Back in the early 60s, Honda was a well-known manufacturer of motorcycles, and their forays in the automotive business had been small and predominantly aimed at their own domestic market – Japan. The 1965 Honda S800 was the result of several years of improvement and modernization on the original S500, which was an able little car, but betrayed its motorcycles root quite brazenly, notably with a chain-driven drive-train. By the time the S800 came around, it was equipped with a conventional drive, and was known for its excellent, if firm, ride and handling, especially considering its low price point.
What was most spectacular about the S800 was its engine; with a 791cc displacement, it produced 70 horsepower. and could rev up all the way to 8000 RPM, something relatively common in motorcycles, but almost unheard of in a street-legal automobile. Performance was there, too, especially considering the small size of the engine: 0-60 in about 13 seconds, and a 95 miles per hour top speed.
The 1965 Honda S800 was an interesting showcase for the company’s technical prowess and remained in production until 1970, but it wasn’t the mass market success Honda craved, even though it sold quite well; they would have to wait until the Civic, in 1972.