Early Japanese Motorcycles


Nov 7, 2005

Moved from


Part 1.

The older GT-riders maybe still remember it but most probably don’t. This year is 40 years since the mother of all Super Bikes, the first modern motorcycle, the first in-line four produced in high volume, the first disc brake motorcycle the incredible HONDA CB 750 was introduced and on sale on the market.

& moved because this valuable info deserves its own Thread / Topic.

A big thank you to Hiko for starting it all: & to Fkostas for continuing the story.

You're both stars on GTR. :clap: :clap:


Nov 7, 2005
This started as a short reply, but I ended up going through the whole Japanese Motorcycle Industry which is quite interesting but a little time consuming, Since I already have a huge amount of material I publish this first post, while finishing the next three posts. And David the Rickman, Seley, Dunstall,Dresda etc story is also coming.

Yes your comments are actually quite interesting. Why did the English Motorcycle Industry die so quickly. And your comments about the Formel 1 competence are quite true. Especially after Ross Brawn sweeping performance in the last training session today. At the moment the F1 situation is as follows but it is still England dominated.

BMW Sauber German Hinwil, Switzerland
Brawn GP British Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
Ferrari Italian Maranello, Italy
Force India Indian Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
McLaren British Surrey, United Kingdom
Red Bull Austrian Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
Renault French Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Toro Rosso Italian Faenza, Italy
Toyota Japanese Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Williams British Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

In one of my former lives I worked almost 10 years as a Top Management consultant for plenty of big companies, all over the world ( You know those guys, who arrive in an expensive suit, to tell the Top Management about 100 different ways of making love with a Lady but they, them selves, have never yet met a Lady…)

We used sometimes a McKinsey Consultant Group or Stanford University Corporate Case about the English motorcycle industries very quick decline, to teach top management about the importance to monitor your competitive environment in time. Unfortunally I don’t have that case story here in Thailand neither can I find that corporate case here in Thailand. Therefore I am not sure about how much of my thoughts are copied from that that corporate case and how much information is just from Internet and books like A Century by Japanese Bikes, Japanese Racingbikes a Century, Japanese Pictorial History, Standard Catalogue of Japanese Motorcycles, The History of Japanese Motorcycles, Japan’s Motorcycle Wars An Industry History etc.

I still think that in the late 60’s England still had a slight competitive advantage in product development. I visited the Triumph factory both in 1970 and 1971 and I saw the new prototypes 350 Twins with OHC engines and the Trident and BSA Triple were good bikes as well as the Bonneville. BSA also had a diamond in the 440 one cylinder that after the bankruptcy was further developed by CCM. The Norton Commando was not either a bad bike. What was bad was that many of the engineers were quite old and also the workers. For ex the DOHC project which was vital for the BSA-Triumph-Norton group to survive was given in the late 60’s to Edward Turner. He was already retired but had worked as General Manager of both Triumph and BSA when they were separate companies and later he was General Manager for the combined group. He was born 1901 so when he got this last assignment he must have been close to 70….But he had a good background as motorcycle designer already from his years with Ariel, Ariel Square Four was his design as well as many other Ariel models. At BSA he developed several side valve models and at Triumph he became a legend by creating all Triumph’s twin models. But common for all his creations were that they were not very reliable. He also visited the Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha factories already 1960 and he came back home shocked .He couldn’t believe the efficiency at the production lines and the output figures. He probably didn’t learn his lesson…. He also hated motorcycle racing so he was totally different in his thinking than his Japanese competitors; maybe he was the wrong man at that age to be responsible for saving the ailing English Motorcycle Industry….


THE TRIUMPH 350 BANDIT , that was advertised but never went into production, Developed by old Edward Turner, technical specs ok but the bike was rubbish.

The militant labor unions were also to blame; they didn’t want to accept the changing environment and new competition. Since I had the possibility to visit both the Triumph factories in early 70th and the Honda Factory in 1974 you didn’t have to be very smart to realize and feel the difference in efficiency and quality thinking between these two factories. When the Honda workers hardly reacted on us watching them, the Triumph workers took the opportunity to have a chat with us and smoke a cigarette…The English Car Industry went down for the same reason.

And then we have to remember that England and Europe had plenty of old patents and motorbike constructions that were more than up to date. The know-how was there but the Japanese stole everything and re-invented it but also improved them. But we talk about that more later.

Maybe it was anyhow not the English Motorcycle Companies that were the main victims. Probably the German manufacturers like IFA/DKW/MZ, HOREX, ADLER,BMW and NSU were more copied as well as a little later GILERA, BENELLI, MOTO GUZZI, DUCATI AND MV-AGUSTA where SOHC, DOHC, and 4-cylinder engines where developed and worked already in the early 30:s.

We also have to understand that the Japanese didn’t start from scratch. They have a long history of making motorcycles, and the former scale of Japan’s motorcycle industry is as large as any English, German or American equivalent. It was not only a Hamamatsu (where all the big four have factories) phenomena all over the country motorcycling small scale motorcycle “factories” started to pop up already in the early 19th century..

Yes it started in the early 1900’s, very modestly with a few foreign motorcycles imported. The first motorcycle ever sold in Japan was Mitchell in 1903. These had to be serviced and that was done at these small workshops. These garages were the birth place of the Japanese motorcycle industry. The first known manufacturer is a Torao Yamaba, He saw an American guy driving a motorbike and wanted to buy one himself in 1908. Being a poor garage owner he couldn’t afford to buy one so he decided to build one, He read everything he could find about motorcycles and started to build one almost with out tools but he made it. Sadly no pictures are available and no information if it was just one bike made or more. This Torao Yamaba must be the same man who made Japan’s first car a steam engine 10 seated buss. Here is how that looked:



The trend continued. In garages all over the country people started to construct motorcycles. This was part of a trend….. In Yokohama the Tagagikyo Siekan Company put together a motorcycle using an imported Precision motor. I haven’t found any pictures of the bike but I have found the engine. The engine manufacturer was by that time a solely engine provider as their brochure stated as follows:

“The "Precision" Engine has been adopted as the standard equipment by many of the largest and best reputed manufacturers of motor cycles both in England and the Colonies. The Manufacturers of the engines do not themselves manufacture or in any way deal with complete bicycles, nor do they sell "Precision" Engines to members of the public, their products being supplied to manufacturers of the finished article only, and to dealers in cycles and motorcycles.”



In Kansai a mr. N Shimazu built his own experimental gasoline engine. The next year 1909 he constructed, what is generally considered to be the first commercially built motorcycle in Japan. He also established the Shimazu Motor Research Institute which for along time developed, both 4-stroke engines, as well as 2 strokes and he even developed a V8 engine. He also established Nihon Motorcycle Company, making motorcycles on the NM brand and later Japan Motors Manufacturing where his 630cc Arrow Fast became in 1925 the first mass produced Japanese motorcycle.

Later he also worked for Kawanishi Aircraft Company, later called Meiwa, the biggest Japanese motorcycle company in early 1950. He later recalled that he had manufactured 600 bikes but too early, the market was not there yet, so I didn’t make any money.



The next year the Tokyo Police asked the bicycle company Miyata Small Arms to manufacture a motorbike They first tried with a in house developed, but probably a copied horizontally opposed twin, but it failed and they developed a Triumph based 4-stroke single copy. Miyata was a bicycle manufacturer founded in Japan by Eisuke Miyata. Mr Miyata, a gunsmith employed by the Hitachi Kuni Kasama Clan, built Japan's first modern, bicycle at the Miyata Gun Factory in 1892 later he founded Miyata Small Arms. As far as know they are still making bicycles.
The bike was named ASAHI but it was not sold to the public, only to the police, the bike being to expensive for the public.



When I looked for pictures of ASAHI I found one of the first modern bicycle to be made in Japan by the same company Miyata.



At the same time the Nihon Motorcycle Company developed and manufactured a 250 two- stroke, I don’t know from where it was copied.. The total output is told to be below 100 pcs.

According to other sources a company called Nihon Jidosha based in Hiroshima got the outsourcing manufacturing contract for Rikuo just before the war, but I’m not sure if it is the same company.

Nihon Keijidousha Kougyo, a small company based in Hiroshima, Japan, produced this NKB motorcycle. It is a pre-war machine. Still I am not sure if it is the same company as above.

We do know that the same company produced a similar 90 cc motorcycle, The NKB Junior, as late as 1945.


1937 NKB Castle


[size size=12]NKB CASTLE 2[/size]




[size size=12]NKB CASTLE 4[/size]

The company was not well known and apparently didn’t produce motorcycles in large numbers. It is possible that components on these machines were not made by NKB.

Many of the small Japanese manufacturers at that time, and along time after, did not fabricate complete motorcycles but made frames and other parts and purchased engines from among others Meguro.

Probably Meguro was the first manufacturer to make a complete, top-to-bottom, motorcycle in 1937. The smaller companies most likely purchased components from someone else if it was made before 1937.

The quality of these more or less garage made bikes in the early 1920’s was very poor, and since the road infrastructure in Japan at this time was non-existing the motorcycles were an unreliable and also an expensive mean of transport. The more reliable foreign bikes were on the other hand too far too expensive. The motorcycle industry didn’t take off.

But after WW1 the situation changed. Japanese, mainly textile export took off and there was a middle class created which had money to use and they used them on motorbikes. One reason for this was that bikes were cheaper than cars but also that in Japan was a 39 inch maximum width restriction on cars in Japan.

But Japanese brands weren't popular, foreign bikes were. Bikes like English Scott and Cleveland, English-German ABC, Belgian FN and Sarolea and of course HD and Indian dominated the market and also almost killed the whole Japanese motorcycle industry. Very few Japanese companies could compete with the European and American quality at this time. But some tried.

In 1921 Mr. Watanabe of Osaka designed and built the first OHV engine made in Japan. A 150cc with very poor power, He increased it to 300cc together with a two speed transmission and chain drive and called his machine the Thunder. I cannot find any picture.

In 1923 Musashino Kogyo manufactured a single cylinder two stroke powered machine which was supposed to be the first motorcycle that was 100% Japanese made a claim, which is false. All electrical appliances, carburetors and some times transmissions were still made in Europe. Sorry no pictures available.

None of the Japanese made motorcycles did very well. They were made in shady garages by dedicated amateurs lacking the skill and know how. They had a long way to go before they can compete with European and American manufacturers. Just such a simple thing like making a spare part when the bike broke down was impossible. When the piston rings wore out the bike came to the end of its short life.

Then came the Military Vehicle Subsidy Law of 1924 which allowed the government to give subsidies to makers or owners of motor vehicles suitable for military use, provided it was made in Japan.

The immediate result was that the industry moved from the garages to the major industrial factories which started to manufacture of motorcycles. The first was the Murata Iron Works a company today owned by Kawasaki.

The imperial Japanese army already used Harleys and Murata tried to copy it without success. Also Toyo Kogyo, nowadays called MAZDA tried but failed.

In 1925, while Toyo Kogya started their motorcycle product development. Mr. Shimazu, the guy who probably built the first Japanese motorcycle back in 1909, unleashes Arrowfast, a 633cc side valve single cylinder motor with a 3-gear transmission. Even a reverse gear was fitted for side car work. The bike was quite modern, with the fuel tank covering the frame, electric lights and girder front suspension.

In 1926 they made a 250cc model of it and it was sold in the hundreds and was Japan’s first mass produced motorbike.
Sorry still no pictures available

The 3-gearbox was made by a subsidiary of Murata Iron Works, Mugaro, who after the fiasco in making motorcycles concentrated themselves on making transmissions and when they get that know how they start to make whole bikes again.

Japan still had one problem, nobody not even Mr. Shimazu could make an engine with western quality. Therefore up 80% of all bikes sold in Japan were imported and most of them Harleys.

But all these and other imports caused a balance-of-payments deficit that threatened to bankrupt the country, not only the emerging motorcycle industry, but Japan's entire industrialization program was on the brink of collapse and bankruptcy.

