Honda, as many other great brands of motorcycles was born straight out of the ruin much of the world lay shattered in, after the Second World War.
Conditions seemed pretty much the same back then in parts of the world the War swept over, this may explain the fact that motorcycle-building started out in similar fashion in the U.S, Europe, or Japan.
A common denominator of all of these regions (and back than pretty much the rest of the world too) was an acute lack of resources of any type. This is why all would-be motorcycle manufacturers adopted the same thrifty approach to bike building.
Japanese businessman and motorcycling enthusiast Soichiro Honda was no different from other motorcycle pioneers. Driven by the post-war need for cheap and accessible transportation, he started looking for small engines that could be attached to pushbikes. Typical of the Japanese resourcefulness, he came across a lot of surplus two stroke engines (used to power generators during the war) which he bought. As normal fuel was scarce he distilled his own type of fuel from pine tree extract and threw the engines onto the motorcycle-hungry market.
His enterprise was such a huge success that he soon ran out of the military surplus engines, and driven by the still increasing need for such motors, using one of the surplus ones as a model he started building his own 50cc engines.
1947 can be viewed as the actual moment Honda, as a motorcycle company was born even though Honda Motor Company was only officially founded in 1948.
1947 was the year Mr. Honda started selling complete engine plus frame units, officially called A-Type Hondas and nicknamed “the Chimney” because of its similar characteristics as far as pollutant emission was concerned.
1948 was the year the company was officially started and the production of the 90cc improved version of “The Chimney”, by its official name the Type-B, started.
Being a perfectionist and something of a speed maniac as well Mr. Honda never failed to make best use of the more and more resources as well as technological advances that surfaced over time.
In 1949 Honda Motors built its first actual motorcycle christened “the D-Type Dream” as it represented Mr. Honda’s dream of building a complete motorcycle, come true.
But things didn’t stop there for Honda. Financial expert Takeo Fujisawa teamed up with
Mr. Honda , and -though they probably didn’t suspect it themselves - started the creation of the empire Honda is nowadays.
1951 saw the further evolution of the Type-D into the type-E, a 146cc four stroke motorcycle that could reach 50mph.
As Mr. Soichiro’s other dream was racing, the company started to take the idea of building a race-ready bike seriously.
Starting with 1959, with the introduction of the C 72 Dream in Amsterdam, Honda set out to conquer both the racing world and that of the street-legal motorcycles. The C 72 featured a powerful 250cc engine, 12 Volt electrics and wet sump lubrication.
With their C and later CB series Honda embarked on the road to success in every department they aimed for.
In 1969 Honda unveiled its famous CB750F, a bike so advanced and powerful there had to be a new expression invented in order to describe it accurately.
The 750cc, 4 cylinder motorcycle, capable of reaching 120mph was named a “Superbike”.
1970 was the year Honda entered the offroad market with its Elsinore, later developed into the MT125 and MT250.
The rest, as they say, is history. Through almost countless versions of motorcycles brought out year after year, Honda managed to grow into probably the largest motorcycle manufacturer on the planet. The company’s seemingly bottomless pit of resources allowed it to take control and dominate in almost every type of motorcycle racing, and in the same time to become a household name in street-legal motorcycling.
As Kawasaki recently stripped them of their right to call the fastest and most powerful production motorcycle theirs, I can’t wait to see what Honda’s response to the challenge will be. Something tells me that Kawasaki has but poked with a stick at the sleeping giant, and once awakened we’re about to be treated to something truly awesome.