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Soichiro Honda - Centenary of Birth


17th November, 2006


Soichiro Honda

Born on 17th November, 1906, the son of a blacksmith and a weaver, Soichiro Honda was fascinated by machines and how they worked. One of his earliest memories was being enthralled by the first motor car he had ever seen. He later said: “As the car rolled through our small village I turned and chased after that car for all I was worth. I could not understand how it could move under its own power. And when it had driven past me, without even thinking why, I found myself chasing it down the road as hard as I could run.” The young Soichiro may not have been able to catch the car, but it signalled the chasing of his dream: to build his own cars and motorcycles and win world championships with them.

By the age of 15 Soichiro hadn’t any formal education, but he had a thirst for knowledge and a passion for engineering. After a few years of helping his father in their bicycle repair business, Soichiro started as an apprentice at a garage, working as a car mechanic before starting his own automotive repair business in 1928. Racing was an early passion. Soichiro built his first racing car with parts including a V8 aircraft engine, but he left racing in 1936 after a serious accident.

After selling his first company, he, in 1948, formed Honda Motor Co. The first Honda motorcycle – the A Type – was an early success, proving to Soichiro that motorcycles could be the answer to cheap transportation. Early machines were refined until the development of the legendary 1958 Super Cub.

A passion for racing was still in our founder’s blood and soon the Isle of Man TT races would provide the pedestal to advertise Honda’s motorcycles. In 1954 he said: “I here avow my intention that I will participate in the TT race and I proclaim with my fellow employees that I will pour all my energy and creative powers into winning.” He was still chasing his dreams and they were soon realised when in 1961, two years after Honda’s debut on the Island, Mike Hailwood won the Ultra-Lightweight and Lightweight TTs. Another dream was achieved. Others have since been chased and realised: Formula 1 wins, a Formula 2 championship and countless motorcycle titles. Since then, Honda has diversified into road cars, All-Terrain Vehicles, engines, generators, outboard motors, personal watercraft, water pumps, scooters, snowblowers, robots and now jet aircraft.

Soichiro Honda remained president until his retirement in 1973, but he stayed on as a director and was appointed ‘supreme advisor’ in 1983. During his retirement, Soichiro remembered his humble roots and spent much of his time working with the Honda Foundation, which was set up to aid non-profit-making organisations which help youngsters in minority or impoverished communities. It was fitting that his was an active retirement, as both Soichiro and his wife Sachi both held private pilot’s licences and he also enjoyed sports as diverse as hang-gliding, ski-ing and ballooning. Long after retirement he was still often seen on the shop-floor, discussing problems with engineers and managers.

Soichiro Honda died on 5th August, 1991.

Other Honda news: here

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