Honda S2000 - Future Classic

By: Alex Affat, Photography by: Honda

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Built to celebrate Honda's 50th anniversary, there isn't much else from the era that looks this good, or steers this sharp for your money

 

Honda S2000

What defines a classic? A classic is something that transcends the time in which it was launched. A classic is something great that stands alone. Something that was great, and will always be great in perpetuity regardless of how its world and its peers change around it.

In many ways then, Honda’s S2000 was always destined to become a classic and is certainly one of the best representations in modern times. The S2000 essentially perfected the classic roadster formula, delivering the essence of a classic driver’s car blended with new-millenium technology and Honda reliability.

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It launched in Australia costing almost $70,000 in late 1999. Costly for a Honda, yes, but cheaper, better and arguably prettier than its German competitors. And in the years since production was axed due to swelling global demand for SUV crossovers, no one – certainly not Honda – has managed to build quite the same car.

| Buyer's Guide: Honda S2000

It’s no wonder then that S2000s never depreciated to the point of being properly ‘cheap’. Especially on the Australian market, as niche vehicles they’ve never really dropped below $20,000 and have virtually always been in the hands of enthusiastic, if not caring, owners.

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The classic roadster ethos for the 21st century

Demand has swelled over the past couple of years, and $30-40,000 is more consistently what you’ll need to be thinking of if you want to enter the market these days. That’s not to say that there aren’t some exceptional examples with some exceptional asking prices upwards of $70,000 on the market.

The car’s wide breadth of talent typifies its appeal as a fantastic all-rounder, yet its reputation was earned through its ability as a no-nonsense sports car. On paper it’s everything a driver would want: rear-wheel drive, a naturally-aspirated all-aluminium engine, 49:51 weight distribution, close-ratio six-speed manual, sophisticated suspension, bucket seats, curb weight of 1274kg and a convertible roof.

| 2020 Market Review: Honda NSX/S2000/Insight/Acty

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Design is almost timeless, still looks new

The F20C engine was cause for celebration in itself. On paper, the 2.0lt naturally-aspirated four-cylinder may not seem awe-inspiring, however its famous 9000rpm rev-limit and 180kW output made it the ‘highest output of any naturally aspirated engine’ at the time. Its sky-high rev limit wasn’t for publicity either, this powerplant is actually happiest above 7000rpm – a thought that should shock some traditional V8 owners.

Throughout the ten years of production, the S200 enjoyed just one significant update in 2004. In overseas markets, the facelifted model was dubbed AP2 and added larger wheels, facelifted body, refined suspension geometry and – most notably – and an enlarged 2.2lt engine.

| Read next: Honda S2000CR sets record

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Critically-acclaimed design

Many buyers overseas actually prefer the AP1 car for its more delicate looks and its 9000rpm limit, however you won’t get much of a choice in the local market. Honda Australia never sold the AP2 here, instead continuing to sell AP1s-coded cars with many of the same under-the-skin improvements. A few AP2 cars have reportedly been imported over the years, and retrofitted wheels, trim pieces and body components are popular upgrades for AP1 owners.

Just a few years ago, our annual Japanese Market Reviews were pegging median S2000 values between $20-$25,000. Over the past 12 months however, values have spiked noticeably with used-yet-clean original examples commanding $30-$40,000, and low-mileage preserved examples reaching for upwards of $70,000.

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Undoubtedly, this ties into a rising global appetite for modern Japanese sports cars overall, but also taps into a new demographic of younger enthusiasts who are only now growing into the means of owning a car that they grew up with. USA Insurance expert Hagerty suggests that enquiries are up 55 per cent over the past year for the S2000 alone.

As a Honda, they are largely free of known mechanical catastrophe however check for usual rust, roof operation, and signs of accident repair. The F20Cs are known to drink oil, however are otherwise deemed durable given proper maintenance.

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Engine is set as far back as possible for best weight distribution

Like many other Japanese sports cars which were long popular with modifiers, it is now original examples of Honda S2000 without modification that are the most sought-after.

With young enthusiasts bolstering already rapidly growing demand, its unlikely that Honda’s effervescent roadster will get any cheaper in the long-term.

Even taking into account the recent price rises, there isn’t much else from the same era that looks this good or drives this well. There’s no sign that Honda will ever make anything this good again.

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Simple, driver focused. Digital dash was flash tech back then 

FOR

  • The ultimate rendition of the classic roadster formula
  • Modern Honda reliability
  • From a leisurely Sunday cruiser to a trackday weapon: the S2000 does it all

AGAINST

  • Already past the bottom of its depreciation curve
  • A secondhand Toyota 86 is a third of the price
  • Two-seater convertible may not suit everyones’ needs

 

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