The Japanese government decided to tackle the problem exactly the same way England did in 1921 when they turned into protectionism by introducing the McKenna tariffs.

From now on all companies in the motor vehicle trade must have a license. Domestic manufacturers would get tax rebates. Importers would face high tariffs, and in l936 the tariff on engines and parts was increased. In l937 the import duty on motorcycles could be over 700 percent.

But did these measures help the Japanese motorcycle industry to survive. Probably not but it had one consequence that helped the whole Japanese industrial society Harley licensed RIKUO to make Harleys.


Harley-Davidsons were still very popular in Japan. Harleys were rugged and powerful, and spare parts fitted a problem the Japanese manufacturers still had. Japan was the 2rd biggest export market after Australia and when the English government gave a helping hand to the Japanese by almost banning HD from Australia HD was even more dependent on the Japanese market.

The English part of this saga is quite interesting especially as it is a partly one reason why Japan could kill the English motorcycle industry in the 1970’s.

In the 1920s, American motorcycles were the finest in the world, and with the up to date factories they were made in they could have conquered the world and the Great English Empire with mass produced machines quickly and thus killing the English motorcycle industry. The English manufacturers were far behind HD in mass production technology.

England wanted their motorcycle industry to survive, and to protect it in England they established in 1921 the McKenna tariffs, which were so high that they effectively eliminated American competition not only from England, but from the entire British Sun Never Sets Empire.

In fact, it was the loss of its important market in Australia and South Africa as a result of these tariffs that forced Harley Davidson to concentrate on the Japanese market in the years before and during the great depression.

Sales to Japan were so significant, that when the Great Depression of 1929 hit Harley and brought them to the brink of bankruptcy, a suggestion from their Japan sales rep A. R. Child that they sell rights to manufacture an obsolete model to a Japanese company was approved.

The other outcome would have been that they were out of the Japanese market. Harley needed cash but probably they never understood that they were creating a monster that brought HD to the brink of collapse in the 1980:s and forcing them to ask the Reagan government to introduce very high tariffs on over 700cc imported motorcycles in order to have HD survive. In some way it sounds familiar….

If you want to read A.R.Child’s “testimony” before he died about the HD adventure in Japan you can log in to http://www.rikumotor.fi/veteraanit.php where there is a authentic copy of his experience, given to my friend Riku Routu from Finland by his daughter.

The Rikuo was at least in the beginning a legal copy of the Harley side valve engine but all parts were before long manufactured in Japan. In1937 the name was changed from HD to Rikuo when the Government nationalized all-American assets. So now the Rikuo company had all the HD know how, also from the newer models which HD tried to convince Rikuo to manufacture. HD was not so happy anymore.

According to some people it was the licensing of HD to Rikuo in 1929 that gave the Japanese their first knowledge into modern mass-production technology. Harley didn’t only give them all their tooling and drawings; they also gave them the metallurgical know how, including metal hardening technologies. The Japanese also for the first time understood the importance of keeping the factories clean etc.. Harley sent some supervisors over to Japan teaching the Japanese what Harley knew. They taught them about, quality control spare part management, dealer management after sale service all topics where Harley at that time was very good at, but the Japanese refined that quite a lot during the years to come.

But thanks to Harley the Japanese Manufacturing Industry made a 20 year jump in manufacturing know how. Without that there maybe hasn’t been any Japanese motorcycle industry today.

The HD/Rikuo factory also became a laboratory for the whole Japanese manufacturing society with others factories coming to learn at the HD/Rikuo factory. The Japanese had of course learned Also from the American car factories in Japan. Anyhow these factories (Ford and GM) started much earlier and were just assembly factories. The factories didn’t give so much real know how. Some people say that it was this “poor” decision made by Harley during the recession after1929, when the HD factory needed some money, that is the cause of the English Motorcycle Industrie’s fall down, as well as the near fall down of Harley during the 1980:s. And of course the English can be blamed for forcing HD to this by closing the Australian and South African market, by protectionism, for HD during the early 1920’s. Who knows…


A company called Mizuho Motor visited the Rikuo factory and started then in 1934/1935 to manufacture a motorcycle called Cabton. The first bike was a 500cc single, probably copied from Ariel. Later they made a 600 Twin also copied from England. They continued to manufacture bikes until 1960 and they were very active in the Japanese field track racing which was based on betting. More about that later. What is strange is that it is almost impossible to find any information or pictures about Cabton and Mizuho Motor. I have googled both all the English sites as Japanese sites and there is actually nothing about Cabton or its factory Mizuho Motor, I wonder if not a single bike is left after 15 years of production?


Another company called Katayama Industries produced the Olympus motorcycle. But it is the same thing with this bike and factory. Impossible to find any info, I don’t even know how long when they were manufactured or the size of the engine.

Next we handle the MEGURO/KAWASAKI history.


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Nov 7, 2005

But Rikuo was not alone as a “copier’. Another important “copier’ was Meguro but they copied probably without any agreements and licenses..

Meguro may well be the first real "manufacturer" of motorcycles in Japan, tracing its roots back as far as 1909, to a small ironworks in Shibuya-cho, Tokyo prefecture. As said before, in the early 1900s, there was a burgeoning cottage-industry of small-scale garage builders within Japan, making motorcycles from whatever material they can find.

I will tell the whole Meguro story here, together with some smaller brands, despite that it destroys the chronically order, because it is the Story of Kawasaki, one of the Big Four.

By 1922, the early models known the "Meguro" brand were now produced by a man named Osamu Murata, who founded the Murata Iron Works of Tokyo Prefecture, Japan. Murata's first motorcycles were either single-cylinder models based, on the British singles of that era, or copies of the Harley-Davidson Model J.

At some point around 1928, Murata Works adopted the name "Meguro Works," which was possibly chosen in honor of the Meguro racetrack located in the Tokyo ward of Meguro from 1907 to 1933. The race track later had to move further away from Tokyo because of Tokyo’s expansion.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Meguro was facing competition from Europe and America, and by the mid 1930s HD was gaining in popularity throughout Japan.

As earlier told, Murata concentrated their effort, after failing to make complete bikes, on making transmissions, for ex. for the Arrowfast.

In 1937 they started copying the Swiss Motosacoche Jubilee’ Sports 498 which they called Meguro Z97. The Meguro Z97 was probably the first Japanese motorcycle that was built entirely in-house, from the ground-up.





During its best years it is said that Meguro also had produced a 60cc 2-stroke; the 4-stroke, single cylinder, rocker-valve 125cc E3, the 250cc F, the 350cc YA with BMW technology , should be pronounced BMW copy. The 60 cc devoted to Meguro I am not so sure about. It seems more comfortable in the early Kawasaki Meihatsu model range as a two stroker.

It’s first twin was a 650cc of 1955 which was a copy from different English bikes, maybe mainly BSA. The engine was anyhow less long stroked than British bikes. 72x80 mm, with a power of 23,5 hp at 5.200 rpm. This bike was a long time the biggest Japanese bike together with Rikuo 750 and the 600 Cabton twin.

In 1960, Meguro presented the 500T1 which used the Norton Dominators engine dimensions 66x72 mm but still was mainly BSA based. It had much more power with 33 hp at 6000 rpm and the top speed was close to 150 km/h.

In 1956 Meguro copied the BSA A7 and launched a new 650 which they sold for more than 10 years improving the quality considerable from the original BSA A10. It is unknown if Meguro had any kind of agreement or silent approval from BSA but no official document is to be found. Still it is strange that such an obvious copy will not end up in the court.

In 1963 Meguro Works merged with Kawasaki Aircraft Co.,Ltd., forming Kawasaki Motor Sales Co., which was the forerunner to Kawasaki Motorcycle Co.,Ltd.

But Kawasaki didn’t come empty handed to the merger.

The Kawasaki History

Kawasaki, originally started operations in 1924 as a metallurgy and aircraft company. After WW2 Kawasaki couldn’t manufacture air crafts anymore so they started to look for new possibilities like all the other air planes manufacturers did.

In 1949 Kawasaki started to manufacture small engines for use in motorcycles and motorized bicycles. Probably they manufactured a 60cc, two stroke, 2 gear engine which was used by other manufacturers as well as in their own Meihatsu.

Officially Kawasaki started their involvement in motorcycle manufacturing by producing a 148 CC, 4 hp, air cooled, OVH engine KE-1, probably meaning Kawasaki Engine nr 1. The development of the engine started in 1949 but the engine was ready first in 1952, The engine was sold to other manufacturers and probably also used by Kawasakis own brand Meihatsu. Below you can see the engine.



In 1955 they then introduced what is called to be their first two-stroke
engine. I am not sure from where it is copied but it looks very much like Zundapp, JLO, Sachs, DKW or some other traditional two-stroker at that time.



The same year the Meihatsu 125 was released with the KB-5 engine. The next year the Meihatsu 12 Deluxe was introduced and it was the first time the name KAWASAKI was shown on the engine’s side covers. The bike was further developed and when the new Kawasaki factory, only dedicated to motorcycles opened in 1960 the bike was called Kawasaki 125 New Ace and looked like this:


KAWASAKI 125 NEW ACE, looked very much the same as Honda Benly but was a 2-stroker.

In the same year, 1960, they stopped tu use the Meihatsu Brand

Due to the new factory Kawasaki had the possibility to use new modern production methods and using new modern materials. In 1962 the 125 model was called 125B8 and it looks very much as the Kawasaki GTO, still in production and still for sale here in Thailand just a few years ago. Here you have the picture:



But it seems as if Kawasaki also brought something else into the merger.
The RSY manufactured by Amano Kogyo Ltd has an engine 200cc which was manufactured by Kawasaki Aircraft. The engine was possibly manufactured as 200cc and 250 cc, maybe it is an bored KE-1, and sold to many other factories also for ex. IMC and Shokai Rocket. I haven’t been able to find any info about these two companies and there is not so much about Amano Kogyo either. Pls note on the picture below the visual similarities with modern Kawasaki Estrella and Kawasaki 650 W.



Probably the Amano Kogyo intended to export the bike because it was a very solid construction and expensive to make. Maybe the copied Mercedes Benz logo was chosen to give the export market an image of quality….



Kawasaki Meihatu Kogo, Ltd.

This company appears under different names. Sometimes it is called Kawasaki Meihatsu Kogo, sometimes it is just Meihatu Kogo or Meihatsu Kogo, sometimes just Meihatsu and sometimes it is referred to as Meihatsu Age. Probably it is the same company.

Maybe it was an independent company to which Kawasaki delivered engines and later the company was taken over by Kawasaki and was included in the merger.

The first model I am aware about is a KB-2 from 1955. What happened to the KB-1 I don’t know…

The KB-2 was powered by a (Kawasaki made???) 2-stroke 60cc and hade a 2-gear transmission





It seems like the product range at a later stage was quite broad with several different models probably 2-strokes models but the 250 may have had the Kawasaki 4-stroker. Below you can find a Meihatsu Age brochure.



The first all "Kawasaki" motorcycles were the Kawasaki SG which had a 250cc single-cylinder OHV motor, and the 496cc OHV twin Kawasaki K1 which was based on the Meguro K1.

The 650 W:s bikes appeared as Kawasakis in 1964 and they were sold in three different versions up to 1975 and from 1973 it had a disc brake front and the gear pedal was moved to the left. The bike was sold in the US, but it never really took off.




KAWASAKI K2 500, I couldn’t find any picture of the first K1 model







Anyhow, Kawasaki who actually didn’t have very much four stroke experience, used the Meguro engineers to create the Z1 903. Okay Kawasaki had developed 4 cylinder car engines before but, the 4-stroke motorcycle experience came mainly from Meguro. In 1967 Kawasaki made a decision to develop a high-performance motorcycle which would overtake the 650W1as the largest motorcycles in Japan.

As the United States was targeted as the main market for these high performance motorcycles, the development team was sent to the U.S. where they secretly worked out a plan for the new model.
Finally, the displacement of the new model was set at 750cc and a mock-up was completed in October 1968.

