Thursday, December 7, 2023

Honda turns 75 years Old

As I miss those Quirky Mayor ‘O Hinchtown’s (James Hinchcliffe) Honda IndyCar Commercials…


Yeah, I chose today’s date on purpose for obvious reasons. Andnah, No Day ‘O Infamy jokes here. Especially since we’re still reigning Bombs down upon other nations…


Having read recently the Smithsonian’s article upon Operation Linebacker II. Y’all know when somebody named Richard Milhous Nixon decided to Carpet Bomb Vietnam into submission during Christmas, with eleven straight days of bombing between December 18-29, 1972. Focusing upon Hanoi, with some 20,000 Tons of munitions dropped Killing 1,624 Civilians, sound familiar?


Like one of it other storied Automobile rivals named Porsche, the Honda Motor Company that was incorporated on September 24, 1948 has just celebrated it’s 75th anniversary of officially being in business…


Yet like Porsche, the company’s roots naturally began far before it’s official incorporation date.


As I’ll confess, I’ve really never known much about Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda, who was born on November 17, 1906, and His father was a Blacksmith who ran a Bicycle repair shop. While reportedly, Soichiro’s witnessing of American Aviator Art Smith flying an airplane early in life cemented His fascination with machinery.


Soichiro left home at age 15 and went to Tokyo where He found work as an Automobile Mechanic Apprentice, staying for six years before returning home to establish His own Automobile Garage at age 22.


Ironically, Soichiro established a company making piston rings for Automobile manufacturer Toyota in the late 1930’s. Although initially losing the contract with Toyota due to poor manufacturing  quality.


By 1941, Honda was producing piston rings for Toyota that met their rigorous quality demands, utilizing automated manufacturing processes. Then in 1944, an American B-29 Bomber destroyed Honda’s factory, which subsequently collapsed in a January 1945 Earthquake. With Soichiro selling the remaining assets to Toyota and creating the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946.


Then Honda Motor company LTD was incorporated in September, 1948, producing motorized Bicycles using surplus 50cc radio generator motors. Before producing the A-Type with it’s own copy of the motors for it’s motorized Bicycle known as the “Bata Bata’s” for the sound the engines made


Honda built it’s first full frame and engine motorcycle, the B-type in 1949 and a decade later entered motorcycle racing at the legendous’ Isle of Man’s TT. (Tourist Trophy) As Soichiro wished to compete in the TT since it was the most gruelling motorcycle race the, and naturally would garner attention for Honda worldwide.


Honda scored their first World Championship motorcycle victories in the 125cc and 250cc categories in 1961. Along with Mike “the bike” Hailwood winning the 1961 Isle of Man TT 125cc category, before Honda withdrew from motorcycle racing at the end of the 1967 season.


Yet Soichiro pushed for Honda to return to Motorcycle racing, and in 1979, Honda made it’s debut in the GP500 Championship with it’s revolutionary NR500. With Freddie Spencer winning Honda’s first GP500 title in 1983 riding the more conventional NS500. Not to mention also winning that year’s 250cc Championship, the only rider to do so in modern history!


Honda would go onto dominate GP500 and MotoGP racing the next few decades with the likes of Spencer, Wayne Gardner, “Steady Eddie” (Eddie Lawson) and Mick Doohan who scored five consecutive titles aboard the All conquering NSR500! And then there was “the doctor”, aka Valentino Rossi, the “Kentucky Kid”, nee Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner and lastly, thee Pinball Wizard’, aka Marc Marquez…


Meanwhile, it’s funny learning now nearly a half century later, that my introduction to Honda automobiles was in a first generation Civic, which I’ve always remembered as just being a CVCC. Sitting in the back seat of the two door Hatchback as a teenager, I can still recall how small that car was!


Yet when I think of Honda, naturally I immediately think of their success as an engine supplier in Formula 1 during 1983-92, when withdrawing from Formula 1 for the second time.


Although I do know that Honda first raced in F1 in the 1964 season as a F1 Constructor with it’s revolutionary RA271 chassis. Being the only manufacturer to compete with a 1.5-litre normally aspirated V-12 engine.


unheralded American Richie Ginther won Honda’s maiden Formula 1 race at the season ending 1965 Mexican Grand Prix aboard it’s RA272 racecar. Also being the end of the 1.5-litre formula.


For 1966, the FIA introduced the 3.0-litre engine formula, with Honda continuing with an enlarged V-12 lump’ mated to it’s RA273 chassis. Then in 1967 upon it’s debut, John Surtees won the Italian Grand Prix aboard the RA300, leading just the race’s final lap!


Yet Surtees refused to drive it’s successor, the RA302, proclaiming it a Death Trap! To which Honda ignored and hired Frenchman Jo Schlesser to race it in the 1968 French Grand Prix. Where Schlesser slid wide hitting a bank on the Rouen circuit and perishing when becoming engulfed in a Fireball when the magnesium chassis caught fire!


Schlesser’s death, along with Surtees further refusing to drive the RA302 led to Honda’s withdrawal from Formula 1 at the end of the 1968 season. Whilst ironically, Schlesser’s nephew Jean-Louis would make His own bit of unwanted History twenty years later, during the 1988 F1 season, Honda and McLaren’s Dream season. When race leader Ayrton Senna tripped over the hapless back-marker at the Italian Grand Prix!


As Jean-Louis Schlesser was deputizing for Il Lione’, aka Nigel Mansell at Williams, and thought Senna would quickly lap Him again, before jinking into Senna’s path! Leaving the Tifosi in ecstasy over a Ferrari 1-2 at Monza with Gerhard Berger ahead of Michele Alboreto.


As this would be the lone victory not claimed by the All conquering McLaren MP4/4 Honda in 1988. With Senna and teammate Alain Prost winning 15 of 16 Grands Prix that season. A record that stood for 35 years before being broken by Red Bull this year. With Red Bull’s RB19 Honda RBPT crushing the competition by winning a staggering 21 of 22 races! With thee Dutch Tsunami’, aka Maximilian Verstappen an astounding 19 races. A single season record that surely will be nye impossible to beat!