Soichiro Honda was a drifter and a dreamer. He bounced from one mechanic’s job to another, and also worked as a babysitter, a race car driver and amateur distiller. In 1946, he took over an old factory that lay mostly in ruins from wartime bombings, even though he didn’t know what he was going to do with it. First he tried building what he called a ‘rotary weaving machine’, next he tried to mass produce frosted glass windows, then woven bamboo roof panels. Finally, he came across a cache of surplus two-stroke motors, and he had an idea of making motorbikes.
Honda adapted the motors to run on turpentine and affixed them to flimsy cycle frames built by workers at the Hamamatsu Factory. His motor bikes sold great as people were desperate for ways to get around in postwar Japan, as there was virtually no gasoline, or mass transit. Soon Honda sold out of the motors and began making his own. In 1947, the factory produced its first complete motorbike, the one-half horsepower A-type (nicknamed ‘The Chimney’) because it was smoky and smelly.
September 24, 1948, the Honda Company was incorporated!
In 1949 the company produced a more sophisticated bike. A steel framed, front and rear suspended D-type that could go 50 miles per hour. By the end of 1950 it introduced a Vespa clone called the Cub that was especially popular with women and the first Honda to be sold in the United States.
Starting in the 1960’s, the company produced a few small cars and sporty racers, but it wasn’t until it introduced the Civic in 1973 that it really entered the auto market. The Civic burned less fuel and could pass the American emissions tests without a catalytic converter, as a result the car was a success with Americans frustrated with higher gas prices. The larger more plush Honda Accord won even more fans starting in 1976, and by 1989 it was the most popular car in the United States.
Soichiro Honda was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989, he died two years later at the age of 84.
In 1989, I had just graduated with a two Associates Degree with emphasis in Accounting and was doing the manual books for a little motorcycle shop in Kansas City. By 1990, the owner of the cycle shop had developed a drug problem and was losing the cycle shop, and getting divorced all at the same time. He couldn’t pay me the $850.00 dollars he owed me for finishing up the closing paperwork for his dead company. He gave me a helmet, a 750cc, 1976 CB750 Honda Motorcycle and a bag full of chrome parts for the engine. I couldn’t even ride a bike so I brought it home in the back of my truck.
I just learned to ride the bike by myself and was going to go get my bike license when my brother borrowed the bike for an evening to go over to his girl friends. Long story short later that evening my brother and what was left of my bike was dropped off at my dads house out of the back of a farmers truck. My brother lived, on the 21st of this month he just celebrated his 40th Birthday. The wrecked Honda is still in my garage. It has spent numerous years in a garage, a basement (that was stupid, note – never put a big bike in a basement. Going down is easy, coming up took a tow chain a truck and about cost me a friends life.) The Bike is about 8 hours worth of work and several hundred dollars (which I don’t have) in parts away from running again.
It still is completely stock 1976 CB750 Honda, which you hardly never see today. Most of those bikes were chopped, turned into choppers! This is why seeing that today is Honda’s Anniversary it has a special signifigance to me. I have owned a brand new Kawasaki 800 Vulcan since 2002. Got it on February 02, 2002. 02/02/02 How can I forget that! Brought it home in the back of a truck too, because Kansas City was in the middle of an ice storm that day. There is the ever slightest little dent in the top of the gas tank from a piece of ice that fell out of a tree and hit the tank and dented it as we were unloading it from the truck. Even having the Kaw, I have kept the Honda so I can finish it and see it run at least once more. Like Soichiro Honda. I am a dreamer! I dream to see this Honda live and run once more. It deserves that much! Then I will sell or give it away! I also dream of becoming a great writer and getting a book on the New York bestseller list someday!
No Rules Of Engagement Published August 31, 2011
Whisper Published January 2011