However, Honda announced a new 750cc single-over-head-cam (SOHC) motorcycle at the

Tokyo Motor Show held the same year. The Kawasaki management staff realized it was meaningless to come out with a similar model after Honda had already introduced theirs, so all development efforts on Kawasaki's 750cc models, were stopped. At least a picture is left from that project.


KAWASAKI MOCK UP MODEL FOR THE TOKYO SHOW 1968. Honda stole the show and it is easy to understand that Kawasaki withdrew from the scene at that stage…

Anyhow Kawasaki continued the development of a new super bike that could compete with the CB750 SOHC. And after many years of development they finally presented the Z1 903 cc in 1971 and the first production model left the assembly line in may 1972. The Z1 was a success. It is interesting that Kawasaki used by far much more time to develop the Z1 than Honda did with the Z1. Here you can see the engine and the first models.







And just to make you happy some other more modern Kawasaki Classics



Who of You can tell what are the models....


In the next post I will start to get rid of the last remaining post wars models which I know, then I will tell about the post WW2 situation and the quickly emerging motorized bicycle industry (including an unknown company called HONDA) as well as the scooter industry which emerged a little later with products like FUJI RABBIT, MITSUBISHI PIGEON, and the HONDA flop JUNO which almost brought Honda to the brink of bankruptcy, and what did Soichiro Honda when this threat emerged, he went to Isle of Man to study Road Racing.... I will also cover the two stroke technology and how it was more or less stolen from Germany but redeveloped in Japan by companies like Tohatsu, Bridgestone, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki. Hopefully I am not too boring, but I think it is important to know not only why the Japanese put the English, German and the US motorcycle industry in only a decade. Personally I am also interested to know why we are able to have such a wonderful hobby like motorcycling today, everybody should know his or her roots....


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Nov 7, 2005

A handful of other manufacturers also suddenly became successful in the late Thirties, including Miyata, still hanging in there, which successfully in 1936 marketed a 175cc two-stroke developing five horsepower.


MIYATA175 cc 1946

Before I said that I haven’t found any picture of the Omega brand. Now I have, unfortunally it is a postwar picture, but anyhow....


And about this bike I only found a picture. It is supposed to be a “FB”


FB 250


When war broke out with China in l937 all civilian production was turned into military production.

By l941, when the "Greater East Asian War" began, the army had not only Rikuo building Harley-based machines, but also several other companies, including Mazda.

When the war ended, Japan was a bombed out ruin, all industry wrecked.

Although it didn't seem so, that harsh fact was to prove a mighty blessing. The rail network, only so recently built to tie the country together, was in shambles. Transport within cities was nonexistent. The Army's needs no longer dictated what industry built.
In the period of confusion following the country's surrender and military occupation; it became at once obvious that in order to get anything done, to literally get the country moving again, an economical means of transportation had to be developed fast. The two-wheeler fitted the bill.

Aircraft makers found they had stockpiles of materials and engineering know-how which could be profitably put into use by meeting the transportation demands.

Nakajima, Mitsubishi, Kawanishi and Kawasaki all turned their talents to two-wheelers.

Supplies of surplus military auxiliary engines were bought up by enterprising back alley factories that turned out any kind of motorized vehicle that could be persuaded to transport a rider at anything over a slow walk.

This process went very quick and in 1955 there were over two hundred manufacturers split all over the
country, not only Hamamatsu. 100 of them were only making motorized bicycles. Only four of them was to survive, For decades, it was one of the crown jewels of the postwar manufacturing community, very much thanks to Government support giving import protection, creating a huge global market and it is still today one of Japan’s leading industries today.

Many of them were established or created by former aviation engineers who lost their jobs after WW2. Since the allied didn’t accept that Japan was left with a strong military equipment industry all air plane manufacturers had to change their production lines into civil non aviation production, and almost all of them chose motorcycles These engineers were very experienced with, at that time high technology and knew how to mass-produce it by low skilled and low paid workers on the production line. The factories were also stocked with raw materials like titan aluminum, nose wheels for bomber planes etc. With this know how and these raw materials they started to make motorbikes. We also have to remember that some of the Japanese motorcycle factories that recovered had their roots from early 1900. Even before the two world wars Japan was a rather industrialized country with skilled engineers.

The Japanese motorcycle manufacturers then went through, after 1955, a bloody internal war starting after the WW2 when the home market saturated. In the end only 4 manufacturers were left and they became quickly the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturers.
How did this happen? After WW2, everything in Japan was bombed to year Zero. All factories were destroyed, the railway system was bombed out and, the few acceptable roads they hade before the war were now defunct and all transport was handled by boats. The occupying allies as well as the Japanese puppet government understood that they needed an easy and cheap means of transport quickly. So what would be better than motorbikes?

By this time the Japanese copied and re-invented all English and European motorbikes and motorbike part solutions in all ways. They did it almost solely without paying any “license fees” or royalties to the European counterparts. This happened already before in Europe where the many motorcycle manufacturers copied each others successful solutions. It happened also the other way around still in the 1970’s. What is for example the Laverda:s quite successful 750 Twin if not a “beefed up” copy of Honda’s 250 and 305 twins? Or why can you use many Honda parts on Benelli’s 250-900 four and six cylinders bike, yes because they copied the CB 500 Honda and made many variations of it. Even the new Hinckley-Triumphs, now probably mainly made in Thailand, seemed to have very much Kawasaki technology in their first engines. The same is happening today in China , but in a different scale despite of WTO. In 2002 motorcycle industry sources estimated that there are 140 licensed motorcycle manufacturers in China and 400 unlicensed. 8 million out of 11 million manufactured in 2002 were illegal copies…Japan’s one-time freedom to copy foreign motor vehicle designs is now copied by Europe and China but now Japan is complaining…..

But we must remember that the Japanese copying is not the main reason to the English motorcycle industry’s very quick fall down or Harley’s problem during the Reagan era.. The problems are mostly “self made” but it is also easier to blame somebody else.

What went wrong was that the production management didn’t work. The English motorcycle industry was not able to mass produce their good prototypes and to utilize their know-how. English engineering skills were at a very high level and many factories had patents that the Japanese factories copied and improved but the English manufactures lacked skill to produce high quality bikes in big volumes keeping high quality in the production line and at the same time, learning from users experience to improve the quality all the time.

The Japanese also had to buy new machinery after WW2 because all factories were bombed. Some of the factories especially Honda, Showa, Bridgestone and Tohatsu had invested in the newest American and European made machinery. The English, German and also Harley had at this time old machinery and no money to invest in new modern machinery.

So at this stage the Japanese factories were able to produce much higher quality motorbikes than their foreign competitors due to the better machinery and because the technical know how was very high, all western know how was copied and Japan had plenty of high skilled engineers from the aviation sector who needed work. It was at this time the management of all European motorcycle factories should have wake up and react. When the Japanese started to flood the market with high quality, different models and brands it was already too late. The train was gone many years ago….

After the WW2 there was no market for big motorbikes, Rikuo survived because of orders from the army, news paper houses (yes newpapers were delivered by motorcycles) and the occupying allied forces while Merusho was depending on orders from the Police. The rest almost disappeared.

What was needed now where cheap, easy means of transportation; motorized bicycles and scooters, not the postwar civilian version of the Rikuo Harley,…. not Meguro's 500.

Rikuo and Meguro got along only by selling to the police and allied occupation forces.

Only Miyata, which still made its 175cc lightweight, tried, but that was not the bike that was needed.

What people wanted first were motorized bicycles and a little later scooters.


The WW2 military surplus created a boom in light motorcycle manufacturing. Maybe hundreds of small motorized bicycle manufacturers erupted like mushrooms after rain. Most of them didn’t survive but a few did like Honda and Suzuki.

Fuels used ranged from pine tree sap distillates to aviation gasoline, in fact anything that could explode in a cylinder.

Most of the surplus engines these machines used had been built by Tohatsu and Mikuni, the latter today's world supplier of carburetors. The Mikuni engines had been designed to power field radio generators. The Tohatsu units were tank auxiliary generator motors. Army specs list these engines as having 300 to 500 watt generating capacities.

The Tohatsu engines were 78cc 45 by 50mm single cylinder air cooled two strokes developing something between 1.5 and 2 hp.

The similar Mikunis were rated at 1.2 hp.

By 1948, the supply of surplus engines was almost used up. Even some early Hondas had to use the Bridgestone engine now in production.
This engine, a two stroke, had a bore and stroke of 42 by 45mm, giving it a displacement of 62cc. It developed 1.2 hp at 3000 rpm.

Meanwhile aircraft maker Kawanishi unleashed their 64cc two stroke engine and shortly there after Tohatsu got back on its feet and began manufacturing its tank auxiliary engine again.

But already the era of the motorized bicycle was passing.

In 1948 a company called Honda began building its own engine, an 89cc two stroke delivering 1.2hp at 4,500 rpm.

This was used to power the Honda "A" motorcycle; in fact, had been designed specifically for it, a post war first!

The Honda was not particularly successful, mainly because Honda had limited motor engineering back ground. Another company did much better technically. On the other hand Honda was a better sales man.


Bridgestone, the tire company of today, designed and put into production a light engine, and as the surplus finally disappeared, came to dominate the field of engines for these vehicles. Actually they were not manufactured by Bridgestone them selves but they were sold on that brand. Also SHOWA, KAWASAKI and HONDA entered the market with engines to be fitted in bicycles and TOHATSU reentered the market when their surplus engines run out.
Bridgestone started producing bicycles in 1946, and within 3 years was looking into manufacture of powered cycles, such machines being much in demand in post-war Japan. In 1949, the company was renamed the Bridgestone Cycle Company, and in the following year an agreement was signed with Fuji Seimitsu Jogyo (Fuji Precision Engineering Company, today part of the Nissan Motor Co.) to supply small 'slip-on' power units to fit BS bicycles. These were initially sold separately from the bicycles, but in 1952 the first complete Bridgestone motorized cycle was made available. Known as the BS-21 "Bambi", this comprised a small 26cc two-stroke unit put over the rear wheel of a BS bicycle, with friction drive onto the rear tire. The machine was later stretched to become the BS-31 (38.5cc) and the BS-41 (49cc), all using standard BS bicycles of various types. These machines sold well, and helped to establish the Bridgestone reputation.


Honda entered the market even before the Company was established in 1946. They bought a lot of radio generator engines from the army and from the scraps of the factory (Mikuni). They got hold of about 500 engines, used and new, which was to become the beginning of the Honda Company. Probably they made their own bicycle into which the modified engine was fitted. The engine had 1-1,2 horse power and was a one cylinder 2-stroke probably MIKUNI made.

This is the first motorcycle/bicycle with the Honda Brand also manufactured in 1947 before the Honda Company was established, The engine only had 0,5 horse power had a top speed 45 km/h. The engine was a rotary valve 2-stroke. I think that the transmission and clutch were variable meaning a slipping belt….

The next model was the C-model don’t ask me what happened to the B-model. The engine is still a rotary valve, now 98 cc 3 hp engine which gave the bike a top speed of 50km/h. Special is that it had a Girdner type front fork , a system that BMW now is trying on many new models.



Maybe they not belong here but just to show you, that Honda later and still, is engaged in motorized bicycles. I show some picture of more modern Honda versions of the same concept

A new design for women, this model featured 14-inch tires, low seat position, and a new starting system. It offered all the convenience of a motorbike, coupled with the simplicity of a bicycle. It was a 2=stroke engine with 2.2 hp.


Honda still up to these days make a variant of it’s stationary engine to be used on bicycles:



Suzuki entered the motorized bicycle market a little late. They didn’t try to start with some existing surplus engine but instead they decided to build a complete whole bike. The engine they designed was a 36 cc two stroke, attached to the bicycle in a way that left the possibility to pedaling the bike and it had freewheels that enabled you to cut off the engine in the down hills. Suzuki patented the free wheels. The bike came on the market in late 1951 and it was called Power Free.

