Honda 50 Years History
Subject: Honda 50 Years History
From: Tomo Sakata
Organization: Vancouver Independent
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 09:40:57 GMT

Hello folks,
I just finished reading the entire Honda history PDF. It's a
fascinating reading, but unfortunately seems to be available
only in Japanese language (

You can see an English summary from this page;

but, it's too brief and no fun.

So, I thought I'd summarise some of the interesting episodes covered
in the PDF files for Honda fan's interest. Most of the story were
already known to Japanese motorcycle/car lovers, but it was still
fascinating for me.

I apologise for any grammatical mistake in advance. I'm not going
to translate word by word, but hope you can feel Uncle Honda's spirit.
So here you go.

[The PDF files have old pretty pictures all over. In case you
are interested to see, I'd recommend you to get one file -
(900Kb) that features Honda's first ever car (360cc engine!).]


[Beginning Era]
# '46 Soichiro Honda establishes Honda Technical Research Institute
# at Yamashita plant in Hamamatsu.

Uncle Honda was a locally well-known car repair man before the
WW-II. He had a little repair shop, but it was bombed to ashes.
So he started off from the scratch with a little factory
with a few workers.

# '47 Honda's first product, the A-type bicycle engine, produced.

He already had a revolutionary new engine idea in his mind,
but his factory's facilities were not good enough to produce it.
So, he started his business with converting an old military
engine (for radio purpose) to a bicycle aid engine.

# '49 Dream D-type (2-cycle, 98cc), Honda's first motorcycle, produced.

His first original MC. He stuck to die casting procedure
instead of cheap and easy sand casting, saying "our country
doesn't have resources. Wasting a material is a dumbest sin!"

# '51 Dream E-type (4-cycle, 146cc) released.

Uncle Honda was a strong believer of efficiency. For him, gasoline
engines had to be 4 cycle. "2 cycle is dumping gasoline for nothing,
what a waste!" So, the E-type was his first real Dream machine.

Honda proved E-type's performance by climbing up Mt. Hakone, which
was impossible for any previous domestic motorcycles.

"This guy MUST sell well. MUST. It's a good one. We gotta make
the world No.1 MC in the future, because our staff are gonna be
compared to the foreign MCs sooner or later. Become the best,
or customers will dump us. It's obvious."

And, it sold very well.

[Expansion Era]
# '54 Production moves from Yamashita plant to Hamamatsu plant.

"Our stuff gotta be super user friendly. Users the ones
who got to live with it for the longest time, think about it.
Aim 120%. That'll give users 100% of the quality."

When the idea of the Quality Control was introduced to Japan
through the Japanese government, one Honda worker who attended
the government's seminar thing reported back to Uncle Honda.

"..So president, Random Sampling Inspection is the most effective
way to maintain our quality. Of course there would be about
1/1000 possibility that we'd produce defective unit by this method.
In that case, we just apologize sincerely. This is the most cost
effective way."

Uncle Honda replied, "what do you mean 'just apologize'? If you
think that the Quality Control, cut it out!"

"Look at those young Honda riders out on the street. They are
poor. They pay their monthly payments for Honda out of their
limited money. Do you understand that? You say 1/1000 is OK.
But for an individual user, his Honda is 1/1, you see?
Imagine how it's depressing for him if his Honda was a lemon!
That's why I always say Aim 120%!"

So, Honda's QC mind spread by Uncle Honda's spirit rather
than the government seminar way. There are various stories
similar to this in Honda history.

# '58 Super Cub motorbike released.

The world best-selling MC appears. Uncle Honda and his
young staff put all the idea into this little MC. Engine, style,
wheel, shock absorber, materials, etc., everything was newly
developed according to their idea of "working" MC. --- And
everything is basically still the same after 40 years.

# '59 Honda racing team participates in the Isle of Man
# TT Race, taking 6th place in the 125cc class.

Uncle Honda was a racing fan from his young days. Prior to this
Man TT, Honda and other MC makers were invited to Brazil international
MC race. Japanese MCs lost in a big time. Right after that, Uncle
Honda declared to attend the world's most famous race.

