The 'Honda Motor Company' was founded on in 1948, by Soichiro Honda (1906—1991), a mechanic and engineer/inventor who began as a blacksmith, working at his father, Gihei Honda's bicycle repair shop.
In 1938, at the age of 32, Soichiro Honda was working at an auto repair-shop in Tokyo, called Art Shokai, where he began using his self-taught mechanical and engineering skills. Honda briefly studied mechanical engineering and design at Hamamatsu Technical High School, where Honda perfected his new design for the piston ring.
During the Japanese reconstruction period of the early 1940s, Soichiro Honda began designing motor-driven bicycles. Honda built his first motor-scooter, known simply as the "A-Type," in 1947.
The Dream & Benly Years (1953 to 1970)
One year later he started the 'Honda Motor Company' and began building small-displacement 'tiddler' style motor-scooters. Honda introduced his first motorcycle in 1949; the 'Dream D-Type' with a 3 horsepower, 98cc engine. Hondas were also sold under the "Benly" name, with "Honda" appearing on the engine case.
1957, 1956 Honda Benly JC 125
In 1959, under the guidance of Honda's Senior Managing Director, Takeo Fujisawa (1910—1988), Honda established a presence in the US by opening the 'American Honda Motor Company,' located in Los Angeles, California.
1953 Benly 125cc Single-Cylinder Motor
Honda's first US imports were the "Dream Sport 300," "CB92 Benly Super Sport," and "C100 Super Cub," all featuring Honda's signature stamped-steel frame. Honda's C100 Super Cub went on to sell a staggering 50 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling vehicle in history.
Another hit was made with the 1961 CB77 Super Hawk, and Dream 305 twin-cylinder touring bike which was the successor to the Super Cub. Throughout the 1950s, the company grew rapidly, with Honda scooters becoming known for their reliability and low cost.
Honda's Race History
Desiring to elevate the performance and stature of his motorcycles, it is rumored that Soichiro Honda contacted Giuseppe Boselli of the Italian firm Mòndial In 1957, to study the design of his race-winning 125cc and 250 cc Grand Prix bikes.
1962 Honda CR110 Racer
Honda's racing history began in 1959, with the entry of several 'RC142' two-cylinder 125cc bikes in the Isle of Man TT race.
1962 Honda CR93
1963 Honda CR93 GP Racer
During the same time period, Honda was also developing a four-cylinder 250cc GP bike under the name "RC160." This early work into four-cylinder engine design would be the humble beginnings for the development of the CB750 a decade later.
1967 Honda RC181 Racer
1960s Honda Culture
In 1962 motorcycling was developing a negative stereotype as an "outlaw" culture, so to promote a cute and family-friendly image for the company, the US advertising agency of Grey Advertising in Los Angeles, came up with the enduring slogan: "You meet the nicest people on a Honda."
1964 Honda CA77 Dream Touring
CA77 Dream 305cc OHC Twin-Cylinder Motor
Hond's CB750 - The Bike That Changed Everything
Deciding to to move significantly 'upscale,' Honda entered the high-performance, multi-cylinder, large displacement 'consumer' arena in 1969, with the introduction of the inline four-cylinder CB750.
Other manufacturers such as Henderson (1911), Ace (1919), Indian (1933), Ariel (1931), MV Agusta (1967), Münch (1967), and others had already introduced four-cylinder models to the public long before Honda. The difference was that Honda's 'four' was actually and affordable, practical, reliable, and accessible iteration of the theme.
1970 Honda CR750 Racer
The CB750 was an immediate hit with both the motorcycle press, and the buying public. The CB750, and the 1970 Kawasaki Z1 inline-four were so profound that it literally changed the motorcycling industry overnight, and it left competitors scrambling to play catch-up.
The 1969 CD175B was Honda's last model to use the stamped-steel frame on any of its models, moving to a tubular design with the 1970 CD175 K3. The "Benly" name was dropped around the same time, although some "Benly" models did linger in certain markets.
Honda had another sucess with the introduction of the CB550 Four a couple of years later, and in 1975 the company hit another technological milestone with the Gold Wing GL1000 touring bike.
Hond's CBX-6 1000 Six
Another major advancement for Honda came in 1979, with the introduction of the DOHC inline six-cylinder CBX-6 1000. The CBX 1000 was designed by Shoichiro Irimajiri (born 1940) who had also penned Honda's six cylinder race bikes.
Six-Cylinder DOHC 1979 Honda CBX-6 1000
The CBX-6's 24-valve engine was only 2 inches wider than the Honda CB750, and produced a whopping 105 bhp at 9,000 rpm. The nearly 600-pound CBX was hailed as a technological marvel of the time, even though the Italian firm Benelli had beaten them to the punch seven years earlier with the six-cylinder, single-overhead-cam Benelli 750 Sei.
With Honda's high quality, styling, and customer satisfaction, the company became the largest producer of motorcycles in the world by the mid 1970s.
Vintage Honda Links
Early Benly Honda Gallery
Honda's Race History 1959 - 1967
Motorcycles of the 20th Century
The Benly Shop - Benly Honda Restoration
Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America
Vintage OEM-Style Reproduction Decals
Retrobikes Vintage Parts
'Nicest People' Campaign Causes a Sensation
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