Just shortly after the launch of the Power Free, the Japanese government changed the driving license requirements so that small motorcycles or cyclomotors could have an engine of up to 60cc if 2-stroke and up to 90 cc if 4-stroke. Therefore Suzuki started immediately to develop a new 60cc engine and incorporated a 2-gear transmission. The new model was called Diamond Free

DIAMOND FREE 1952 60cc 2-gear.
There were many detail variations during the production of the Diamond Free. There were different frames available, the fuel tank changed, same the chain cover and exhaust system. Some models had drum brakes, some kind of suspension and even crash bars!!!










Nakajima Aircraft was a big aero plane manufacturer building both civilian and military plane. They build American Douglas DC2 as well as German Focker planes on license.


Typical of the kinds of machines they turned out after the war when they were not allowed to manufacture any aero planes anymore, was Nakajima's Rabbit, a scooter, the body of which was made from what was left from manufacturing airplanes, as aircraft duralumin sheeting and the engine was from an auxiliary electrical generator and the wheels where the rear wheel from an aircraft fighter!!!! The scooter was presented to the public 6 months before another famous aircraft company PIAGGIO in Italy presented their VESPA....

The device was successful enough for Nakajima to establish a separate company to turn out scooters and later cars. The overall name changed to Fuji Sankyo and later to Fuji Heavy Industries and today this part of Fuji is known as Subaru, the car maker. That is evolution….




The Fuji Rabbit turned out to become a success story. It was manufactured between 1934/1935-1968, altogether over half a million were made and the last model S-211 1966 - 1968 - Fuji Rabbit Hi-Super 90 was manufactured during these last two years 21.564 pcs. Therefore it was strange that they stopped the production on the 29th of June 1968. Selling about 10.000 pcs per year would have made any English manufacturer happy…



The reason for stopping production was probably that they wanted to go into car production and very quickly the first Subaru was presented the SUBARU 350 mini car.




In America, the first Fuji Rabbit scooter was imported in 1957 by Rabbit Motor Sales of San Francisco, California. However, the largest authorized American distributor of Fuji Rabbit scooters was the American Rabbit Corporation of San Diego. The rabbit was sold in the US until 1968 when the production seized. It was very popular in the US and was sold in huge amounts and as a result there are plenty of Rabbits left and as another result plenty of “rabbits clubs”. It is a little of a cult bike. Probably Rabbit have outsold the Vespa in the US.



Fuji Rabbit scooters were also imported into Canada through multiple distributors, one of which was Malcolm Bricklin. This is also a story worth to be told because Malcolm Bricklin is a very controversial person in the vehicle industry and as far as I know still active in it. The reason why he took the distribution of Fuji Rabbit for Canada I don’t know, Malcolm Bricklin being American born and US-citizen. Anyhow he created quite a boom for Fuji Rabbit and when the boom had started he learnt that Fuji will stop production. He went as far as traveling to Japan trying to convince them to continue production but in Vail. But he didn’t come home empty pocked. He got an exclusive import agreement for Subaru cars for US. Maybe it didn’t sound as very much at that time but later it was….

Back home he established SUBARU AMERICA INC. and started to sell dealer franchisees and was one of the pioneer introducing Japanese cars for the American market. Later he sold off his shares in Subaru America Inc, and started his next project his own car to be manufactured in New Brunswick Canada. The car was called Bricklin SV-1 and was manufactured 1974-1976, when it went bankruptcy leaving a 23 million USD unpaid to the Government. They made 2854 cars and about 1500 are still left in traffic.

But Mr. Bricklin went on. First he sold the Fiat X11 sports car in US and renamed it Bertone to hide Fiat’s a little bad image. After that he started the Yogo America Inc. and introduced the cheapest car on the market the 3999 USD YOGO a Jugoslavian (nowadays Serbia) made car. He sold 12.000 pcs. just during the launching but unfortunally the quality was so poor that the car was awarded with the title Worst Car of All Time. Nowadays Mr. Bricklin is looking for electricity bikes, fuel cell technology, battery technology and mass producing cars in China for the US market. He is over 70 now…..




According to most sources the “model” that Fuji copied with the Rabbit was the American Powell scooter.
Powell Motor Company, from Compton California, was a successful manufacturer for over 30 years. They are best known for their motor scooters that were popular between WW II and the Korean War.

The Powell Brothers started by manufacturing radios and went into scooters manufacturing in the 1930’s. During the WW2 they turned into war production, but no scooters. After the war they started scooter production again and among others Humphrey Bogart bought (got?) one.



The Powell scooter became very popular the time after the WW2 but already in 1950 they changed first to making motorcycles and then to war production again because of the Korean War and never returned to scooter manufacturing. They used in all their vehicles a 393 cc four stroke single, probably a side valve engine.



Actually I don’t really believe that Fuji Rabbit was copied from the Powell scooter. But that is what all sources tell. It was very popular after the WW2 in US but how did the bike ended up in Japan with the servicemen working there. I never have seen any papers about a Japanese importer and I don’t think the US Army provided their servicemen with Powell Scooters because they had a long relationship with Cushman scooters.

I may start by telling the Cushman story. Everett Cushman together with his cousin, Clinton, began their first business together producing engines needed in the farming industry. They founded the Cushman Motor Works around 1901-1902 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Actually it was a motor producing company, not a manufacturer of complete bikes. In order to sell more engines, Cushman installed one of the motors on a scooter, which began the scooter era for Cushman.

They built two-wheel and three-wheel scooters from 1936 through 1965 for the public and the military. This lasted until the Japanese motorcycle imports began. They sold under additional names, such as Sears and Allstate and had slight modifications as in the step-thru models, which can be found today in many modern-named scooters.

Probably the most famous Cushman was the Eagle, which started production around 1950-1951 and lasted until 1965. Many different models were manufactured, including three-wheel and four-wheel vehicles. Cushman is still in production in Lincoln, Nebraska, but they now produce industrial-type vehicles. Cushman Motor Scooters were built in from 1936 until 1965 by the Cushman Motor Works.



In the late stages of the war in Europe and Japan the allied paratroopers used scooters, parachuted down in special made containers or carried by gliders to maintain contact between units, increase their mobility and haul small loads. The scooters were also used at Air and Naval bases.

The Cushman Motor Works designed the Model 53 Airborne Scooter for this purpose and manufactured almost 5.000 pcs of these during the WW2. The rugged, simple Model 53 could travel through a foot of water, climb a 25 percent grade and had a range of about 100 miles. It could pull a general-purpose utility cart. By adding certain equipment, the cart could be converted to carry a .30-cal. or .50-cal. machine gun or an 81mm mortar, though the scooter often could not pull a heavy load.




Another source of inspiration for Fuji Rabbit may have been the English version of the Cushman.

Welbike made by the famous Excelsior and powered by a 98cc Villiers Sprite two-stroke engine. The scooter had 12.5 inch wheels and could be folded into half. It was extremely compact, having been designed to fit inside a cylinder of only 15 inches diameter. Weighing in at a mere 70 pounds, they had a range of 90 miles and could achieve 30mph.

After Excelsior had delivered their order to the army they sold the rights to Brockhouse Engineering of Southport that built the Welbike-inspired Corgi. These were exported to the United States from 1947 to 1954 where they were sold by a SEARS department stores. They were also renamed to the Indian Papoose because at this time the Indian brand was owned by Brockhouse.

As Sales Promotion they drove some across the American continent from coast to coast. They also sold them to the US Air Force and during the Korean War they were used by maintenance personnel, and they often kept them aboard the aircrafts for use in getting around the bases.


Mitsubishi was also a huge aircraft manufacturer during WW2 producing world famous combat planes like Mitsubishi ZERO, designed by Howard Hughes.
When forced to turning into civil production Mitsubishi also put together a scooter, by spare parts from the aviation industry but it was a rather clumsy scooter.







Mitsubishi still tried to stay in the scooter business by introducing the Galapet which’s production was outsourced to the Marusho factory. It is unclear how many was manufactured or even if it went into production. No samples are left.



What is interesting is that Mitsubishi is still in the scooter business. At least they are providing a 49 cc 2-stroke engine to the American Commando All-Terrain Gas Powered Motor Bike

Honda entered the Scooter market a little late. But did it with very high technology. 1952 they introduced the Juno K. It hade a 4-strokeE-type engine with electric starter, a huge wind screen and fiber glass reinforced plastic body covers.


The next model was called only M85 and it was technically a fantastic scooter. It had a boxer twin of 169cc, OHV engine with 12 hp, max speed 100 km, electric start and a hydraulic step less transmission. The scooter had a monocoque frame and looked really modern.


After this Honda still tried with the Julio but that was not an success.

At this stage the JUNO SCOOTER project brought Honda to the brink of bankruptcy, Honda entered the market too late, Honda didn’t have the distribution fixed and the sales volume became too small. Honda’s finances were also very tight because of their American Venture.

Kawasaki entered the burgeoning scooter market in the early 1950s, introducing its first model in 1954, called the 'Meihatsu 125 Deluxe,' using a KB-5A engine. The Meihatsu was built throughout the 1950s, into the early 1960s. The also built a line of 60cc two-stroke mopeds to compete with Mitsubishi's 'Silver Pigeon' scooter, and the Fuji 'Rabbit.'

Also Marusho/Lilac wanted their piece of the scooter cake.





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May 5, 2007
I am absolutely gobsmacked at the amount of interesting info in your posts.
I thought I knew a bit but I am left floundering at the first post.
As for the British motorcyle industry failing quickly, it is now just speculative and hindsight is a wonderful thing blah - di - blah but I reckon it has to to with the same old british "stuck up there own arse" syndrome and "of course we still own half the world" and "why should we change, everybody wants our products" policy
Just my thoughts again!


Nov 7, 2005

At this stage, we can start to examine, how the two-stroke technologies were developed in Japan. After the WW2 the prewar model, two stroke motorbike RT-125 developed under the trademark IFA (Industrieverwaltung Fahrzeugbau) in Eastern Germany and the West German copy part DKW became patent free. This was a part of the war reparations.

England copied it and developed the BSA Bantam, HD copied it and developed the Hummer, Sovjet Union copied it and started to make the M1 Mockba (Moskva),and Voskhod and in Poland they made the Polish WSK. Yamaha copied it and made their first motorbike Ya-1 which was an exact copy of the RT-125, originally developed by East German Company IFA but drawings left to DKW in West Germany.




Yamahas next model was a copy of DKW’s RT-175 and the next model YD1 was a copy of ADLER 250, which was a very advanced model. I am not sure if DKW had any influence on Adler but anyhow Yamaha copied the Adler 250 to make their YD-1. Yamaha had and have some strange underground relation to DKW and today with Auto Union and Audi as they are called today. For example Yamaha and Audi are still the only manufacturers of the Yamaha patented 5 valve technology. Toyota has to manufacture their 5 valve engines at Yamaha under Yamahas patent. Maybe it is payback time for Yamaha to Audi….

Okay here you can see the Adler original and the Yamaha copy









From this Yamaha developed the very successful YDS 250 line. I bought a new one in 1967, the first one with electrical start. Probably I was lazy already then.
Yamaha was a fast learner and, within a few years, its twin had cast off all traces of its Adler origins and had given rise to a new model dynasty. They used the GK design company, nowadays one of Japan's leading design consultancies. GK was founded in 1953 by four ex-students of Iwataro Koike at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music—the company's initials deriving from ‘Gruppe Koike’ They are a very successful and one other design for which they are the Kikkoman bottle which have stayed unchanged for soon 50 years. They are still today responsible for the “look” of Yamaha’s models.

Then came the first dedicated sports models, the YDS1 and the YDS2 (the first model exported to Europe). Yamaha competed in its first French GP at Clermont-Ferrand in 1961 and returned in 1965 with a succession of famous riders like Don Vesco, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Bill Ivy, Jarno Saarinen, and Giacomo Agostini.

In 1957 Adler together with Triumph TWN, the German Triumph branch was sold to Grundig the largest radio/TV manufacturer in German by then they modified the factories to manufacture type writers on the brand name of Triumph-Adler and I must confess that my old mother have one….Later the company was sold to the Italian Olivetti but motorcycle manufacturing was never continued, it was a pity….

