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.
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.
1967 Honda LN360 Van, rear view showing split door
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. 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).
1970 Honda N600 (US)
The N600 was introduced to the United States in 1969 as a 1970 model, and was the first Honda automobile to be officially imported to the United States. 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 the N600 was capable 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.
Honda LNIII 360 Van, facelift model (1970-1971)
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".
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