Carrozzeria Watanabe Flying Pegasus

After the first series of Japanese Grand Prix events held through the mid to late 1960s, the racing scene absolutely exploded in Japan, with amateurs and professionals alike hurriedly taking to local tracks in order to experience the joys of driving quickly.

Living on an isolated island means that enthusiasts were forced to improvise, especially when it came to sourcing spare parts. Hell, it's still a pain to get winter tires shipped into Canada from the U.S.—I can't imagine being an enthusiast in Japan trying to buy, say, a racing seat or harnesses from Europe.

For sports car and formula racing, it would be even more difficult to get parts—especially body parts. For those, a number of small constructors took to their own sketch pads and created everything from wings to entire cars from fibreglass. One such person was Masao Watanabe, an engineer by trade who was swept up in the racing craze and was found to be very skilled at creating and setting up Formula 3 cars.

In 1970 at the 3rd annual Tokyo Racing Car Show, Watanabe had a big surprise for attendees: a Honda S600-based sports car called the Flying Pegasus. 

Not much is known about the car, besides it being commissioned by Mobil 1 for use in advertising. There are few photos of the cars, with five or fewer believed to exist today. Confusingly, the car was updated and later named the Griffon. 

Or the Griffon was updated and named Flying Pegasus…it's not entirely clear. (Or, maybe, it was the Griffon all along and only named Flying Pegasus for its Mobil 1 commercial…)

What is clear, however, is that this Honda S600-based coupe would have been a solid performer. With a dual overhead cam 606cc 4-cylinder engine, Honda was able to extract 57 horsepower at a screaming 8,500 rpm. The original S600 had a top speed around 140 km/h (90 mph), but with Watanabe's new bodywork, I could imagine top speed a little better than stock.

Despite his little coachworks not becoming as famous as, say, Pininfarina, Carrozzeria Watanabe did have a few other interesting designs, including a Beetle-based sports racing car called the Lycacon.

Sadly, that's all I could dig up at this time on the elusive Carrozzeria Watanabe. Nice lines, eh?