Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 2003 Honda S2000 AP1

From Skylines to RX-7s, ‘90s and early ‘00s Japanese sports cars of all kinds are getting more expensive these days. And few have risen quite like the Honda S2000. It’s not unheard-of for some low-mile examples to command $70,000+ values. However, a few reasonably-priced cars are still around. And the AP1 2003 Honda S2000 currently listed on Bring a Trailer is one of them.

An AP1 Honda S2000 isn’t for everybody, but it’s still a special, “high-revving scalpel,” Road & Track says

A gray 2003 'AP1' Honda S2000 driving around a curving mountain road
2003 ‘AP1’ Honda S2000 | Honda
2000-2003 ‘AP1’ Honda S2000
Engine2.0-liter ‘F20’ four-cylinder
Horsepower240 hp
Torque153 lb-ft
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Curb weight2835 lbs (Car and Driver)
0-60 mph time5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)

Back in the ‘60s, Honda introduced a sports car called the S600. It was the Japanese automaker’s first truly global car and immediately made a splash with its motorcycle-like engine that could rev to 11,000 RPM. And for Honda’s 50th anniversary, a few engineers wanted to celebrate by building another roadster with a similarly-effervescent spirit, Road & Track says. Their creation was approved for production and became the 2000 Honda S2000, the first of the AP1 models.

The late 1990s and early 2000s were something of a roadster renaissance. Honda launched the S2000 at roughly the same time as the Porsche Boxster. And 1999 saw the Mazda Miata, the car that arguably kicked all this off, enter its second generation. But even compared to these now-iconic sports cars, the S2000 stood out. And it still does today.

The 2.0-liter 'F20C' four-cylinder engine in the bay of a red 2003 'AP1' Honda S2000
2003 ‘AP1’ Honda S2000 engine | Honda

For one, while the Miata is a solid sports car, the Honda S2000 is significantly sharper and stiffer. Admittedly, some found its propensity for snap oversteer problematic. Hence why Honda modified the suspension for the 2004-2009 ‘AP2’ generation, Hagerty explains. However, the S2000’s chief engineer, Shigeru Uehara, designed it to be that neutral on purpose. And keep in mind, he was also the Integra Type R’s and original NSX’s chief engineer. Driving it quickly can be intimidating, but it’s a razor-sharp scalpel of a car that dazzles if you pay attention.

But it’s not just Porsche 911- and Boxster-level handling that makes the AP1 Honda S2000 special. True, the later CR models had even sharper handling, and the AP2 models have not just more torque, but more low-end torque. However, only the AP1s have the 9000-RPM-redline version of the F20/F22, one of the best naturally-aspirated engines in a road car. And it’s attached to a limited-slip differential and a shifter that still earns accolades today.

There’s a 2003 Honda S2K up for grabs (again) on Bring a Trailer

RELATED: Is Turbocharging a Honda S2000 a Good Idea?

Besides a bigger, torquier engine and new suspension, the AP2 cars added a few creature comforts, Hagerty says. But while the AP1 Honda S2000s are simpler—some also say purer—they did receive some extra refinements. And as a 2003 car, the S2000 currently listed on Bring a Trailer has those additional standard features.

In 2001 Honda added a standard wind deflector and digital clock, while the 2002 S2000 gained some mild suspension tweaks, Hagerty explains. Honda also swapped the rear plastic window for a heated glass one that year and upgraded the audio system. This 2003 AP1 S2000 has both of those features, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, A/C, and a trunk-mounted CD changer. Plus, dual roll hoops, xenon headlights, leather upholstery, as well as power windows, mirrors, and locks. And like all Honda S2000s, this 2003 car has four-wheel disc brakes.

Apart from some interior wear and a few exterior chips and scratches, this 2003 Honda S2000 is in solid shape. And apart from a replacement soft top, it’s basically stock. Also, it has less than 79,000 miles on the clock, a zero-accident history, and plenty of service records. And speaking of service, the seller recently changed the oil.

It’s hard finding a bargain Honda S2000 AP1 like this one these days

RELATED: How Many Miles Will a Honda S2000 Last?

As of this writing, this 20003 AP1 Honda S2000 is listed at $15,250 with three days left in the auction. Considering this roadster’s condition, that’s a below-average value. Good-condition AP1 S2000s typically cost around $24K, Hagerty reports. And pristine examples can easily go for double that.

This car’s low price might stem from its history. It sold at a previous BaT auction, but it’s been relisted because the previous winning bidder didn’t pay up. And I can attest to the fact that re-listing a car for auction often leads to lower bids. However, that’s good news for bidders looking for bargains.

Another piece of good news is how reliable the Honda S2000 is. Apart from wheel bearing and oil consumption issues, the only AP1-specific problems are early-model “clutch buzz” and potential oil starvation, Hagerty says. However, the former was resolved via a 2001 technical service bulletin and the latter isn’t a problem for 2003 cars because they have updated engine-oil banjo bolts. AP1s also don’t tend to pop out of gear like some AP2s, nor do their dashes degrade like post-2006 cars.

So, if you’ve been trying to get into one of these iconic Japanese roadsters, this 2003 car might be the bargain way to go.

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RELATED: What’s it Like to Daily Drive a Honda S2000?