The world's largest motorcycle manufacturer did not make its first car until 1963
, and even then it owed much of its mechanical underpinnings to the two wheeled variety. Founded by Soichiro Honda, one of nine children from a poor family, he was a gifted engineer and astute businessman. Apprenticed in a car repair shop, got his first chance to actually drive a car during the Toyko earthquake of 1923, then ferrying people and supplies around the devastated city. Dabbled with racing cars, but his big break came after World War 2 when he realised that few could afford a car, and so turned his attention to the manufacture of ex-military two-stoke engines fitted to bicycles. Manufactured their first motorcycle, the Dream, in 1949, which was fitted with a four-stoke engine. Launched the chain driven 500 sports car in 1963, subsequent iterations becoming more conventional, and more popular.
Magnificently conceived, but almost monumental in its failure to capture the world market, Honda's baby sports car (and coupe) was launched with high expectations. The S600
, with its high-revving twin-cam engine (42 kW at 8500 rpm) and rear wheel chain drive, arrived in Australia in 1965
. In 1967
, it was replaced by the S800
with more capacity, more power (52 kW at 8000 rpm) and more conventional drive line. It remained on sale until late in 1970
. The small Hondas are great fun to. drive, but parts and service are the major problems facing potential owners. Technically, the S800
was a gem, with a twin-OHC alloy engine, front disc brakes, full synchromesh
and a conventional rear axle. Early Honda's, particularly the sports versions, have been appreciating over the last decade.
Also see: Honda History