"Our fellow workers! We lost. I thought I was modest and
level-headed about the performance of our MC, but was not enough.
The defeat was bigger than I expected. The world is speeding up
incredibly. ---- BUT! The defeat lit a fire on my challenging
spirit! We have to keep trying. I have this new MC engine
idea in my mind. This MC should be competitive even against the
British and German MCs. Our fellow workers! I declare that we
will attend the Man TT race. Let's work hard and make the world
No.1 MC!"

Then they lost in the Man TT race, but got the idea how much
the world is advanced than them.

(to be continued)
Tomo Sakata (Vancouver)

Subject: Honda 50 Years History - 2
From: Tomo Sakata
Organization: Vancouver Independent
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 01:01:58 GMT


[[ Honda 50 Years History - 2 ]]

# '60 Motorcycle production begins at Suzuka Factory.
# '61 Honda wins the Isle of Man TT Race

Honda raised young engineers through the World GP and Isle of
Man TT race. They made the famous ultra hi-rev engines and
it notched the world top class performance in a couple of
years. At the news of the win, Uncle Honda sobbed for the joy.

The Suzuka Factory was constructed aiming the most efficient and
rational way of motor production (Honda had become very idealistic
company by then, by Uncle Honda's philosophical influence.)
Uncle Honda looked at the factory's work vigourously. He often
found something illogical in the factory process, and scolded the
managers. He wanted to improve the factory work in terms of
efficiency and humanity.

"Why are those six workers carrying that heavy stuff by hand! That's
not a human job! Think about it! Do something!"
"Why does he have to do the same idiotically repetitive action
all the time. That's not a human job! Think about it! Do something!"

The Suzuka Factory also had flexibility and scale to produce cars.

# '62 Construction of Suzuka Circuit completed.
# "Nicest people" campaign introduced in the US.

# '63 Honda's first sports car (S 500) and light truck (T 360) released.

Uncle Honda was thinking, "we shouldn't hurry in producing our own
car, until we can feel confident in the field." But, the Japanese
government announced that new car companies would not be allowed to
join the industry for xx years, in order to prevent the cut throat
competition. Uncle Honda got furious.

"I have the right to make a car if I want to! Only our stockholders
can stop me, not the government! If you (government) want to
say No, you become our stock holder! I will make a car, now!"

That's how Honda made up their mind to make a car.

Honda developed a small small sports car (360cc!). He wanted to
paint it red, but the Japan had a law to ban red painted cars. The
law restricted the use of the color for fire engines. Uncle Honda got
furious again. He protested on a paper.

"Restricting such an fundamentally important color for just one
purpose is the sign of Japan's culturally under-cultivated state!"
He won and got the permission for the red painted car. This car
was rather demonstrating car and wasn't sold to public, but
soon later Honda's first sports car (S 500) was released.

# '64 Honda's first F1 entry (9th place).

They didn't have enough experience in car developing, so they
wanted to supply their engine to constructors, but couldn't find
a partner. So they made it all by themselves. Uncle Honda also
committed in engine design as an adviser.

# '65 Honda wins its first F1 victory in Mexico.
# '66 Honda wins the Constructor's Championship in all classes (50cc;
# 125cc; 250cc; 350cc; 500cc)at the World Grand Prix, an international
# first.

Honda announced that they would take a break in MC racing.
"We accomplished our initial plan - research and development
through the racing. Now it's the time to feed it back to our MC."

# Honda F2 car establishes a world record of 11 consecutive victories.
# N360 mini-compact with air-cooled engine introduced.

In '66, Honda released more market-targetting car N360.
It was a small FF boxy car; kinda like Civic. It was widely
accepted and became the biggest hit in its class, enabling Honda
to establish a car maker position.

