Honda Curtiss

November is an important month for Honda racing efforts both now and in the past. Now we get our first look at and listen to the 2015 McLaren-Honda hybrid MP4-29H/1X1 Formula 1 car. Click on this link for the official first video.

1924 Honda Curtiss01

Take giant steps backward in Honda history and you find Soichiro Honda was born in November 1906 and was involved in his first automobile race in that month 90 years ago.

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Son of a blacksmith, Honda was just 15 when he left school to work for Tokyo Art Shokai, which was involved in the “Manufacture and Repair of Automobiles, Motorcycles and Gasoline Engines.” It didn’t take long for the company’s owner, Yuzo Sakakibara, to figure out there was more to this kid than someone to clean and sort parts. Sakakibara became young Honda’s mentor and eventually this lead to motorsports.

1924 Honda Curtiss04

That move also brought in the owner’s brother, Shinichi Sakakibara and with Honda and a few other employees they built what was called the “Art Daimler,” which had a used Daimler engine. Second try was more successful, when they fitted a 90-horsepower, 8.2-liter OX-5 engine from a Curtiss “Jenny” biplane into the chassis of an American Mitchell automobile. Entered in the Fifth Japan Automobile Competition in November 1924, the Curtiss-powered race car won, Shinichi Sakakibara at the wheel, 17-year-old Soichiro Honda next to him as riding mechanic. The Curtiss is now on display in the Honda Collection Hall museum, which shares grounds with the Twin Ring Motegi race track in Japan.

1924 Honda Curtiss03

Honda continued to be involved in racing until 1936 when he had a terrible accident, the car he was driving rolled. Honda was thrown out and his brother, Benjiro, the riding mechanic, was seriously injured. One more race after that and Mrs. Honda convinced her husband to quit, though she apparently claimed it was a lecture from the blacksmith that convinced Soichiro to stop.

1924 Honda Curtiss07

Honda would go on to build motorcycles, then segue into automobiles, in a sense combining the two in Honda’s first Grand Prix car, the RA272 with its transverse 1.5-liter V-12. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Honda’s first Formula 1 win, Richie Ginther in an RA272 at the Mexican Grand Prix. If you ever get the chance to hear an RA272, do yourself a favor and pull out your earplugs. We can tell you from experience it’s worth the hearing damage.

1924 Honda Curtiss05

1924 Honda Curtiss06

Honda historic
After winning the Fifth Japan Motor Car Championship in November, 1924 with the Curtiss-powered car. On the left is Yuzo Sakakibara, to the right is the driver, Shinichi Sakakibara, and in the middle is the riding mechanic, young Soichiro Honda.