‘Midship Amusement’… No, we’re not talking about the bar on the Harwich to Rotterdam overnight ‘party boat’, but the words glued onto the flanks of one of the smallest and most entertaining cars that money can buy.
The Honda Beat made its debut in Japan in 1991 as the first sports car to meet Japan’s new kei car restrictions, which required cars to be below a certain size and have an engine capacity of less than 660cc to operate in major urban environments.
In typical Honda fashion, the Beat's engine came without a turbocharger or supercharger, but instead used a fascinating system with one throttle body per cylinder to maximise the 656cc engine’s responses. The 63bhp power output might not sound much, but the engine would deliver its peak power at a screaming 8,100rpm meaning that you had to simply thrash the life out of it to get the best out of it, and therein lies its appeal.
The Beat is a sports car of the old school. A more modern-day interpretation of the Frog-eye Sprite or MG Midget that established the genre, and also an increasingly cool piece of JDM retro in itself, not least because it spawned a host of imitators such as the Suzuki Cappuccino, Daihatsu Copen and Mazda AZ-1, which between them have a huge cult following today.
And then there are the looks. The dimensions of a tiny sports car, the side scoops of a mid-engined supercar and the face of an angry wasp. If ever a car screamed ‘fun’, the Honda Beat was it.
While many Honda Beats have arrived in the UK in more recent times, this example has been here since it was nearly new and was first registered on the numberplate K431 LGF in September 1992.
It has had a couple of cherished numbers on it during its seven-owner life but is now back on its original registration, with at least two HPI reports in its history documenting the plate change. Since 2003 it has led an easy life, often covering fewer than 1,000 miles a year.
The Beat’s current owner is a serial Kei Car enthusiast who bought the Honda on a 50:50 share basis with his daughter and is selling it to buy something a bit different, as they also have a Smart Roadster and no longer need two sports cars.
The Beat comes with a pile of old MoTs to back up its mileage and – more importantly – prove that it has never received any welding repairs and is solid underneath. The last MoT expired in 2019, and sadly the seller has not been able to have a new completed since. However, having only covered 10 miles since the last MoT, the seller has stated there should be no issues getting a new MoT on the vehicle.
There isn’t a huge amount of paperwork form its early life, but it does come with a pair of full HPI reports, a sales receipt from 20 years ago when the previous keeper part-exchanged a Porsche 944 against it, receiving just £2,500 for what would today be quite a collectable German sports car.
Inside, the Beat is quite plush for a sports car, with black leather upholstery, air conditioning and a premium stereo system with a CD changer and incorporating an Alpine sub-woofer with separate bass adjustment knob.
The overall condition is excellent with only some light wear to the driver’s seat bolster. It’s a cool place to sit, too, with the stereo speakers cleverly integrated into the dashboard top, a stylised stereo fascia and a distinctive instrument pod that sits separate to the dash itself.
This example also comes with the rare airbag steering wheel option, which was only seen on a handful of earlier cars.
One thing that Beats love to do is rust, so it’s reassuring to see that this example is in incredible order.
First, there are no previous rust advisories on the MoT certificates, and while the little Honda sits too low to fully pop your head underneath, the condition of the sills and wheel-arches suggests that there are no major horrors luring beneath.
There’s a small paint chip on the nearside door sill that will need treating before it turns nasty and a couple of ripples in the offside rear quarter panel where a small dent has been pulled out previously, but you have to really look for it to see it. Otherwise the paint and presentation are excellent, as are the alloy wheels and exterior trim.
The original hood is also in good order and operates as it should.
The Beat has covered just over 100,000km, or about 62,000 miles, in its 28-year life so has not been driven hard or abused. The MTREC (Multi Throttle Responsive Engine Control) system works as it should, meaning it only comes alive when at higher revs, but the engine also idles sweetly and sounds healthy.
Do bear in mind though that access to anything but basic service items is tricky by virtue of the Beat’s mid-engined layout, so you’ll need access to a ramp or pit if you want to do any major maintenance yourself.
Kei cars are cool. Mid-engined sports cars are cool. Therefore, a combination of the two equals doubly cool. This is a car that’s simultaneously cute, fun-to-drive, technologically fascinating and historically significant. It’s impossible not to love it.
It’s also in exceptional condition, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find given how much early Beats like to corrode. It’s a hugely enjoyable yet safe investment and a car that’s overloaded with character.
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