It’s hard to imagine a world without Honda and Lamborghini, but they both first started making cars in the early 1960s.
Honda’s first-ever passenger car (its first “car” was actually the T360 “truck”) was shown in 1962 as the Sports 360 and Sports 500 prototypes with 356cc and 492cc four-cylinders.
The S500 made it to production a year or so later with a slightly larger 531cc four, which was eventually supplemented by the 606cc S600 and the 791cc S800.
The aluminium engine was the highlight of this tiny roadster (and coupé), with double overhead camshafts, hemispherical combustion chambers, and a roller-bearing crankshaft. Its design allowed it to rev to the moon — up to 9500 rpm in the case of the S600 — a redline that no other production car engine has bettered.
The little Honda was a marvel of simplicity and elegant engineering, with chain-drive independent suspension (later replaced by a conventional solid axle), a 4- or 5-speed synchronised transmission, rack-and-pinion steering, and (later) front-wheel disc brakes.
It was also available in red and white – two colours previously reserved for police and emergency vehicles. Soichiro Honda fought the government on the rule change – and won. This is one of many of his victories against the Man, and the Honda Sports series was one of his many victories against the challenges of engineering a car.