Suzuki also copied the DKW/IFA and ADLER for their twins, but their break trough came a few years later in 1961, when they bought Ernst Degner, an East German GP rider for former IFA now MZ, and smuggled him out from the Swedish GP 1961 in south Sweden town of Kristianstad, together with bikes and all drawings for the MZ bikes. Degner could have won the race, which he was leading, and thus securing the world championships, but he got an engine “failure” early in the race and had to quit the race and left the circuit in advance, not heading to the ferry to DDR but to Denmark and West Germany and from there to Japan. The escape was quite adventurous and made, beside his old home country DDR, also his former “backer” the genius behind MZ and the two stroke technology Walter Kaaden very upset. Same was his team mate Alan Shephard who said "Degner was very much in love with himself and did not hesitate to hurt other people. I feel what he did was very, very cruel."

Anyhow Walter Kaaden’s history was also quite fascinating. He was during the WW2 an associate to Mr Werner von Braun who was the mastermind behind the Germans Nazi V-Series rockets that hit England. Mr Braun was getting a proposal, either jail or join the US space program . He joined and was later the mastermind behind the US moon travels.

Probably Mr Kaaden, who was one of the mastermind behind the first Nazi’s cruising missiles decided to stay in East Germany, being a devoted Communist and having a deep love for the Fatherland. Kaaden actually worked later as a carpenter in what became East Germany. His love of motorcycles drew him to racing and through a complicated process, he became the head of DKW's race team, and later, MZ.

Mr Kaaden was the mastermind behind modern two stroke technology. He developed the importance of the design of exhaust systems in two strokes design, maintaining a contra pressure from the exhaust and turned that knowledge into mathematical functions. Walter Kaaden influenced road racing for decades, first through MZ and later with the stolen secrets at Suzuki and Yamaha.

His 1961 125cc race engine design was the first engine to achieve an output of 200BHP/litre. His revolutionary two stroke system was copied widely in the sixties by Japanese manufacturers.Yamaha and Suzuki two-stroke engines became competitive in motor sport only after they gained possession of MZ design secrets. MZs were ridden to 13 GP victories and a further 105 podium places between 1955 and 1976, the last one being a third place by Finn Tapio Virtanen at the Swedish GP in Anderstorp with me being in the paddock.



Mr Kaaden probably never understood how much he had influenced the Motorcycle Industry. My old Swedish friend Janne Leek (haven’t seen him for 40 years) was able to interview him before just before he died and did a book about the MZ racing story.



Everything that Yamaha and Suzuki achieved with two strokes machines on the racing circuits and on the public sales should partly be devoted to Mr Kaaden, DKW IFA and ADLER, their secrets were stolen….

Suzuki won the 50 cc world championship already the next year after Mr Degner left German. The design was 100% MZ.

Degner actually repatriated himself back into East Germany after retiring from racing (there's a corner at Suzuka named after him). He killed himself, allegedly by slitting his own throat, in Berlin in the 1990s. According to some other sources he took an overdose of the pain medicines he was taking to ease the pain he had after a crash at the Suzuka circuit.

It's been a matter of speculation for years that his death wasn't suicide at all.





Kawasaki’s four stroke background has we already dealt with maybe I should have talked more about the GPZ900R, a picture maybe wasn’t enough, because that model is the mother of all new Kawasaki’s.

Anyhow I will here only shortly go through the most important Kawasaki two-stroke models. Kawasaki was not very active in the two stroke field before the failure of Bridgestone motorcycles. After that some of the engineers from Bridgestone and former Tohatsu joined Kawasaki and brought with them the state of the art two stroke technology. Then already in 1967 they presented a 250cc and a 350cc copy of the BRIDGESTONE GTO, The cylinders though were iron sleeved not Nicasil powdered aluminum. The 250 A1Samurai developed 31 hp at 8000 rpm, the A7 350 Avenger developed 42 hp at the same rpm. The stroke was the same in both machines so the extra capacity was got by a bigger bore. The gear box was 5 speed. The frame and chassis inclusive brakes were the same on both bikes.

Then in 1969 Kawasaki presented their first triple. The HR1 500cc, It was followed by the 250 S1 and 350 S2 in 1971 and in 1972 came the 750cc Mach UV nicknamed “Widow maker” The triples were manufactured up to 1980 except the Mach IV which ended, maybe because of all accidents already, in 1975. The 250 S2 and the 350 S3 were not more powerful than their 2-cylinders competetitors but the Mach IV and the HR1 had both a very dangerous hp/kg ratio which made spectacular wheelies and many accident, The handling of both bikes was very, very poor also. The HR1 had 60 hp at 7.500 rpm and it weighted 174 kg. Compare that to a Triumph TT100SS with 30 hp and 230 kg….The Mach IV had 74 hp at 6.800 rpm and the weight was 205 kg. They were made for wheelies!!!!! Some pictures:














Marusho was one who copied quite visible. It was started in 1948 as Marusho Shokai Ltd. Their motorcycles were often sold also on the Lilac brand.

The man behind the company was Masashi Itoh and he is told to have been attending a management course together with Soichiro Honda or/and worked at Soichiro Hondas garage 1940-1935 but all this is unconfirmed. Anyhow this enclosed picture shows the two in front of Soichiro Hondas ART garage about 1931-1932.



The first Marusho was a model called ML and sometimes referred to as the LA, was ready in 1950 or 1948). Mass production of this ML series 150cc single, copied from a a pre-war Zundapp, began in 1951 in Hammamtsu. The bike had shaft drive which became the trademark of Marusho,. In 1951 the name of the company was changed to the Marusho Motorcycle Industrial Co., Ltd.

From 1951 1961, Marusho made 31 different models of motorcycles under the name Lilac, all but 2 of which were shaft-driven.

Here is some samples and enjoy the pictures.

MARUSHIN”S FIRST MODELS ML, LB, LC ml had a side valve engine of 242 cc and the newer model had the same engine but OHV.



Marusho’s next model range was the VICTORIA BURGMEISTER inspired V-twin range:



MARUSHO/LILAC 250 1959 and 1960

They started export 1963 or early 1964. In U.S the first model was called Imperial but the war memories forced them to change the name to ST.

About 600 of these 500cc opposed twins were produced for the 1965 model year, primarily for the U.S. market. 150 of these are still registered in US.Black and Silver were the basic color, with a few painted the optional candy apple red. The cylinders were silver, the carburetors 22mm, the tool box on the right side cast aluminum.. The V-twins Marushos you could switch the gear from 4th to 1 gear only having a warning lamp when it was safe to up-gear. The 500 model had the feature disabled but the warning light was left.

Incidentally, the '9' and the '2' in the serial prefixes yield 'R92'. The few of this model that were badged as Lilacs for the non-U.S. market, were known as model R92. There are 150 STs in the Register, and the register excludes known examples where the serial numbers are not known. It is reasonable to conjecture that half of all Marushos are still retained by enthusiasts.

The last bike Lilac built was the Electra. Despite flagging sales of the Magnum, numerous changes were made including the electric starter (reportedly from an Italian car), a cartridge oil filter system, 2 (count 'em) big alloy side covers (one for the tools and one for symmetry), thick cylinders and a chromed grab bar at the rear of the seat. Ads mentioned an upcoming bored-out 600cc version and even a planned 750cc. The electric start concept was about as effective as BMW's first try, that is, the tiny battery was only good for a few seconds, but there was a usable kick-starter tucked in very tight against the left-hand side cover. It condemned the decal on the cover to being destroyed right away, and the fact that there was no choke or even a tickler on this model meant that starting could be a chore.












Kawanishi was an aircraft company most famous for its flying boat planes especially the H8K EMILY which was by far the best flying boat until a long time after WW2. They also made the Shidden Fighter which outperformed the B29’s by far. Actually Kawanishi (now renamed SHIN MEIWA Corporation) started to build updated versions of the flying boats again for the Japanese Navy again in the 1950’s and they were still doing it still in 1980’s. These planes were not threatened in the same way as Fighters planes since these were for self defense.

The Kawanishi aircraft company also faced the same problems like Mitsubishi and Nakajima, what to do? Anyhow they chose a little different approach. Instead of starting making scooters they started to make engines for the quickly growing motorized bicycle industry. The engine was 64cc engine and they sold it to other manufacturers of motorized bicycles when they started to run out of WW2 surplus engines. When in 1948 Kawanishi was reorganized as Shin Meiwa they started to be serious about motorcycles. They put their 64cc in their own bicycle not horizontally but vertically and in 1949 they introduced a 142cc side valve four stroke with 2,5 hp at 2750 rpm. The rpm limit was chosen according to aircraft standards, over that 2750 rpm propellers start to detoriate so they thought that there is some magic in that….

Soon after they introduced a new Meiwa with a 250cc OHV placed in a Sports bike called the Pointer. These bikes were very popular and sold well.

The next model was called ACE 250 and it had a square 69mmx68mm engine and the engine is regarded as maybe the best early post war design in Japan. The engine had double exhaust ports, compression rate was 6,5-1 and the pushrod engine developed 12 hp at 5.500 rpm. It had a 3-speed gearbox, a dry multi plate clutch, crankcase of aluminum, battery and coil ignition and it could do100 km/h, a huge speed at that time.

Even if the reliability was better it was still not so good, the crank gave up after 15.000 km and your journeys were uphold all the time by minor repair work….
Shin Meiwa stopped motorcycle production in 1959. It is unclear for me if this Shin Meiwa has anything to do with today’s Shin Meiwa making filters for motorcycles.

The only picture I found were these.





Tohatsu Corporation of Tokyo, (Tokyo Hatsudoki) Japan, was founded in 1922. Today it manufactures outboard motors, pleasure boats, portable fire pumps, small fire trucks, pumps for construction and drainage, refrigeration units for transportation.

The company was originally named Takata Motor Research Institute, and manufactured railcars. Research and development of high-speed, portable engine generators and radio-controlled generators began soon after and were brought to production in 1930. During the war the production was turned into satisfying the Imperial army. In 1950, production and sales of motorcycles began. 1955 brought aggressive growth to Tohatsu. Capital increased to 300 million yen, new machinery was bought and production on a new line of engines started. Sales offices were established in Fukuoka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Sendai and Sapporo. Dealers were set up throughout Japan.

Tohatsu quickly changed from only being an engine supplier for the bicycle industry into becoming a manufacturer of sporty small bikes. In 1962 they introduced the Tohatsu Runpet Sport CA-2. This bike raced both in road racing as well as motocross. It had a 49cc 2-stroke rotary disc valve engine supplying 6hp at 9.200 rpm, a really amazing performance for such a small bike.

Tohatsu also manufactured the first Japanese Production Racer the Runpet Racer CR. It was highly successful in Japanese races and it also reached the European continent. The engine was slightly tuned version of the CA model delivering 6,8 hp at 10.500 Rpm and had a top speed over 100 km/h through a 4 speed gear box.

In the early 1960’s Tohatsu was a cutting edge two stroke manufacturer and made the world's only production 50cc twin-cylinder road race machines as well as a disc-valved, twin-cylinder 125cc racer
According to some sources they had a 20% market share in the late 1950’s. Tohatsu held 3% of the Japanese domestic motorcycle market in 1961.

Unfortunally Tohatsu stopped the motorcycle manufacturing in the middle of the 1960’s. According to some sources it was overtaken by Bridgestone, others say that most of the engineers joined Bridgestone.








The history of Yamaguchi and Hodaka are linked closely together. Hodaka is worth a long thread itself but I will only briefly tell the story.

Pabatco headquarters were in a small rural town called Athena (population: 1000). The company was established in 1961 as a division of Farm Chemicals of Oregon, which distributed fertilizer throughout the Pacific Northwest. To increase their business, the company management planned to trade locally grown products on a barter deal with other countries. The Japanese needed American wheat and other crops, and through barter trade the currency regulations could be side stepped.

