81 miles per hour. A simple, yet skillfully designed vehicle, the N600 was nimble and fuel-efficient, characteristics it shares with today’s Honda’s, and helped paved the way for the quality and reliability for which Honda vehicles have become known.

"We’re so proud to bring the story of Honda’s roots in the U.S. to life through the restoration of this vehicle," said Alicia Jones, Honda social media manager. "Finding Serial One, the very first Honda N600 test vehicle in America, and documenting the meticulous process of bringing it back to life really embodies the Honda spirit. We can’t wait for viewers to come along with us on this journey."

Episode one begins with an introduction to acclaimed mechanic Tim Mings, known for his incredible ability to bring the most destructed of vehicles back to life, specifically for his experience in working with N600’s, having owned one himself, and having restored more than 1,000 N600 vehicles throughout his career, but none as special as Serial One. After collecting dust in a junk pile for almost 50 years, a twist of fate helps "Serial One" find its way to Honda and the right man who can restore it to its former glory.

The "Serial One" series documents the very first N600’s journey to make an incredible comeback, sharing Mings’ progress and some special surprises along the way. Each week fans can follow the journey as Honda brings an important piece of its history back to life. Fans can follow the progress on the Honda social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in addition to serialone.com.

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