A Brief History of Honda and Its Founder (Video)

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Where did Honda start? How did they get where they are today? Who was Soichiro Honda? Take 17 minutes and find out.

We came across this really informative video from ColdFusion on YouTube and had to check it out. We know about the HondaJet and the obvious Powersports stuff, but how did they get where they are today? We’re just familiar with bits and pieces. If you consider yourself a Honda buff, this video on their history is worth a watch.

So, the story goes, a young Soichiro Honda spent a lot of time fixing bicycles in his father’s blacksmith shop. Then, when Honda was 17 he helped develop a race car that won races and broke records and land speed records. That naturally turned into an opportunity to start a company that made piston rings. He got a contract from Toyota and…failed? Sadly, not the next move we expected, but Honda lost the contract because of poor quality parts. Undeterred, he spent two years in engineering school and painstakingly observed the best practices of manufacturing, learning the importance of quality control first hand. The quote “I don’t give a damn for the diploma. What I want is the knowledge” seems to illustrate his motives during school.

Dream Type-D

Two wheels

After selling the piston ring business to Toyota, he turned to motorcycles. Honda set the market, and indeed the world, on its head with the 50cc 1958 Supercub. He wanted something that appealed to people who wouldn’t normally ride a motorcycle, expanding from the typical base of male riders. ColdFusion’s narrator describes it as, “basically a bike for running errands.”

In 1959 they set up American Honda Motor Company. They didn’t use an existing network but instead set up a completely new one to attract people who previously thought motorcycles were dangerous. Cue a picture of James Dean with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. They sold the bikes through department stores, hardware stores, and hobby shops. This is where the “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” tagline came from.

1973 Honda Civic 1500

Four wheels

1967 they jumped into the car game, a lifelong dream of Honda. The Clean Air Act of 1970, which famously provoked the Big Three’s claim “it can’t be done!” was done by Honda. Instead of slapping a catalytic converter on, like the American automakers did, they created the Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion (CVCC) engine and put it in the 1973 Honda Civic. A new one to us (we’re dating ourselves here) was the fact that the CVCC engine, since it lacked a catalytic converter, could be run on leaded or unleaded gasoline. Probably similar to E85 today, if you wanted the good stuff but could only find 91, you’d sure want your car to be able to run on it without frying something. Apparently, leaded fuel and cats don’t mix, they burn the elements out within a tank or two.

The Civic, which was reliable, fuel efficient, and affordable, was an obvious hit. The rest, you might say, is history: today Honda is the 8th largest car maker in the world. The video is worth a watch, as it goes into far more detail than we have here.

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Austin Lott is a longtime auto journalist who loves writing about cool cars and hearing the stories behind them. He is a regular contributor to popular Internet Brands Auto Group websites, including Honda-Tech and 6speedonline. Although he's partial to Japanese imports, he'll give anything cool a shot.

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