This is how Pabatco met Yamaguchi, a motorcycle factory in Japan and motorcycles became quickly Pabatco’s most significant business. By 1963, Pabatco had imported 5000 machines and distributed them through its 480 dealers. But in April of 1963, Yamaguchi suddenly went bankrupt, leaving Pabatco and well-established dealer network with nothing to sell.

Now the American Hodaka story begins. Yamaguchi's bankruptcy, left Pabatco with an idle network and at the same time it threatened to force the engine supplier of Yamaguchi, the Hodaka Industrial Company of Nagoya into bankruptcy. Swift, creative thinking from the FERTILIZER COMPANY Pabatco brought them to the only acceptable conclusion: "Let's build our own bike!"

After all, these enthusiasts knew what American buyers wanted, the Hodaka engineers knew how to build engines and transmissions, and with the help of some new employees from the off road motorcycle society. they put together their own motorbike. Pabatco offered to design and market the bike if Hodaka - whose name in Japanese means "to grow higher" - would adapt its factory to manufacture and assemble the entire machine. Seeing as how it didn't have a lot of options, with 300 engines still sitting on its factory floor, Hodaka agreed.

And the HODAKA boom was born. Hodaka sold tens of Thousands bikes on the US market creating the “off road boom” without need to be a racer…

About Yamagushi is not so much written, except of its connection with HODAKA.



Below is a Maserati copied sports bike called Autopet Sports SBP. It had a 50cc 4-speed Hodaka engine with 4,8 hp at 8.200rpm. Max speed 80 km/h.



The rest of the HODAKA story I save to another time. Let us just sum up that already in 1966 Pabatco was sold to SHELL who actually kept on distributing motorcycles between 50-250 cc up to 1977 when the HODAKA factory in Japan went out of business. Shell even tried to buy the factory but the seller refused and closed the doors instead. Below something for your eyes.



It is difficult to find information about the Monarch brand, despite that it has been allowed into the Honda Museum from where the picture below is picked.
Anyhow this 246cc OHV engine has copied the English brand VELOCETTE when constructing this bike. It has 14hp at 5000 rpm and could make 120 km/h. It was successful in the Asama Highland race in 1955 with it’s racing version, The bike below is the civilian version of the racing bike and a 1956 model. It is unclear what other models they made have make und I don’t know when they started motorcycling manufacturing and what happened to the company. It stopped motorcycle manufacturing in 1962 and the last year it manufactured one cylinder Norton copies 346-496 cc.



Hosk is a very interesting manufacturer, only producing bikes between 1953-1957. The made both two-strokes and four strokes from 195-500 cc. But why it is an interesting company is because it is the origin of Yamahas very successful XS 650 twin.

In 1956/1957 they copied a very modern designed German Horex 500 SOHC bike and made a bike that was actually faster than the original but very expensive and unreliable. Hosk run into financial problems and was overtaken by SHOWA improved the 500 HOSK and sold it for some years. They also developed prototype of a 650 twin made by the same engineers that copied and developed the HOREX. It seems that most of engineers from HOSK were employed by SHOWA. In the early 1960’s Showa’s motorcycle business was sold to Yamaha and again the old “HOREX” engineers where employed by Yamaha , At Yamaha the same engineers continued their work and in 1968 Yamaha were ready to present the best 650 parallel Twin ever made the XS650. That bike was to be sold almost unchanged for almost twenty years. It was also from HOSK’s engineers that YAMAHA got their 4-stroke know how which thy needed when the two-strokes came to their end, because of emission regulations.






SHOWA was another very innovative company making motorcycles between 1948-1960. Being a newcomer on the market it invested from the start in very high quality manufacturing equipment. Showa, in particular, was one of the first Japanese companies to import automated factory equipment to turn out machines.
Showa was also one of the most innovative of the Japanese manufacturers.

Anyhow their first product was probably a simple auxiliary engine for bicycles.

SHOWA developed then the first chain driven OHC (overhead camshaft) motorcycle seen in Japan the SH model. It had a 150cc engine delivering 5 hp at 4,800 rpm and had a top speed of 80 km/h through a 2-speed gearbox. The next model had already 6,2 hp and a 3 speed gearbox and it won the NAGOUA TT in 1953 defeating HONDA’S factory team on Honda Dream E’s. The story says that it was at this stage Soichiro Honda started to think about OHC engines.

Despite success on the race track, Showa found out that the OHC engine was a nightmare for its dealers to service. The cam chain snapped routinely, and oil leaked from all surfaces no matter what gasket they developed.

This forced SHOWA into a short and unsuccessful excursion into side valves before they turned their interest into two-strokers and copying DKW/IFA.

In 1956 the company introduced the Light Cruiser, a 125cc single two stroke with reed valves, the first time reed valves were used on a Japanese two stroke.

With the same displacement and bore and stroke as the Yamaha, the Showa reed design gave the Light Cruiser one more pony than the YA-1.

The same year Showa also marketed the first Japanese two stroke twin, a 350 with beryllium copper reed valves. Bore and stroke was 62 by 58mm. The compression ratio was 6 to 1, and the output was a fantastic 22hp at 5,500 rpm.

I have not been able to find out whether the SHOWA motorcycles have anything to do with the famous suspension company SHOWA CORPORATION of today.








Mr Shojiro Ishibashi (translated in English “Stone Bridge”) started in the1920’s to make rubber soled shoes.

In 1925 he began mass production. After the WW2 he increased the range of rubber products, started manufacturing bicycles and when there was demand for simple bicycle engines he outsourced the manufacturing of simple engines to be sold as Bridgestone and often together with Bridgestone bicycles.

Bridgestone also had at this time a quite big car industry producing 5000 vehicles a month on the brand of PRINCE.
When the cyclomotor boom was over they started to manufacture small motorcycles The first recognizable motorcycle was produced in 1958. This was the BS "Champion" range, a contemporary pressed-steel frame motorcycle with a 50cc fan-cooled two-stroke engine and three-speed gearbox. The 1962 version of this machine (the Champion-III) was later sold in the U.S. as the Bridgestone "Super 7", along with a step-through framed version known as the "BS-50 Homer".

By 1964 things had changed with Bridgestone producing a range of high quality lightweight motorcycles. With the closure of the Tohatsu and Lilac factories, Bridgestone found themselves in the position of being able to employ clever, experienced designers who would set the benchmark for innovation.

The Tohatsu engineers in particular had a major influence on the development of Bridgestone motorcycles. Although now almost an unknown name, Tohatsu held 3% of the Japanese domestic motorcycle market in 1961. Tohatsu was a most innovative manufacturer and made the world's only production 50cc twin-cylinder road race machines as well as a, disc-valved, twin-cylinder 125cc racer. When the factory folded in February 1964 it was on the point of launching a full blown Grand Prix effort headed by Englishman Dave Simmonds - who later went on to win Kawasaki's first ever World Championship in 1969.

Tohatsu's disappearance was a bingo for Bridgestone. They got hold of the most high skilled two stroke know how in Japan and they already had the IFA/DKW and ARDELL designs.

BRIDGESTONE quickly introduced a quite impressive range of model, everything with engines, 350cc, 200cc, 175cc, 100cc, 60cc, 50cc,

BRIDGESTONE was by far the best developed bike at this time with a quality far beyond its competitors. Bridgestone sold bikes with expensive technical solutions not seen before. The best way to express how good the Bridgestone was is to let a Bridgestone brochure talk:

1. Bridgestone designed and built the first dual-rotary valve, dual carburetor engine ever used in a production motorcycle -- the 175+ Dual Twin. Cycle World acclaimed it "a design breakthrough in production motorcycles that all others will be obliged to follow."

2. Instead of conventional 2-cycle fuel induction, Bridgestone engines have rotary disc valves. That's one of the main reasons for the incredible acceleration of Bridgestone cycles. Most experts agree that the rotary valve brought the 2-cycle engines to the peak of its efficiency and performance potential.

3. Bridgestone introduced motorcycle engines with aluminum alloy cylinders and hard-chromed bores, a Bridgestone exclusive. To you, this difference means better performance, substantially reduced maintenance for as long as you own your Bridgestone . And, Bridgestone engines are "clean"... everything is enclosed, including the carburetor.

4. Bridgestone designed and built the first selective four-speed / five-speed motorcycle transmission for economical overdrive cruising at highway speeds. This transmission is standard equipment on every Bridgestone 175+cc Dual Twin and Hurricane Scrambler.

5. Most competitive models place neutral half way between 1st and 2nd gears. You have to have a toe as sensitive as a surgeon's hand to find it. The Bridgestone full rotary shift gives it a spot right after 4th gear. When you come to a stop, jus t tap the shift pedal. You're in neutral without shifting back through all the gears and then trying to find that elusive neutral. On 5-speed models, neutral is placed in front of first gear so you always find it with ease.

6. There are quick-change rear sprockets on Bridgestone's two off-the-road motorcycles -- the 90+ Trail and the 90+ Mountain. This permits you to change them from 60-mph street machines to mountain-climbing trail cycles in minutes. Only Bridgestone has the quick-change rear-sprocket.

7. Competitive models use the transmission gears and the engaged clutch as part of the kick starting system. Since the clutch must be engaged to turn the engine over, the machine must be in neutral to be started. If stalled in traffic, neutral can be hard to find. (Can you hear the horns blowing?) Because Bridgestone cycles have an independent set of starter gears, the cycle can be started in any gear. Just squeeze the clutch and kick. You have to have been stalled in traffic just once to appreciate this feature.

8. Every Bridgestone is equipped with special tires to match its performance (at no extra cost to you). We can afford to do this because Bridgestone also is Japan's largest tire manufacturer.

9. Bridgestones have special shock absorbers. As the wheels move up and down over a bump, the shock is absorbed first by a coil spring, then by an oil cushion, and finally by compressed air, which gives a smoother ride, without damping out the "feel" of the road.

10. Bridgestone Oil injection not only eliminates the need to pre-mix an oil-gas fuel mixture but it automatically adjusts the amount of oil mixed with the gas so that it is exactly right under any operating conditions. Bridgestone Oil injection offers FULL TIME lubrication since the oil pump is driven by a gear located on the end of the crankshaft. This means that any time the engine is running it is receiving an adequate supply of 2-cycle oil. (Some competitive models drive the oil pump off t he clutch shaft. This means no oil is pumped when the clutch is disengaged.)

11. The brakes on every Bridgestone are bigger than they need to be. We even waterproof them to assure you safe, sure stops in any weather.

12. Every cycle goes through a 27-point check on a dynamometer before it leaves the factory. In addition, a completed cycle is periodically picked at random from production, ridden under the toughest conditions, and then torn down completely. Each part is inspected and measured for wear.

So why did such a fantastic brand disappear? According to one rumor the BIG FOUR (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki) invited Bridgestone to a meeting at a hotel in Tokyo to tell Bridgestone what happens if Bridgestone not quit motorcycle manufacturing. They all turn to other tire manufacturers. According to the rumor their threat was accompanied by some Yakuza men at the meeting. (Yakuza is a Japanese gangster and very feared)

Probably the truth is much simpler. Bridgestone was a huge tire company and they needed more production sites, Also the Bridgestone despite being damned good were expensive to manufacture and thus expensive in the show room.. Another point was that Bridgestone didn’t have a very strong distribution. They sold the bikes in US through Rockford Motors, Inc. of Rockford, Illinois. A decent dealer network was never effectively established in the US. The bikes, being a notch above the competition in finish, technology and performance, also cost more on the showroom floor and this probably hurt sales. For ex, the GTO 350 cost as much as a Triumph Bonneville but was on the other hand faster and much more reliable. Also they read the handwriting on the wall concerning the future of two-stroke road bikes and didn't want to invest in a whole new line of four-stroke machines for a business that was already lagging.Anyhow Bridgestone quit the motorcycle business and sold all the tooling to BS Tailung in Taiwan who continued to make mostly 50-100 cc bikes, most of the to Rockford Motors who sold them as CHIBI, TORA and TAKA up until 1975.















