Yeah, we’re truck nerds at MotorBiscuit. We like all kinds, especially the oddballs. And some of the earliest Japanese pickup trucks could get pretty weird. Like the T500 truck from Honda. They’re weird and small, but they’re also a mid-engine masterpiece. Honda should bring a modern version back.
Since minitrucks are back, what about the Honda T500?
Smaller pickup trucks in the US are selling like mad. Gone since the mid-1970s, minitrucks are making a strong comeback. But a form of pickup not seen in the US was the mini-minitruck. Sold mainly in East Asia, it’s a natural segway from the smaller trucks just picking up steam. And doesn’t this look so cool?
These were the world’s first “sports truck.” Why? Because they used the same engine as the Honda S360 sports car. Over 108,000 of them were cranked out by Honda between 1964 and 1967. And they were all painted the same Moss Green.
The Honda T360 was first
The first year’s production in 1963, was called the T360, with a 356cc four-cylinder motorcycle engine midship. Winged up to 8,500 rpm, it eked out 30 hp. All were painted in May Blue. It was no Ram TRX, but that wasn’t the point. It was cheap, simple, reliable transportation with a handy pickup box in the back.
The bed had drop-down sides for convenient loading and included a canvas cover. What more would you really need? And the engine is visible from the side, attesting to its mid-engine configuration.
So what is a T500?
In 1964 the T500 was introduced, with a twin-cam 531cc pounding the pavement with 38 hp at only 7,500 rpm this time. A four-speed gearbox was hooked to the back of the engine. The top speed was an impressive 65 mph.
The T500 saw production of around 10,200 units. So were you to look for one, be aware that they are far rarer than the T360 version. This one sold through Bonhams just last year for around $40,000 in Brugge, Belgium. But this was a full-on restoration. Should you find an unrestored one, it obviously would be far cheaper.
This one was found a few years ago in a garage in the Netherlands. It was one of five imported there by Honda Benelux, and the only one to survive.
The Honda Acty is the modern version of the T500
Honda has continued to produce utility trucks like this until just last year. The Honda Acty was a cool, little truck that slowly grew in size, and became more of a cab-forward configuration. Still, it wasn’t too removed from the T500. Emissions and brake mandates caused Honda to stop production in April 2021. It was first introduced in 1977, 10 years after the T500.
So actually, Honda has kept a form of the T500 in production for years in its home market. We’re starting to see a few running around with the 20-year import law allowing them here. It is one of the first vehicles Honda produced and is part of its history and heritage. A little retro version that met US regulations would be a cool addition to the truck scene.