Tension rises as a tiny electric blue Honda S600 with a massive 91mm turbo protruding from the hood shakes in anticipation of taking off a split second after the green light appears. The aim is not only to beat its record time of 7.4 secs in 400 metres at 300 km per hour (186 miles ph) in the quarter mile but to draw attention to the Jesus 1 number plates that keep this little pocket rocket in the limelight.
Phil Penny from Nambucca Heads in NSW is the creator of the infamous Honda S600 with the Jesus 1 number plates. It has been viewed on YouTube and in magazines by millions around the world and given Phil a chance to evangelise and explain that Jesus 1 represents that Jesus won the battle against Satan at the cross.
Phil and his son, Christian Penny, found an opportunity to get the message of the Gospel of Jesus into a very secular drag racing scene. They say people either love them or hate them, with the in-betweens curious to know more.
Honda’s First Sports Car
‘The 1965 Honda S600 was the first sports car Honda ever made. It had a lot of motorbike technology in it. The reason it’s called 600 is because it’s point six of a one-litre motor, so it’s literally a motorbike engine. It’s a tiny engine,’ said Phil. As a little boy, back in the late sixties, I had older brothers and their mates who were into modifying cars. And my Dad was a welder and boilermaker, and when I was eight years old, I’d go around the streets when it was council clean up in Sydney and drag home all the Victa lawnmowers. We’d find a motor that worked, and my dad would fabricate the engine into a Malvern Star pushbike. So, I would race around the streets on my homemade mini bike.’
Phil grew up in a Christian family with five siblings. His father, Len was a big influence when it came to carrying on the tradition of evangelising. Len had fabricated a caravan that looked like a giant egg with a sign on the back that said, Prepare to Meet Thy God in big letters. He towed it around in his 1948 Anglia on weekends and would tell people about Jesus.
‘My Dad never missed an opportunity to tell someone the Gospel. And back in the late 70s, when hitchhiking was common, my dad would say to me, “Pick up every hitchhiker you can, Phil, because once they’re in your car, they can’t get out and you can tell them the Gospel.”’
Staring Death in the Face
Drag racing is dangerous. Trying to control a vehicle at high speed sometimes leads to a driver losing control of their car. On occasion, drivers have lost their lives. Although Phil prays for protection before he starts the engine, he’s aware that Satan has a target on his back to take him out. He’s had a few close calls where the Honda suffered damage, but he’s walked away without a scratch.
‘The name of Jesus has power. The Bible says that in the name of Jesus, demons will flee. We’re surrounded by evil,’ said Phil. ‘As Christians, we’re in a war, and the more we upset Satan by putting the name of Jesus out there, the more we’re going to be under attack. I also understand that, like Job in the Bible, God’s got the reins on how far Satan can go when it comes to harming me. And the Bible says that our time on earth has been appointed to us for a time. So when I think like that, my fear about what I’m doing disperses a bit, even when there are anxious moments. But I’m prepared to keep doing it because I know that to put the name of Jesus out into the world is an important thing.’
God has uniquely positioned each of us as part of the Great Commission to reach all people in every nation and every walk of life. Our mission fields are wherever there is someone willing to listen. For Phil and Christian, it’s on the drag strip using the lure of an eye-catching car with Jesus 1 number plates and a sign on the back saying, ‘Prepare to meet thy God’.
The Sad Reality of Suicide
Phil and his son, Christian, get many opportunities to talk to people who come up to look at the car. The Jesus 1 number plates are the drawcard Phil uses to explain what the number plates mean. Phil recalls two men in their mid-thirties standing at a distance, looking at the car. Phil went over to say hi, and within two minutes of talking to them about the car, one of the men told Phil that he was planning to commit suicide because his wife had left him. Phil thought it was unusual that a stranger would share something so personal. But it gave him the perfect opportunity to share his faith and experiences and how he got through his hard times by leaning on Jesus. The young man listened and thanked Phil profusely for taking the time to listen and talk to him. Phil believed God had positioned him to talk to this young man, even though he knew he would probably never see him again. Phil believes these opportunities are not a coincidence and thinks it’s awesome that God trusts him to evangelise to people.
To find out more about Phil and Christian Penny’s ministry and see footage of the Honda S600 in action, go to Facebook Rising Force.
7.4 secs in 400 metres at 300 km per hour (186 miles ph) in the quarter mile
4.8 seconds in 200 metres at 246 km (153 miles ph) in the 1/8th mile.
1965 Honda S600 coupe
Engine: Toyota 2JZ inline 6 cylinder stroked to 3.2L BRG alloy rods, Arias hi-comp pistons Resin filled block, ATI balancer, L19 heads studs Race ported and flowed cylinder head by Dave Stevens Shaw billet Cams, Titan cam wheels Hypertune twin fuel rail manifold & 102mm Throttle body Bosch 1600cc methanol injectors x 12, Enderle 110 belt driven fuel pump Billet Turbochargers 88mm front wheel 94 back wheel Turbosmart wastegates x 2, Turbosmart 50mm BOV x 3 PWR water to air barrel intercooler Haltech PS2000 ECU, 6x EGT sensors & Racepac dash ATI high impact proglide, TCE 6700rpm stall converter Altra 9 sheet metal diff housing, Floating 40-spline gun drilled axles Power: 1340hp @ wheels on 42psi boost Race weight: 1120kg / 2469Ib Performance: 7.4 @ 186mph
To listen to Phil’s full interview with DJ on Rise and Shine, and hear about his near-death experience, click the link below: