Soichiro Honda and
The History of Honda Motorcycles
Honda Motor Company Ltd known for its manufacture of automobiles and motorcycles got its start in Japan by Soichiro Honda.
As a young man Soichiro Honda worked in a tuning shop as a mechanic and as a self taught engineer he concentrated on research and development.
Eventually he designed and perfected piston rings which he later manufactured for Toyota.
Soichiro Honda was soon able to open a factory in Japan, but in 1945 a massive earthquake destroyed it and for a
while it looked like things were over for Honda.
During WWII, with the shortage and rationing of gasoline, Soichiro Honda had an idea of attaching a small engine
to his bicycle to increase speed and take the work out of riding.
Soichiro Honda was no stranger to hardship being well known for his non-standard business practices and rebellious ways.
"Success represents the 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is so called failure."
The Honda motorbike was born. In 1946, he opened the Honda Technical Research Institute in Hamamatsu, Japan and began production of
small 2-cycle engines using military surplus. In 1949 he produced his first motorcycle that featured both a Honda designed frame and
motor, the Model D, for “Dream”.
In 1952, Honda began producing the Cub featuring a ½ horsepower, 50cc two stroke engine, and its popularity led to a cash flow that
enabled Honda to produce the Benly, a four stroke, single powered motorcycle with three speeds, pressed steel frame, rear suspension
with the engine and swing arm on a spring pivot and telescopic front suspension. By 1964, the Honda Motor Company was the world's
largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
In the 1960's Honda began exporting his product to the United States amongst a very competitive market, but through their steadfast
and determined business model were able to rise to the top.
The first model sold in the U.S. was the C-100 Super Cub, featured in the famous and memorable print ad and television marketing
campaigns claiming “you meet the nicest people on a Honda”. Over 30 million Super Cubs were manufactured, and it became the most
popular selling motorcycle of all time.
Soichiro was a racer himself, and this no doubt helped further the company as a leader in the racing world. Throughout the 1960's
Honda was a formidable force in the racing world. In 1982 the Honda Racing Corporation was formed. HRC is active in sales and
production of racing motorcycles, rider education and development of technologies in racing motorcycles.
Honda has become dominant in motorcycle Grand Prix racing with well known riders such as Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi. Honda
owns six world championships in Motocross and eight titles in the World Enduro Championships.
In the 70's with the success of their racing and sale of motorbikes, Honda fast became a force to be reckoned with in the United States
and British markets. With the creation of the Windjammer fairing and production of the Goldwing in 1974 with its water cooled engines,
Honda now had motorcycles specifically for long distance touring. They continued to perfect their touring models and in 1980 brought
out the Interstate model complete with fairing, saddlebags and trunk. At the same time, they began to develop V-four engines and produced
the Honda Sabre and Magna in 1980, followed by the VFR series.
The VFR 750R was a sport touring model with both increased power and reliability. In 1996 they produced the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird,
the fastest motorcycle in production at the time. Through their research and development, racing wins, and business model, they quickly
became a noble and imposing company, and today they remain the top selling motorcycle manufacturer in the world, surpassing even
Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, and other popular brands. They offer everything from scooters to touring.