Honda Motorcycle Information
Honda. Very few people in modern society are unfamiliar with the name. Today, Honda has given society everything from cars, trucks, generators and motorcycles. But of all these, it is the motorcycle that built the framework for Honda’s success and propelled the small Japanese manufacturer into a global phenomenon.
The Honda Motor Company, founded in 1948 by mechanic and inventor, Soichiro Honda, was envisioned to create economical and reliable transportation as Japan was recovering from the aftermath of World War II. Inspired by a generator engine in the possession of a friend, Honda’s motorcycles consisted mostly of 2-stroke motorized bicycles. But, in 1949, Honda produced its first true motorcycle, the “Dream D-Type” powered by a three-horsepower, 98cc motor. Mr. Honda sought to break out of the Japanese market and, on June 11, 1959, established the “American Honda Motor Company” in Los Angeles, California. American Honda began selling some of its most memorable motorcycles, the Dream and the Super Cub, by September of 1959.
You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda
American Honda imported several of its models from Japan to the U.S. amidst fierce competition from Harley-Davidson, Triumph and BSA. But, by the end of 1959, American Honda was on the brink of bankruptcy. Total sales were close to 1700 units across its 15 dealers nationwide. Interestingly enough, Honda had become the world’s most successful motorcycle manufacturer in the same year, selling over 500,000 models worldwide. American Honda had to make a change in the way it did things. And, in 1962, Honda revolutionized the way people looked at motorcyclists when it launched one of the most famous advertising campaigns ever.
A far cry from the era’s rebellious motorcycle riding hooligan stereotype. “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” ads saturated the market, depicting business men and smiling girls riding around on their pleasant, non-threatening motorcycles. The American Honda storefront furthered this image, by being neat and welcoming, its employees were clean-cut and offered the highest level of service.
The First Bikes
Honda’s first motorcycles sold in the U.S. were the C100 Super Cub and the C77 Dream 305. Produced in 1958, the Super Cub was a 49cc 4-stroke motorbike and is considered the best-selling motorcycle model ever, with more than 60 million units sold worldwide. The step-through pressed steel frame allowed for easy mounting and dismounting, as well as being suitable for women to ride in more moderate times.
The Dream 305 succeeded the Super Cub, featuring a 305cc twin cylinder and a host of accessories designed to showcase the versatility of the model. Windshields, luggage racks and saddlebags, as well as a top speed near 100 mph, allowed the Dream to be used as a touring motorcycle if desired.
The Dream was produced until 1969, being replaced by larger, more capable models. Honda continues to produce the Super Cub today, primarily for the Asian Market.
As Honda’s popularity grew worldwide, the need for larger, more advanced models grew as well. Honda replaced its original fleet with the CB series, but turned the motorcycling world on its ear when it unveiled the CB750 in 1969. Featuring a 749cc air-cooled inline-four-cylinder motor, the 750 was specifically directed at the U.S. market after Honda met with U.S. dealers and saw the opportunity for a larger bike. Hailed as “the most sophisticated production bike ever” by “Cycle Magazine” and ranking third as one of the top 10 greatest motorbikes of all time by the Discovery Channel, the CB750 also coined the term “super bike.”
Honda and Racing
Since its inception, Honda has always been ingrained with the racing spirit. In 1959, Mr. Honda commission a team of four 125cc race bikes, under the management of Kiyoshi Kawashima, to the Isle of Man TT. The Honda Team, the first Japanese entry into the World GP, claimed the 6th, 7th, 8th and 11th place in the 125cc lightweight class and the Manufacturers’ Team Award. Bolstered by their success in their maiden run against stacked odds, Honda competed in the full series the following year.
Honda brought home several victories, with Tom Phillis taking first place at the 1961 Spanish Grand Prix and Mike Hailwood’s Isle of Man TT victory in 1962. By 1967, Honda claimed the World Championship title in each class (50, 125, 250, 350 and 500cc).
Since then, several champions have ridden Honda’s to the podium, from Freddie Spencer and Mick Doohan, to Valentino Rossi. Honda’s pursuit of excellence reaches from the MotoGP track to the privateer racer.
Honda continues to produce a broad array of motorcycles, filling the needs of the off-road rider, the hard-edged sport biker and the cruiser segment. Honda’s race-derived technological innovations, such as the Unit-Pro Link suspension, are evident on street-going production bikes and offer a level of refinement and precision that has built Honda’s reputation. It’s no wonder that Honda has become a household name.