1969 Honda N360 sedan
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Kei car/city car|
|Transmission||Four-speed manual constant mesh, dog-clutch engagement|
|Wheelbase||2,000 mm (78.7 in)|
|Length||2,995 mm (117.9 in)|
|Width||1,295 mm (51 in)|
|Height||1,346 mm (53 in)|
|Curb weight||508 kg (1,119 lb)|
The Honda N360 is a small front-engine, front-wheel drive, two-passenger two-box automobile manufactured and marketed by Honda from March 1967 through 1970 in compliance with Japan's kei car regulations.
After a January 1970 facelift, the N360 became the NIII360 and continued in production until June 1972. A larger-engined variant, the N600, was marketed through 1973. All models complied with Japanese kei car dimensional regulations, though vehicles with the 401 cc and 598 cc engines exceeded the kei engine displacement limits and were largely intended for international sales.
The N360 featured front wheel drive and an air-cooled, four stroke, 354 cc, 31 PS (23 kW; 31 hp) two-cylinder engine. This same engine was also used in the Honda Vamos, with a beam axle/leaf spring rear suspension.
With the N360 nameplate, along with its variants, Honda used the "N" prefix, designating "norimono" (translating from Japanese to English as "vehicle" ) — to distinguish the car from its motorcycle production.
In 2012, Honda introduced the Honda N-One, an homage inspired by the 1967–1973 N sedans.
Honda marketed the N360 as a two-door sedan, with a three-door wagon (considered a commercial vehicle in Japan, and therefore called a "Light van") called the LN360 arriving in June of the first year. It has a horizontally divided rear gate and boxier rear bodywork for maximum load capacity. The LN360 had the same 31 PS engine as the sedan, and a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). After a January 1970 facelift it became the LNIII 360, with a new non-reflective dash, bigger turn signals, and the same new front end as the sedan. The LNIII 360 was built until late 1971, when the Life Van took over.
The N360 was an all new, clean-sheet product, and did not share its chassis with the Honda Sports roadster, or the Honda L700 commercial platform. The N360 was a new market segment for Honda, providing an affordable, reliable, and easy to maintain vehicle that had broad market appeal to private car ownership. The roadsters and trucks built up to then had specific, targeted appeal. The engine's technological specifications reflected engineering efforts resulting from the development of the larger Honda 1300, which used an air-cooled 1.3-litre engine. One of the primary differences between the N360 and the Honda Life that followed was the N360/600 had an air-cooled engine, and the Life had a water-cooled engine. The water-cooled engine was better able to comply with newly enacted emission standards in Japan, and reflected an industry wide move away from air-cooled as well as two-stroke engines. As does the original Mini, but unlike the succeeding Life, the N360/600 had its gearbox mounted in the sump rather than bolted on as a separate unit.
An upgraded 36 PS (27 kW) engine was added in October 1968 for the N360 TS, which was sold as the N360 Touring following a minor update in January 1969. The updated version is referred to as the NII. A 401.54 cc engine was used in the similar N400, a model sold in certain export markets beginning in late summer 1968. This occupied the narrow slot between the 360 and the 600; in most markets it was only sold as the N400 L with better equipment. The Hondamatic-equipped N360AT which appeared in August 1968 was the first kei car equipped with an automatic transmission.
The larger-engined N600 was developed alongside the N360 in order to target export markets like the US and Europe, where motorways demanded higher top speeds. It was also briefly sold in the domestic Japanese market, however, where it went on sale in July 1968 as the N600E. Only 1,500 examples were sold until early 1969 when the N600 was discontinued in Japan; because of its larger engine it did not qualify for any of the tax and insurance breaks given to kei cars even though it was as small as one.
Just seven months after road testing the N360, Britain's Motor magazine tested a Honda N600 in November 1968. They reported that it had a top speed of 77.1 mph (124.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 19 seconds. An overall fuel consumption of 36.3 miles per imperial gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 30.2 mpg‑US) was achieved. The test car was priced in the UK at £589 including taxes, at a time when the Mini 850 was retailing for £561. The testers were impressed to find 1100 cc performance from a 600 cc car, but found it 'very noisy when extended'. They found the Honda as easy to drive and park, and 'quite well equipped'. The performance figures put the car at or near the top of its class under most criteria, reflecting its favourable power-to-weight ratio. The car was thus 5 mph (8 km/h) faster than the 72 mph (116 km/h) achieved by rival magazine Autocar in an N360 in May 1968, and more than ten seconds quicker to 60 mph (97 km/h) which the N360 achieved in 29.3 seconds. Consistent with its slower performance, the N360 squeezed 3 extra miles out of a (UK) gallon of fuel, managing an overall 39.4 miles per imperial gallon (7.17 L/100 km; 32.8 mpg‑US).