# Honda F1 wins Italian Grand Prix.
# '68 N-series mini-compacts achieve highest domestic sales.

After the success of the mini-mini car, Honda released its first
regular sized car, Honda 1300 in '68. Uncle Honda took the
initiative of the project vigourously. He was determined to
make his dream car.

"It has to be air-cooled. Liquid-cooled engines are too heavy.
Inefficient. Our F1 machine proved it."

But, other engineers didn't agree on his idea. To them, it was
obvious that liquid-cooled engines are the next generation. Quiet and
high performance. But then again, Uncle Honda was the most successful
and probably the most sharply talented engineer among all, so
nobody couldn't argue with him.

Honda 1300 achieved its hi-spec. As quiet as, and as powerful as
any liquid-cooled engines. But, with a lot of other new and keen
ideas all over the body, the car was also as heavy as any
liquid-cooled engine cars. It obviously became too tech-manaic
and didn't sell at all. Uncle Honda was shocked.

(I remember this car, actually. It was a cool looking car. Didn't
know it was such a failure sales-wise.)

[to be continued]
Tomo Sakata (Vancouver)

Subject: Honda 50 Years History - 3
From: Tomo Sakata
Organization: Vancouver Independent
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 08:28:15 GMT


[[ Honda 50 Years History - 3 ]]

# '69 Dream CB750 Four with 4-cylinder engine exported to North America.
# '70 N360 posts top sales figures for three consecutive years.

After the failure of the 1300, the entire Honda engineers
examined what was wrong, and decided to confront Uncle Honda
on the "air or liquid-cooled" issue. Uncle Honda was still sure
that air-cooled is good and efficient, but the other engineers
were also certain that they should go for liquid-cooled
for the next car.

They made up their mind and try to persuade this "God of Air-cooled
Engine", but Uncle Honda still wasn't convinced enough. Then the
vice-president of Honda, who was a close friend of Uncle Honda,
told him.

"Mr. president, now you have to choose. Do you want to stay in
Honda as a president, or a car designer. You can not do both
anymore, that'll just hurt Honda."
"Well.... I'll stay as a president......"

That was the start of the liquid-cooled Civic development.

From the 1300 experience, Civic's goal was set clearly.
Basic, Compact, and Zippy. No Super Duper-ness but well-balanced.
It also had to sell well otherwise Honda would have had to
give up their future as a car maker. Without having to worry
about Uncle Honda's butting in, Honda young designers tried
to make the most out of a compact boxy skeleton. As light weight as
possible, as roomy as possible, and as good milage as possible.
And their effort was well rewarded.

While seeing Civic being developed, executives felt that it was
about time for the young engineers to officially take over Uncle
Honda's research and development (Honda R&D co.) responsibility.
The good old days where one genius can control everything were
over. Instead, bunch of individually average people had to keep
up with the founder's job, putting their brains together.

One of the executives (they were all young) was chosen to
talk to Uncle Honda. "Mr. President, wouldn't you think it's
about time for you to hand down the R&D job to the young engineers?
I believe we can trust their work now."

Uncle Honda replied, with tears in his eyes,

"Glad I hear that. You are right. I quit today."

I don't know if executives said "No No No, not today!", but anyway
Uncle Honda retired from the Honda R&D co. in '71, and stayed in
Honda headquarter as a president. But for him, R&D was the
"Honda". Only-president status wasn't as satisfying as
it used to be.

# '72 CVCC engine complies with US 1975 Muskie Act.
# Civic compact introduced.

After seeing Civic's success, vice-president Fujisawa personally
decided to retire. Uncle Honda reacted, "then I'll quit, too!
I can't stay without him. -- Hey executives, I'll quit! You take
care of the rest, OK!?"

They became Supreme Advisers in '73. Uncle Honda told Fujisawa.
-- "Hey man, our Honda days were pretty good, wasn't it? We were
lucky to have such a life, weren't we? I gotta say thank-you to you,
I had a good life." Uncle Honda was 65, Fujisawa was 61 years old.

Tomo Sakata (Vancouver)

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