The other day I was grumbling that ‘fings ain’t what they used to be’ when it comes to modern cars. They may be well made, efficient, powerful in some cases and packed with high-tech pointlessness but seldom can they be officially described as ‘cool’.
Some things are the epitome of cool. ‘Beckerman’, for example, wearing ‘aviator’ sunglasses whilst driving a Lamborghini Muira through the Great St Bernard Valley to the strains of a tune from the velvety larynx of Matt Monro, comes to mind. A car must have an indefinable something that sets it apart. It must be the very essence of the designer’s soul.
Regardless to whether rose-tinted glasses are involved it is hard to determine those qualities these days. We have to look back to the past which conveniently sets me up to report on the restoration of one such car – the Honda S800.
Honda UK has started this restoration project on a recently acquired S800 sports car. Slated to be ready in time for the Goodwood Festival of Speed next June, the car currently being restored is a red 1967 model. Working in partnership with Le Riche Automobile Restorers in Jersey, Honda purchased the S800 with a view to adding the car to its growing heritage press fleet and using the car to showcase the rich automotive Honda history at events around the UK.
Unsurprisingly suffering from rust and general wear and tear after over almost 50 years of use, the S800 is being sympathetically refurbished to a condition that respectfully reflects its age, with Honda UK keen not to “over-restore” the car but keep the end-result authentic.
This important milestone is happening because 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the first four-wheeled Honda to be sold in the UK – the exquisite S800. For Honda’s golden jubilee this brave little sports car is the perfect addition to the press fleet. I suspect though that drooling motoring scribes will have just two chances to drive this car and they are both fat and slim.
The engine still works perfectly, (a fact that Honda are justifiably trumpeting, so the restorers don’t need to engage a complete overhaul of the car. The interior needs looking at as do parts of the bodywork – in short it simply needs some loving care and attention, which the company are trusting to Le Riche, to recover its former glory.
Capable of reaching the heady heights of 100mph (still 30mph faster than we are allowed), the S800 derived its power from a high revving 800cc motor, derived from Honda’s successful motorcycle division, which could redline at 10,000 rpm. Production of the S800 finished in May 1970 with almost 12,000 produced. Honda did not manufacture another S roadster for nearly thirty years until the release of the S2000. It is great that this diminutive motor is making a comeback. Let’s hope that the rumoured return of the S2000 in 2018 comes to fruition. That would be really cool. Geoff Maxted