The N600 was introduced to the United States as the 600 Sedan in 1969 as a 1970 model, and was the first Honda automobile to be officially exported to the United States by the Honda Motor Company (a small number of sports cars had been imported privately in years prior). Sales were originally limited to Hawaii, but cars were soon exported to the US West Coast by 1970. It was technologically advanced for its time, with an all alloy engine that could achieve 9000 rpm. Engine output was 36–45 hp (27–34 kW) and was capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 81 mph (130 km/h). The lower-powered engine arrived in 1972; with milder cams and lowered compression it gave up some peak power and torque, while allowing for a less peaky delivery and higher drivability. It delivered surprisingly peppy performance because of its light weight (around 550 kg/1100 pounds), due to compact dimensions and some plastic parts (like the boot lid). The brakes on early models were very weak, despite having front discs and servo assistance. Rear suspension was a dead axle on leaf springs.
The N600 (along with the TN360 kei truck), were the first Honda cars to be assembled outside Japan, with production in Taiwan by local joint venture Sanyang Industrial beginning in 1969. The N600 was called the Fu Gui, meaning 'Wealth' in Chinese (富貴).
US sales stopped in 1972, as did those of the sportier Honda Z600 (or Z, depending on country), after about 25,000 sales. The first-generation Honda Civic replaced these little cars with something a little more suited to the American Interstate highway network.
Serial Number N600-1000001
In September 1967, Honda decided to offer their first automobile for the North American market, and they were exported to Los Angeles, California. 50 pre-production left-hand-drive examples were sent as "winter test vehicles" and were only intended to be driven 20,000 mi (32,186.9 km) for endurance testing, then collected and crushed at a local scrapyard across the street from the American Honda headquarters in the 1960s. Four of the American pre-production vehicles are still in existence, and Serial Number N600-1000001, the first one manufactured, was discovered at a Japanese-specific car show in Long Beach, California, in 2015. At the request of American Honda, the car was extensively restored and unveiled at the same car show one year later, to be added to the American Honda Museum collection. During the restoration process, Honda recorded videos for visual documentation, which can be found here and at "Serial One restoration".
Honda have paid tribute to the N360 with a number of modern vehicles, including:
- Honda EV-N concept, shown at Tokyo Motor Show 2009
- Honda N-One, introduced in 2012 as a modern kei-car homage to the N360
- The LN360 and LN400, www.hondan600.com Retrieved on 4 March 2015
- The Honda Scamp, www.hondan600.com Retrieved on 4 March 2015
- The TN360 was called Fah Tsai Tser ('Rich Car', 發財車): "SYM History". Sanyang Industrial Co. Ltd. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013.
- Leeps (4 June 1989). "Rust Busters". New Straits Times.
- "Honda Annual Report 2009: Corporate Information" (PDF). Honda Motor Co. Ltd.: 85. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2010. Cite journal requires
- Technical specifications, www.hondan600.com Retrieved on 4 March 2015
- "Autotest:Honda N360". Autocar. Vol. 128 (nbr3768). 2 May 1968. pp. 44–47.
- Koichi, Inouye (1985). World Class Cars Volume 2: Honda, from S600 to City (in Japanese). Tokyo: Hoikusha. p. 165. ISBN 4-586-53302-1.
- 360cc 軽商用貨物自動車 1950-1975 [360cc: Light Commercial Truck 1950-1975] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Yaesu Publishing. 2009. p. 97. ISBN 978-4-86144-139-4.
- 360cc: Nippon 軽自動車 Memorial 1950→1975 [Nippon Kei Car Memorial 1950-1975] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Yaesu Publishing. 2007. p. 69. ISBN 978-4-86144-083-0.
- Display at the Twin Ring Motegi Honda Collection, available on Flickr
- "トヨタ自動車販売(株)『モータリゼーションとともに. 資料』(1970.11)" [Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd. "With Motorization" document (1970.11)]. Shibusawa Shashi Database (in Japanese). Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation. p. 140. Archived from the original on 21 January 2020.
- "Road Test Honda N600". Motor. November 1968. pp. 43–48.
- Robinson, Peter, ed. (January 1973). "Four of the Tiddlers". Wheels. Sydney, Australia. 38: 40.
- Hsu, Ben (19 October 2016). "PROFILES: The first Honda built for the US market, restored". Japanese Nostalgic Car.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Honda N360.|
- ThisOldHonda.org N360
- ThisOldHonda.org N600
- Gainesville Sun 7 May 1982
- Ocala Star Banner 7 October 1982
- Sarasota Herald Tribune 10 June 1979
- The Honda N600E - The Little Car That Opened the Roadway in America