The Suzuki Motor Company was founded by Michio Suzuki, a son to a Japanese cotton farmer. He was born in, where else than, Hamamatsu, a small town 200 km from Tokyo, in 1887. As Michio grew up he became a carpenter and an enterprising young man. In 1909, at the age of 22, he constructed a pedal-driven wooden loom, and started to sell his product. Suzuki Loom Works was founded. The business went well, the order stock was growing and Michio Suzuki further developed his machine for the silk industry. New, much more sophisticated machineries were developed and the business was blooming.

Eleven years later, in 1920, Michio Suzuki decided to introduce his business to the stock exchange. The days of a small family business were long gone; Michio Suzuki needed the capital to be able to expand the business to meet the demands of the growing market. The founding of Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company (Suzuki Jidosha Kogyo) in March of 1920 is regarded as the start of the Suzuki Motor Company as we know it today. The company celebrated its 80-year anniversary in 2000.

Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company got the capital needed for the investments and the company was now growing fast. Already in 1922 the Suzuki Jidosha Kogyo was one of the largest loom manufacturers in Japan.

By that time, Japan was not the large industrial power that it is known today. The most important export items were fabrics and cloths. In 1926 the new-established Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company started to export looms to the Southeast Asia and India. But the market was soon to be sated, the high-quality looms from Suzuki lasted practically forever and the demand for new looms was getting gradually smaller. Suzuki started to consider manufacturing other things on the side of the weaving machines.

Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company is an impressive company but there’s little demand for its products. Suzuki considered going into the automotive business. 20,000 vehicles were imported to Japan annually, still not satisfying the growing demand for cheap commuting vehicles. Michio Suzuki noticed the market gap and made his first move.

In 1938 Suzuki made its first prototype of a car, based on the Austin Seven. The Suzuki research team had bought an Austin from England, dismantled and studied it and a few months later was able to make a replica of the British 737cc car. Japan possessed little technical knowledge of how to produce good cars or motorcycles and imitating the car manufacturers in Europe seemed to be the way to get started.

But the timing was lousy. Japan was already preparing for the war. The project was abandoned and the Suzuki’s version of the Austin Seven was never mass produced. That wouldn't have been that original idea anyhow, Nissan's first automobile was based on Austin Seven.

After the war followed a period of rebuilding and economic instability. The manufacturing of weaving looms was renewed but a wave of strikes at the forties and in the beginning of the fifties and the post-war chaotic financial structure nearly destroyed the Suzuki Loom manufacturing Company.

According to a story it was Michio Suzuki’s son, Shunzo, who came with the idea of motorizing his bicycle a fall day when riding home from a fishing trip. Without any specific goal, only for his own pleasure, Shunzo went to his drawing board at home and started to design his own cyclomotor. Nevertheless the story is true or not, manufacturing cyclomotors saved the company from the edge of a crash.

In November 1951 the engineers of the Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company started to design an engine that could be attached to a bicycle. The idea was not unique, there were actually over 100 other Japanese companies that had came up with the same idea. Soichiro Honda started his Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946 with renovating used small engines used by the Japanese army during the war and mounted them onto bicycles. A year later Honda started to make their own engines. By the time Suzuki put his first cyclemotor into production Honda (now renamed to Honda Motor Company) owned 70% of the commuting market.

The name of the company was changed to Suzuki Motor Company in June 1954 and the former weaving machine builders began building motorcycles.

The first models, presented in 1952 were pure motorized bicycles. The first model was power free, a 36cc two-stroker, quickly followed by the 60 cc Diamond Free. The success on the racing trails of mount Fuji gave the Diamond Free great publicity and Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company piles of orders of the Diamond Free. Up to 6,000 units a month were made of the successful cyclomotor. The Diamond Free was such a great success for the loom manufacturer that the company decided to concentrate on designing and building high quality motorcycles. Because of the huge success Suzuki decided to concentrate on motorcycles and changed the name from Suzuki Jidosha Kogyo (SJK) to SUZUKI MOTOR COMPANY in 1954. Despite of this they still didn’t sell their bikes as Suzuki, On the engine you could see SJK and the different product lines had different names.
When the cyclomotor boom was over Suzuki went into producing bigger motorcycles, The first motorcycle model was probably MINI FREE but it is still very much of a bicycle.


This was again quickly followed by PORTER FREE in 1956.



The already in 1954 Suzuki had introduced the COLLEDA bikes the first model called CO, a 90cc four stroke. This bike won the FUJI race in its class, and this strengthen the sale. Remember that 90 cc four stroke still didn’t require a driving license to ride.





In 1955 Suzuki was the 8th biggest manufacturer among 200!!! In 1956 it was up to 5th. It wasn’t until 1958 that Suzuki started to use SUZUKI as its brand name and the characteristic

Suzuki as well as Honda had the same idea that by generating high incomes from making simple bikes in huge amounts the income stream should be used to develop cutting edge products for further grow.

The Colleda 250 TT would be a very nice example of the later. In 1956 it had 16hp against Honda’s ME 14 hp and Yamaha YD-1 14,5 hp. Tight competition.



Suzuki developed still in 1959 a two cylinder 125 cc with electric start, the first electric start on a Japanese bike. They named it Colleda Seltwin and the two stroke 123 cc engine developed 10 hp at 8000rpm. Maximum speed was 110 km.



Then in 1963 Suzuki became Suzuki and in the 1964 product line all bikes were called SUZUKI. The bikes were still the refreshed Colledas but now carried the SUZUZKI logo. The 250 twin was called T-10 and next year it cganged totally when Suzuki presented the T-20 a revolutionary bike. Imagine in 1965 a 6-speed gearbox, oil-injection no need to mix oil and gasoline anymore, 29 hp at 7,500 rpm, power figures same as a 500 TT100 Triumph at that time. The weight was only 135 kg a, the brakes were big, handling good and the styling and finish was superb. The bike was sold for many years and was called T20 in Europe and X6 or HUSTLER in US.



Suzuki also introduced a Scrambler version in 1967



Then in 1968 SUZUKI introduced the T500 also called COBRA and TITAN. The bike’s weight was 187 kg and the 500 cc engine delivered a huge 46 hp at 7000 rpm. The bike had a 5-speed gear box probably SUZUKI thought that it doesn’t need a sixth gear.



Then in 1969 SUZUKI presented a beautiful 125cc twin. It had15 hp at 8.500 rpm, 5 speed gearbox, it’s weight was 96 kg and it had upswept pipes. A real beauty.



When the century changed Suzuki tried to conquer the world with pure two-stroke, air cold bikes while it’s main competitors already had turned into 4-stroke technology. In US they had this product line:



But then things start to happen, but not in the way you would imagine. Suzuki continued to trust 2-troke technology. In 1971 they presented the mighty GT-750. It was provided with a rubber mounted 3-cylinder in line water cooled 2-stroke engine providing 67 hp at 6500 rpm. The dry weight was 214 kg. The bike became quickly nicknamed the “WATER BUFFALO”. It was produced up to 1977 with minor changes, the biggest being changing the front drum brake to double discs in 1973.



In 1972 SUZUKI presented the new GT550 and the smaller GT380. Both had cooling provided by a “RAM AIR SYSTEM” which was aluminum scoop who collected the cooling air more efficiently. Both bikes were 2-stroke twins, the 550 provided 50 hp at 6500 rpm, the 380 38 at 7500 rpm. The first year the GT380 still had front drum brake.


Then in 1975 Suzuki made it’s last effort to avoid 4-stroke technology. They introduced the SUZUKI RE5 ROTARY wankel. I think it was the worlds first mass produced wankel motorcycle (maybe Hercules introduced their bike before). The bike was 229 kg heavy and had a 497 cc NSU patented water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary with 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm. The model was a technical and economical failure. I haven’t heard about any engines that have done more than 5000 km before they have to open the engine. Suzuki kept it in the program for two more years but I don’t think they were able to sell anything, it was well known that it was a problem bike. I have some friends in Finland who owns Suzuki Wankels, but they don’t have the bikes for riding only for shows. The Wankel is a very expensive collectors item today.

But then in 1976 SUZUKI had to join the “4-stroke band wagon”. They developed the GS750 a DOHC 8 valve engine. Probably it was a in house development. Suzuki had experience from car engines so maybe they got the know how from there. It was actually 20 years since Suzuki last manufactured a 4-stroke motorcycle. I’ve never heard that it would be copied from something. The engine developed 72 hp at 8500 rpm and the bike was quite heavy 223 kg dry.

SUZUKI GS750 1976.

Two years later Suzuki presented a 1000cc version in order to compete with Kawasaki. It’s weight was 233 kg dry, the 997 cc engine developed 87 hp/8000 rpm


SUZUKI GS1000 1978
Then Suzuki went into the next technology phase, They developed in 1979, the same time as Honda a inline 4 cylinder DOCH 16 valve engine. The engine was still aircooled and it produced 100-105 hp at 8.700 rpm depending on which country. The weight was 243 dry.


SUZUKI GSX 1100 1979.

But SUZUKI didn’t abandon the 2-valve technology. They developed in 1979 a sport model of the GS1000E and called it GS1000S. It was damned fast but it was also a beautiful bike painted in blue/white. It is a collector item today.



And then it is KATANA time. In 1981 SUZUKI introduced the GSX 1100KATANA S. The layout design of the bike was outsourced to a German guy, I remember that he was still a student studying industrial design. He had done some futuristic drawings of future bikes which were published in the German magazine Das Motorrad and the Suzuki people liked them. The engine was upgraded with a combined oil and air cooling and the engine now developed 111 hp at 8.500 rpm. The bike became tremendous popular and is a ICON today. The Katana design was also reflected on the whole Suzuki product range and still nowadays Suzuki takes up the Katana koncept in their products.



Suzuki lso joined the Turbo boom in the early 1980’s. Since the rest of the “BIG FOURS’ made turbo bikes so will Suzuki. They put a turbo in their modified 650 cc inline four, changed it to oil/air cooling and attached a Turbo to the engine which after this delivered a quite mediocre 85 hp at 7.5000 rpm. Since the bike weighed 225 kg there was no “turbo’ feeling. Suzuki did the same mistake as all the other manufacturers, they kept the Turbo pressure to low. The bike flopped.



I should stop the product presentation at this stage but I will take one more bike on presentation because it is High Tech and it symbolizes Suzuki’s trust in two stroke engines.

The RG 500 was introduced at the IFMA show in Cologne in 1984 (I was there) It was a civil copy of their famous racing bike with which they have won 6 MOTO GP/500cc world champions ship starting 1976 and 1977 with Nr 7, Barry Sheene, followed by Luchinelli and Uncini and then the Americans took two titles first with Kewin Schwantz and the last one in 2000 with Kenny Roberts Jr.

The RG500 Gamma was the closest thing you could get a real GP machine back in the 1980's. It had a water cooled square-four engine and all the latest two-stroke technology thus creating 96hp at 9.500 rpm. The engine had four rotary disc valves. Just to make you understand how close the bike was to the racing version Barry Sheene’s world champion ship bike had 105-114 hp.The chassis was top spec for its time with an aluminum box frame and Suzuki Full-Floater rear suspension. The whole bike weighted 156 kg street legal!!!!





I am aware of that many Suzuki models are left out from this chapter, There is nothing about the successful RM-line, nothing about the DR:s. nothing about Suzukis4-stroke twins etc. Maybe next time….


New riders of motorcycles are familiar with the current models but may not be aware of the history of a given motorcycle manufacturer. Someone unfamiliar with motorcycles associates the name Yamaha with musical instruments.
Probably Yamaha, born in 1851 and died in 1916, ever saw a motorcycle or anything powered by an internal combustion engine for that matter. Yamaha was a clockmaker and self employed engineer. He was asked to repair a school organ that led to the creation of a new company, Nippon Gakki, which used as its logo three crossed tuning forks. This new company was the forbearer of the huge musical instrument company Yamaha. Many motorcyclist don’t know what the logo on the tank represent.



