Perhaps Ming the Merciless would have been more successful in his fight against Flash Gordon if, instead of being an evil Asian caricature, he was actually Tim Mings and had a fleet of Honda N600 and Z600s at his disposal.
We’ve always wanted to visit Mings, owner of Merciless Mings: The World’s Largest Honda 600 Shop, but have never had the honor. Thanks to Jalopnik, which has been on a microcar mission in SoCal these days, we now know what we’ve been missing.
The efficient, front-wheel-drive cars may seem more conventional than other early Hondas like the S- or T-series, but Honda still imbued them with their fair share of borrowed motorcycle technology. The Ns started out as 360cc kei cars but only the 600s were imported to the US starting in 1969, the first Hondas officially imported here. Cars like the S roadsters or Brian Baker’s 1964 T500F pickup were brought over privately or ended up here by chance. The sportier (a relative term) Z came about in 1970, after the N’s run ended but used the same 36hp motor, but in true Honda genealogy the N-series was succeeded by the Life, which later spawned its own offspring like the Life Step Van.
It would have been easy to underestimate Hondas based on the diminutive stature of these early imports, but then again, no one thought a Speedo-sporting 1930’s superhero would look funny in retrospect either.
Click here to read about Jalopnik’s visit to planet Mongo.