Honda was founded in the late 1940s as Japan struggled
to rebuild following the second World War. Company founder Soichiro
Honda first began manufacturing piston rings before turning his
attention to inexpensive motorcycles. Mr. Honda always had a passion for
engineering, and this became evident by the wild sales success of his
motorcycles in the 1960s and by competing head-to-head against the
world’s best on racetracks. Today, Honda is a juggernaut, offering
class-leading machines in most every categoryHonda Motorcycle History
Soichiro Honda is born in Hamamatsu, Japan. His father owns a
blacksmith shop that also repairs bicycles. As a young man, Honda is an
apprentice in an automotive garage in Tokyo.
Honda returns to Hamamatsu to open his own auto repair shop.
Enamored with speed, he builds his own race car.
Honda is injured in an auto racing accident.
He forms a company to manufacture piston rings. After a shaky start
(owing mostly to his complete lack of formal training in metallurgy) his
company becomes successful. He is a key supplier to Toyota, which
starts manufacturing cars at about the same time.
Soichiro Honda sells his piston-ring business. Japan is struggling
to regain some semblance of normalcy, after having been bombed flat at
the end of WWII. Honda realizes the need for affordable transportation
and begins grafting war-surplus two-stroke motors onto bicycles. (The
motors had originally been intended for use on portable generators for
Honda Motor Co. Ltd is incorporated. Soichiro Honda focuses on the
engineering side of the business, while financial operations are
controlled by Takeo Fujisawa.
The company produces its first real motorcycle, powered by a 98cc a
two-stroke motor. When an employee sees the first one assembled and it
is ridden outside the factory, he says, “It’s like a dream.” The name
“Dream” was adopted for the bike, officially known as Model D.
Mr. Honda is infuriated by the noise, smell and fumes from the
two-stroke motorbikes (including his own) that crowd Japanese city
streets. In response, the company creates its first four-stroke
motorcycle, the Dream E (146cc).
Despite the fact that he despises such “primitive” powerplants,
Honda flirts with his original notion of auxiliary motors for bicycles.
The Cub F (two-stroke, 50cc) clip-on motor is sold through thousands of
independent bicycle shops across Japan. It is only manufactured for two
years, but it introduces the “Cub” trademark, which will be popular for
decades in various guises.
The Benly J (4-stroke, 90cc) is released. At least some of these
were sold with “Benly” tank-badges, and carried the Honda name on engine
cases only. The Benly series also lasted a long time, and ushered in an
era of improved performance. They were immediately popular with Japan’s
Soichiro Honda shares his own dream, of success in Grand Prix
motorcycle racing. He writes, “My childhood dream was to be a champion
of motor racing with a machine built by myself. However, before becoming
world champion, it is strongly required to establish a stable corporate
structure, provided with precise production facilities and superior
product design. From this point of view we have been concentrating on
providing high quality products to meet Japanese domestic consumer
demand and we have not had enough time to pour our efforts in motor
cycle racing until now… I here avow my intention that I will participate
in the TT race and I proclaim with my fellow employees that I will pour
all my energy and creative powers into winning. ”Mr. Honda attended the Isle of Man races as an observer that year,
paying particular attention to the German-made NSU motorcycles that
dominated the 125 and 250 classes. Although it is widely believed Honda
“copied” these machines, it is not true; the NSU racers were singles
with bevel-drive cams–nothing like the early Honda racers.
The Super Cub (aka C100, aka CA100, aka simply “the Honda 50”) hits
the market. It features a pressed-steel frame, leading-link fork,
step-through design and a 50cc four-stroke motor. It is destined to be
sold under various names, and will later grow to 70cc, and finally 90cc.
It will become the most popular motorcycle–indeed, the most popular
motor vehicle of any kind.
Honda enters the famed Isle of Man TT races for the first time. The
company fields five machines in the 125cc “Ultra-lightweight” class. The
bikes are 125cc twins, of the type raced the previous year in Japanese
national competition. Naomi Tanaguchi achieves the team’s the best TT
result, finishing sixth. Honda wins the manufacturer’s trophy in the
class.Honda opens American Honda Motor Co. in Los Angeles.
Honda dominates both the 125cc and 250cc classes at the TT. Mike
Hailwood wins both races, with Hondas finishing 1st through 5th
positions in each case. The Isle of Man Examiner newspaper says simply,
“It was a devastating win for the Orient.”
This year, Honda focuses on F-1 car racing, and the motorcycle
racing program suffers. Sales of street bikes remain strong, however:
the Super Cub is awarded the French Mode Cup; Honda opens its first
overseas plant in Belgium; Grey Advertising unveils the famous “You meet
the nicest people on a Honda” campaign. Early the following year, Honda
buys commercial time in the Academy Awards for a “nicest people”
television ad featuring the Super Cub.
