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Honda S800 (1966-1970)

Published: 28th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Honda S800 (1966-1970)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 791cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 70/8000
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 49/6000
  • Top speed: 101mph
  • 0-60mph: 13.5sec
  • Fuel consumption: 35mpg
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Length: 10ft 11in (3.34m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 4ft 7in (1.40m)
  • Weight: 1635lb (755kg)
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: Honda S800 Sports Car Club,

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Most people would equate Honda with humdrum – if nicely engineered – family hatches, but the company’s fi rst ever production cars were the S360 and S500 sports cars, which would become the S600 then ultimately the S800. It was in this form that Honda made its entry to the UK market, in 1966. While a 791cc sports car doesn’t sound that impressive, the car’s specifi cation most certainly was. Honda had channelled its motorbike experience into its baby sportster, to create a car that packed an all-alloy powerplant with double overhead camshafts, a pair of twin-choke carburettors and a roller-bearing crankshaft. Suddenly the MG Midget looked rather dull…

What to look for?

Steel was used for the S800’s construction, but the car is more substantially built than most of its contemporaries, and most survivors are cherished, so serious corrosion is unlikely. The key areas to check are the crossmember under the diff and the outriggers; all easy to repair. More problematic is the joint between the inner and outer front wings, while the ends of sills, the rear valance and the box section in each rear wing can corrode. Also check the bonnet hinge mounting, A-posts and door bottoms, as well as the fl oorpans. The engine is reliable, but typically lasts just 70,000 miles or so between rebuilds. There was no oil pressure gauge fi tted, so listen for rattles, look for oil leaks and see how happily the unit runs – uneven idling is often caused by cracks in the rubber carburettor mountings. If you suspect something is amiss, bear in mind that engine rebuilds are very costly and doing them on a DIY basis needs patience and skill. Exhaust systems are complicated and hence expensive to replace, so look for corrosion – especially of the centre box. The transmission was designed to handle a lot more power, so problems here are rare, with second gear synchromesh usually the fi rst thing to go. Clutches are strong and so too are rear axles, but even when the latter is in good condition some whining is inevitable.


As something of a left-fi eld classic, the S800 isn’t on the radar of many, so demand isn’t what it might be. There still aren’t enough cars to go round though, so prices are pretty high relative to more mainstream contemporaries. You’ll need £10,000 to buy a nice roadster, while an equivalent coupé is about 25 per cent less. That’s partly because the roadster is far more desirable to many, and also because the closed car is more common; Honda sold 1100 coupés to UK buyers, but just 250 convertibles.

Driving one

There are two keys areas that distance the S800 from more familiarEuropean rivals; the cabin and the engine. Fitted as standard to all S800s was a heater, two-speed wipers and a full range of instrumentation along with a plastic wind defl ector that clipped on top of the header rail to reduce buffeting. Throw in fi gure-hugging seats and you’ll see comfort was high on the menu – but it’s the driving experience that makes the S800 special. The tiny dimensions make placing the S800 simplicity itself, while the light and precise four-speed gearbox is a delight to use. It’s the engine that makes the Honda seriously special though; the red line starts at 8,000 revs and extends to 11,500, so this really is like piloting a four-wheeledmotorbike. Explore the red line and the car feels faster than it really is; at 13.5 seconds for the 0-60mph sprint it’s not fast, but it’s not far behind an MGB, and that’s got an engine that displaces an extra litre…


Autumn 1962

The S360 and S500 go on sale in Japan, with two-cylinder engines.

Winter 1964

The four-cylinder S600 appears, with a 606cc displacement.

Winter 1965

The S800 debuts in Japan in open and closed forms; it features chain drive.

May 1966

There’s now a conventional propshaft in place of the previous chain drive.

October 1966

The S800 arrives in the UK, in open or closed forms. Both are priced at £779 and feature front disc brakes; home market cars have fi nned alloy drums.

October 1967

The Mk2 S800 coupé appears, with larger, grillemounted indicators and redesigned rea lights. There are also dual-circuit brakes, an improved starter, recessed door handles and hazard lights.

January 1968

The Mk2 roadster goes on sale in the UK; that and the coupé are now priced at £935.

April 1970

The fi nal cars are sold.

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