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Thread: Visit to Honda Collection Hall, Motegi

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    Visit to Honda Collection Hall, Motegi

    In hilly countryside about eighty miles north of Tokyo lies Honda's Twin Ring Motegi circuit, which we all know from GT. Within the circuit grounds, Honda also maintain their company museum, the three-storey Honda Collection Hall. On this most recent trip to Japan, I finally got organised to visit the museum, so I thought I'd share my pics, along with a bit of background info on some of the exhibits.



    The S500 was the first Honda car; initially designed to Kei-class regulations, Honda decided to extend the boot and engine capacity, from 360 to 500cc, to make it a 'proper car'. The roller-bearing crank, sky-high redline, and independent rear suspension using drive chains down the trailing arms all show how Honda applied their motorbike expertise to the four-wheeled world.



    This was the original plan - S360 Kei sports with cropped tail (never put into production)


    As a company, early Honda seemed torn between founder Soichiro's instincts and the needs of Japanese post-war society. Honda-san was a true petrolhead whose priorities were revs, power and speed, and whose passion for racing, both at the Isle of Man and in F1, matched that of Enzo Ferrari. The rapidly motorising Japanese society of the sixties and seventies, however, needed economical, practical vehicles. The upshot was Hondas like this T360 - a practical work truck meeting the Kei-class limits, with the same roller-crank engine revving to 9,000 rpm and putting out twice the horsepower of competing Kei trucks.



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    Simultaneously with launching their first cars, Honda decided to prove themselves to the world by competing in F1, culminating in winning the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix with Richie Ginther in their RA272 (this is the sister car in which Ronnie Bucknum came fifth).

    The transversely mounted 48-valve 1.5L V12, making 230hp @ 13,000 rpm and often leapfrogging rivals off the starting line



    The Curtiss aero-engined racer that Soichiro was riding mechanic in for his boss at his first job


    From humble beginnings... military surplus generator, hot water bottle as a fuel tank, adapted onto a bicycle for mobility in post-war Japan



    The N360 Kei car with its powerful air-cooled engine that established Honda as a car manufacturer. This was the right car at the right time, and its space-efficient FF packaging and power advantage over other Keis made it a smash hit for Honda.


    Honda's success with the air-cooled N360 led Soichiro to become fixated on air cooling. Having secured their place in the Kei market, Honda's next step was to follow up with a full-size family car, to capitalise on Japan's growing wealth and to have a car they could export to the West. Soichiro insisted on air-cooling, forcing his engineers to create a clever ducted-flow engine for the H1300 saloon and coupe.




    However, the ducting added weight over the nose, the air-cooled engine couldn't provide cabin heat to clear the windscreen on startup nor meet upcoming emissions regulations, and on top of all that the car proved expensive to make. The engineers, together with co-founder Fujisawa, got together and forced Soichiro to step back from leading Honda engineering. This freed the staff to launch the first Civic, complete with water-cooled CVCC engine that met the US 'Muskie Act' emission regs without a catalyst, stealing a technical and PR lead over Toyota, Nissan and the US Big Three.


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    The middle car is the 1967 RA300 that won the Italian GP that year - by this time Honda were using a Lola-developed chassis

    On the right is the updated RA301 of 1968, complete with early aero. This car's development was limited due to the fact that Honda's air-cooled faction, led by Soichiro, created the rival magnesium-bodied R302 with air-cooled V8 and entered it under the name of Honda France. The fatal fireball that this latter car went up in at Rouen led on to the end of Honda's first stint in F1.

    NSX-R NA1, with lightweight mesh engine cover




    The Beat was a spiritual successor to the S360 Kei sports, complete with high-revving naturally aspirated 660cc triple, zebra-striped seats and motorbike-style instrument binnacle



    Remember when Honda was at the cutting edge of environmentally friendly tech? It wasn't that long ago


    DC2 Integra Type R with the lower-profile JDM headlights

    and sibling EK9 Civic Type R


    One of the nice things about the museum (at least mid-week) is that it's not crowded


    Sculpture representing Soichiro Honda's first business, manufacturing piston rings pre-war

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    If you get the chance, I'd definitely recommend the museum; everything is translated into English, and it's a nice collection of rare and important Hondas. Not pictured above is the half of the museum dedicated to Honda's motorbikes, which I don't know anything about. I recommend hiring a car, either from Tokyo as we did, or probably better to take the train to Utsunomiya and hire a car from there. Visiting really needs a whole day, by the time you've got there and seen everything; we didn't have the chance to check out any of the other stuff on-site.





    PS all my photos can be seen here https://photos.google.com/share/AF1Q...dRNURTRE5lS19B

    [Post split into four parts as Google Photos' long URLs meant it exceeded the 10k character limit per-post.]

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    Thanks for sharing Samoht.

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    Junior Potato
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    Glorious. I wish you knew more about the bike stuff, as their achievements on two wheels are as important as the four wheel.

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    Junior Potato
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    And people complain about halos on F1 cars!

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/iG...sTr3dNXhicn_wg

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    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Very nice. Thanks for taking the time to share pictures.

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    Incredible! Great write up, appreciate the effort. I'll be in Tokyo next week, not sure I'll have time to go there and tok Megaweb though.

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