Two-stroke motors begin to dominate the smaller-displacement racing
classes. In order to remain competitive in the 250cc classes, while
still relying on four-stroke motors, Honda produces a six-cylinder 250,
the 3RC164. This engineering marvel dazzles the racing world, but it is
not enough to prevent Phil Read from winning the championship on his
Yamaha ’stroker. In ’66 and ’67, however, Mike Hailwood will use the six
to win the 250cc World Championship
19 years after the company’s first two-wheeler rolled out of the
factory, Honda produces its 10 millionth motorcycle.
Honda unveiled the CB750 at the Tokyo Motor Show in late ’68, but it
didn’t hit the market until early ’69. It is impossible to overstate
the impact this bike made, as the first modern mass-market four, and the
first mass-market bike to come with a disc brake. Until well into 1970,
CB750s were made with sand-cast, not die-cast engine cases. In truth,
die-cast cases were lighter, stronger, and more oil tight. But it’s the
sand-cast models that are prized by collectors.
Honda entered four riders in the Daytona 200, but only one–Dick
Mann–finished. The three DNFs were completely overshadowed by Mann’s
victory. It was a huge win for Honda in America. That year, the 200 grid
also included all-new triples from Triumph and BSA, and the first XR750
Harley-Davidsons. Although the factory bikes are often referred to as
CR750 models, the CR750 was never sold as a complete motorcycle; it was
only a kit of parts to be assembled on a CB750 donor bike. The factory
racers were built by Honda’s Racing Services Center (the predecessor of
today’s HRC) and officially designated “CB750 Racing Type.”
Honda finally admits that in order to build a competitive 250cc
motocrosser, the company has to make another two-stroke motor. CR250
“Elsinore” reaches the U.S. in early ’73. It is immediately the most
effective production race bike in its class, and Gary Jones wins the AMA
motocross championship on it in its first year.
Soichiro Honda retires as the company President. He remains on the
Board of Directors, which grant him the honorific title ‘Supreme
Advisor’ in 1983.
The first Gold Wing, the GL1000, is introduced at Cologne. It
reaches the U.S. market in early ’75. The ’wing is the first Japanese
production four-stroke to be water-cooled. It also features shaft drive
and is one of the first production bikes to be fitted with a fuel pump.
The pump is required because the “tank” in the normal position is
actually an electronics bay and conceals the radiator overflow, while
the real fuel tank is under the seat, to help keep the center of gravity
In an effort to build a competitive four-stroke motorcycle for the
500GP World Championship, Honda produces the oval-piston NR500. It was
effectively a “four-cylinder V-8, with 8 connecting rods and 32 valves.
It is a technological tour-de-force, but manufacturing challenges
prevent it from racing until late in the ’79 season. Honda persists with
the machine through the ’81 season, but even Freddie Spencer can’t
manage to win on it.
Honda Gold Wing production moves from Japan to a new factory in
Freddie Spencer wins the 500cc World Championship. For the first
time, Honda wins the “blue riband” championship. (The company first won
the Manufacturer’s Championship in the 500cc class in 1966.)
After a shaky start, the V-four “VF” series of road bikes is
redeemed with the redesigned VFR750F “Interceptor”. Its gear-drive
overhead cams once and for all banish cam drive and wear problems, and
the model is generally acknowledged as being the “best all-’round road
bike” for most of the next ten years.
The CBR600F “Hurricane” is Honda’s first fully-faired, four-cylinder
The VFR750R (aka RC30) finally arrives in the U.S., three years
after it is first sold in Japan. It’s a true homologation special, and a
genuine race bike for the street, selling for twice the price of a
The company mourns the death of Soichiro Honda.
200 units of the legendary NR (aka NR 750) are produced. This is a
street-legal version of the ill-fated NR500 Grand Prix racer, which
sells for a breathtaking $60,000. It’s loaded with ahead-of-its-time
features including carbon-fiber bodywork, a digital dash, underseat
exhaust, a single-sided swingarm, and fuel injection. In spite of lavish
use of carbon and light alloy, it weighs nearly 500 pounds, and most of
the people who have ridden it (still a small statistical sample!) are
The CBR900RR stuns the sportbike world. Designed by Tadao Baba, the
“Fireblade” combines the power of an open-class motorcycle with the
weight and handling of a 600.
The radical EXP-2 (two-stroke 400cc) wins its class in the
Granada-Dakar rally. The bike is the proof-of-concept for a cleaner
burning and more powerful two-stroke engine concept that uses a pivoting
“valve” to close the exhaust port.
Valentino Rossi wins the last ever 500cc World Championship on the
All change. Or not. Rossi wins the first World Championship in the
990cc MotoGP era, on the five-cylinder four-stroke RC211V. Valentino
Rossi wins the last ever 500cc World Championship on the NSR500
Honda prototypes a motorcycle powered by a fuel cell.
The 50,000,000th Super Cub is sold.
Honda is the first manufacturer to offer a motorcycle with air bag
- Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35
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