Remembering the Sportbike-Powered Honda Z600 24 Hours of LeMons Car
The Angry Hamsters Honda Z600 race car was properly crazy.
Motorcycle-powered race cars have been around for a long time. However, if you hear about one (actually a few now) racing in the budget-endurance series 24 Hours of LeMons, you should know you’re about to see something weird. The Angry Hamsters Racing Honda Z600 was one of the first small batches of concentrated crazy to turn up in LeMons. The miniscule sub-subcompact’s builder, Tim Taylor, turned the early Honda into one of the most insane LeMons cars ever built, with a CBR1000 drivetrain and LOTS of time.
Because Taylor wanted to stay true to LeMons’ $500 budget cap for running gear, he initially tried powering the Angry Hamsters Z600 with the 1.0-liter engine from a Honda Magna V65 (above). However, the cruising bike turned out to be not a huge fan of lateral Gs, creating oil starvation problems that killed several V65 engines. Taylor eventually gave up and found a high-sided CBR sportbike that made something like 160 horsepower. He re-engineered the Angry Hamster to take the CBR engine, and since he was on a roll, he also built a custom splitter and rear wing made from fine redwood.
It sounds like a bunch of junk heaped together, and it more less looked the same, but the car worked well. It was lightning quick and owing to its lightness (around 1,500 pounds with the driver), the aerodynamic elements really made a difference. With the CBR engine mounted next to the driver inside a firewall, the whole experience was noisy and hot and more than a little terrifying with the Z600’s super short wheelbase. Corners taken at high speed had a tendency to lift both the inside wheels and if you hit a curb, well, see for yourself:
The Angry Hamster never worked quite as well as its CBR-powered cousin, the Geo Metro Gnome (a mid-engine Geo Metro). However, it cemented its legacy as one of the craziest LeMons cars ever built until the series mandated an 82-inch wheelbase minimum in 2013. That ruled out the Z600 for good, though other bike-powered cars like the Metro Gnome and the follow-up Kawasaki Ninja-powered Toyota MR2 pop up to race occasionally.
Dave Coleman, a former editor at Sport Compact Car and now a Mazda engineer, wrote a couple of great stories detailing the Angry Hamster Racing Honda Z600 in its heyday for MotoIQ. Here’s the rundown on the Magna-powered version and he later drove the “Evo II” version with the CBR engine.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]