Other than the Mazda Miata, the basic, simple sports car is all but eradicated from modern roads. Even the Miata is relatively large compared to some of the other small sports cars once available. Spitfires, Elans, Midgets, and Sprites haven’t been in U.S. showrooms for years, since safety regulations and changing consumer tastes left them behind.
I’m a big fan of small sports cars. Their simple, honest nature and well-balanced handling put a smile on my face. Sure, they’re relatively impractical, but you just can’t be angry driving a small roadster on a sunny day.
Today’s eBay find, a 1991 Honda Beat, makes the Miata look like a limousine by comparison. Beats are incredibly tiny cars. So if the Miata is a smile machine, the Beat must be a rolling-on-the-floor-in-an-uncontrollable-fit-of-laughter box.
The Honda Beat was built to meet Japanese Kei car standards. Cars of this class were designed with engines smaller than 660cc in accordance with Japanese domestic tax and parking regulations. But they weren’t all boring and practical. Unfortunately, they also were not imported to the U.S. when new.
The Beat has a proud heritage, despite its meek footprint. Pininfarina penned the design, and it is reported to be the last car personally approved by Honda founder Soichiro Honda before his death. It’s a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive convertible that only came with a five-speed manual transmission, making the most of the 63-hp 656cc engine. Weighing less than 1700 pounds, its performance is adequate to keep up with modern traffic, and a top speed of 84 mph should help keep your driver’s license in good standing. The seller also claims it gets 63 mpg, although that might be an overestimation.
Turning to the interior, the Beat’s pod-like instrument cluster is a nice homage to Honda’s motorcycling heritage. And yes, those zebra-striped seats were standard equipment.
The model offered on eBay is a first-year 1991 Beat. With a reported 17,280 miles from new, it appears to be as original and correct as one could expect of such a car, save for paint that “is a bit faded” and a plastic rear window on its convertible top that is “a bit yellowed,” according to the description.
The car carries a reserve price, and with three days left in the auction, it had not yet received an opening bid of $6,500. If you’re trying to decide if a 26-year-old, no-frills convertible is worth purchasing, this Beat may not be a bargain on a pound-per-dollar basis. But measured in smiles, it’s hard to argue it isn’t worth the money.