During the World War II, the company set up a factory to produce airplane propellers. This plant played an important role in Yamaha's entry to the motorcycle industry as you will see.

After the war, Yamaha Corporation had to find new ways to use the tooling and experience that had been accumulated during their times in the airplane industry, and it was then when Yamaha Motor Corporation was founded.

It's important to mention that even though this new company was just another branch of Nippon Gakki Corporation, it was placed under an independent management. In this case, under the guidance of Ginichi Kawakami; which turned out to be a brilliant move.
Before producing their first motorcycle, Ginichi Kawakami traveled a lot establishing what would be very useful relationships. He also sent out his engineers to Europe and had them learn how to build motorcycles, particularly from DKW; with whom they kept an underground and unofficial long lasting relationship.

One proof of this is that nowadays, the only two manufacturers in the world of mass-produced five side-valve engines are Yamaha and Audi former IFA/DKW/Auto Union.

Ginichi Kawakami had a special message for all employees: "If you are going to do something, be the best"

In 1951 motorcycle division inside the Nippon Gakki Corporation was extracted and the YAMAHA MOTOR CORPORATION was established.

The management decided to call the new company Yamaha after its founder. Since the motorcycle industry was juvenile in Japan, the engineers turned to the European market for ideas and chose DKW (as many other manufacturers did) as its basis for design. Yamaha began to see increased consumer sales due to successful racing in Japan and Europe and were the first Japanese manufacturer to race in North America.

One of the most important legacies from this international relationships were all the skills learnt by Yamaha's engineers on two stroke engines know-how. Other manufacturers as Suzuki would not reach the same level of development in this area till seven years later.

Not to wonder why the first bike from Yamaha Motorcycles the 125 YA-1 was fairly a faithful copy of the 1949 DKW RT 12. The only two important differences were the four speed gearbox instead of the original three speed gearbox, and a gear transmission replacing the primary chain drive. But this subject have been handled already.


When we left Yamaha in the two stroke chapter they had successfully copied the Adler Twin and started to develop their own YDS-line. It started with the YDS-1 and that line continued into the YDS-7 in 1981. At the same time they developed a 350 cc bike called R1 in 1967. The 250 bikes were sometimes called DS-7 etc leaving the Y away. Later the bikes became RD250/350’s and when they became water cooled they got a prefix LC. In the US the bikes was later called RZ. Anyhow, it is all the same old good bikes copied from the German Adler Twin but modified and improved in hundreds of ways.
Then some “sweet” for your eyes:






YAMAHA R5 350cc 1972





But Yamaha also had many other two strokes for the export market. One of the first on the US-market was the old “DKW” in a little updated version.

YAMAHA YA-3 1960.


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Nov 7, 2005

Another, maybe more important were the DT-series, which helped introduce on/off road biking in the US together with HODAKA. Here is a 250 cc of the DT-Series.


YAMAHA DT-1 1968


Yamaha XS 650 was launched in 1968 it had one of the most advanced engines in its class of large parallel twin bikes. The engine and gearbox are unit construction with the crankcase split horizontally for ease of assembly. The XS 650s valves are operated by a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) whereas almost all its competitors have pushrod valves. The origin of the engine was, as already told, the HOSK/SHOWA/YAMAHA merger.

The Yamaha XS 650 was produced until 1985. Over a quarter million XS650’s in almost 40 different variations were produced by Yamaha between 1969 and 1985. The XS650 big twin is a cult bike all over the world. The engine is close to indestructible and it is by far the best parallel twin ever bu





After the XS 650 Yamaha tried desperately to come up with a four stroke bike that could compete with the Honda CB750 Four, Kawasaki’s Z1 and Suzukis’ GT 750. The answer was the TX750,Yamaha wanted to continue the success with the XS650 motorcycle and create its own line of modern powerful 4-stroke twin motorcycles.

So the initial plan was to make a series of twin cylinder 4-stroke TX machines, first the TX750, to be followed by TX500 and TX350. Yamaha’s engineers were asked to use all their imagination and experience into developing this Bike.

The result was the TX750 which had plenty of new thinking. It had a very advanced Omni-Phase balancer system, a ventilation system for the crank case, where fumes were re-directed to the air filter box (today all bikes have it). The TX750 also had valve seats made for use with lead-free petrol probably the first motor bike ready for the post lead era. The engine was an OHC 2 valve 4-stroke.The bike had light-alloy wheel rims and double front disc brakes.

The bike looked great and they sent 4 prototypes to Europe in the Autumn 1972 for further tests. One of the test riders were Mr. Ernst “Klacks” Leverkus the Editor of “Das Motorrad”, at that time by far, the most professional and influential motorcycle magazine in Europe.

He test around the alps went well. No technical problem, but the only problem was the terrible weather, rain and snow in the alps.

Next spring the TX750 in 1973, was for sale all over Europe and it sold well. The bike looked great, the technical figures were ok etc. Then came the summer and more warm weather.

The TX750 started to get severe problems when driving in warm climate. The reason to this was quickly allocated to the fact that when the oil returned after lubricating the engine it was not oil any more it was oil foam. Yamaha tried desperately to fix the problem, all bikes were supplied with a Locheed oil cooler and some ugly looking, thick connecting oil pipes partly hiding the engine behind them and at a later stage a new oil pan, increasing the total oil volume to close to six liters. But nothing really helped. The engine failures continued. At least in Finland, Yamaha went so far as sending complete new upgraded engines to replace the old ones but too late, the bike’s reputation was gone forever. Actually this was the first factory recall in Motorcycle History. Before consumers were not so upset when bikes like Royal Enfield Interceptor needed engine overhaul before 5000 km…..


So the Yamaha strategy with the TX product line backfired. TX750 was withdrawn from the market TX350 never made it to the market but I think that the TX500 stayed since I have even seen one here in Pattaya.



Back to the drawing board. Now Yamaha started to create the triple XS-line with shaft drive. The triple XS-line was produced between 1976-1981. The engine was a 120 degrees triple with DOHC and 2 valves per cylinder. The gear box was a 5 speed. The bike had double discs in the front and one in the rear. The first model was a 750cc and later it was upgraded to 850. Several “special models’ were created which meant that it was “factory customized” The first model had a 3-1 exhaust systems later models 3-2 exhaust system. The bike was not especially reliable and Yamaha changed the carburetor system, the triple contact breaker points system with an electronic system, the separate rectifier/regulator system with a modern one etc….At the end of the day the 850 cc was a very reliable machine despite being regarded as a little dull.



Then Yamaha tried to upgrade the XS-line by introducing in 1978 the 4-cylinder 1100cc XS often called XS Eleven, by that time the biggest Japanese motorcycle. The engine was used in several drag racing projects. The bike as such was a quite good touring bike with poor handling and plenty of power.The engine was a four stroke, in line four cylinder, DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder delivering 95 hp/8500 rpm. Despite being a heavy touring bike it was able to make the standing ¼ Mile in 11.7 sec / 114.2 mp/h 183.8 km/h. Not so bad at that time.

Yamaha did some “Custom version” of this bike. The first was the XS1100 Special renamed Maxim Special next year and the came the legendary XS1100 Midnight Special a beauty painted in all black, with black chrome exhaust etc and everything embodied with gold plated items. Later Yamaha used the Midnight Special name on many different models, both on the smaller XS bikes and later on the V-twin series XV, the father of the Virago range.





Probably Yamaha understood that they cannot compete with Honda and Kawasaki with their XS four stroke line so they started to develop the XJ-line.

The XJ-line was sold between 1980-1985 with rather small modifications. The cc range was 650, 700 to 750. The 700 were made for the US-market to avoid the 70% Harley Protection Tax for over 700cc foreign motorcycles, introduced by the free market advocate Ronald Reagan….The engine was an air cooled, 4-cylinder DOHC 8 valve with (from 1982 and on) Yamaha’s patented YICS ( Yamaha Induction Control System) which is basically a vacuum balancing system in the intake manifold which should increase power and decrease emission. Gearboxes were 5-speeded and end transmission was shaft.

The bikes were named SEGA and MAXIM in most markets and there were customized versions as well as one Turbo version.

In 1982 an upgraded XJ-model, the XJ-900 was presented. The engine had the same configuration DOHC inline air cooled four developing 97/98 hp at 9500/9000 rpm ( depending on model year). The XJ900 was a long lasting bestseller selling until 1994. The XJ-range also gave birth to the chain driven XJ 400/600’s and further on the 600/900 Diversions as well as the XJR 1200/1300. Below you can see one of the first XJ650 and a 1984 XJ900.





Yamaha probably didn’t really trust that their product line was good enough to compete with Honda so they started to develop the FJ-series and the first FJ-1100 was on the market in 1974, The FJ-1100 was followed by a FJ-1200 in 1986. The FJ1200 was manufactured until 1996, the last 4 years with ABS, The engine was again a air cooled in line four, DOHC 16 valve engine. Power produced was 125 hp (1100cc) and 130 (1200 cc) at 9000 rpm. It was a SPORT TOURING BIKE and was very reliable and fast enough. Today it’s heritage is taken care by the FJR-1300 also here in Thailand.



There are two others model that must be presented here, one because it is an old classic the other one because by this Yamaha introduced something that was really new for the motorcycle market.
The Classic one is of course YAMAHA VEEMAX. Developed in 1984 when Yamaha’s Gold Wing competitor the Yamaha Venture became a floppy and the factory was seized with expensive tooling and high over head costs the factory started to think what they can do with the heavy V4 engine. Somebody came up with the idea to make a “muscle bike” as the American make their “muscle cars”. Handling not so important only many horses and fast acceleration accepted. The idea was accepted and the VEEMAX was born 145 hp in a chassis good for maybe 50…The management thought that maybe they can sell it for a few years thus recovering some of the expenses for developing the engine. They sold it almost unchanged for twenty years and the story continues now with the new 2009 VEEMAX. Sometimes product development is not always the result of hard work, sometimes it is luck…



The technical innovation I like to present here is Yamaha’s patented five valve techniques first presented in 1975 on the FZ750.



Let us end this chapter in the same way as we ended the Suzuki chapter, with a 2-stroke 4-cylinder, the Yamaha RD/RZ 500 LC.

The bike was sold between 1984-1986. It was a V4 500 direct from the racing circuits. It provided 88hp at 9.500 rpm. It was a low compression engine only 6,6-1. It was membrane valve inducted and it used a lot of gasoline so it was good that the tank took 22 liters. The gear box was six speed, and the bike had to be kick started. It was called RD in Europe and RZ in US.





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Nov 7, 2005
Before I forgot to put the Bridgestone pictures in the post, now I have done it, if somebody like to see the most beautiful and best Two Strokers ever built


Nov 7, 2005


SOICHIRO HONDA was a true maverick in a very conservative and on traditions ruled country, Such a person was not supposed to succeed in Japan but Soichiro Honda did. In 11 years he created from scratch the biggest motorcycle company in the world and 30 years later his company was the second biggest car manufacturer in Japan and the fifth biggest in the world,

He started from nothing no money, no education only a intensive desire to fulfill his dreams, Luckily he got a partner TAKEO FUJISAWA, an old friend and a man with his feet steadily on the floor. He took care of the daily business while Soichiro Honda devoted his time to product development and expansion.. Soichiro Honda even told reporters in the later years that he don’t even have company stamp, which was a sign of your position in the company in Japan at that time. And many were those time that Fujisawa had to save the company from bankruptcy, when Soichiro Honda’s ambitious technical adventures combined with optimistic marketing plans, all based on pure enthusiasm, hade their creditors upset. Soichiro Honda was the one who kept Honda growing, both technically and on the market, Fujisawa kept Honda alive. They were ideal partners.

Soichiros father was a blacksmith and he run a small bicycle repair shop. Soichiro was born on November 17, 1906, in Hammamatsu , Japan (there are many different born places mentioned but they are all around the city of Hammamatsu). He graduated from the Futamata Senior Elementary School 1922. Being very interested in engines he started to work in Tokyo at a garage called Art Shokai. I think, but I am not sure that this ART is the birth place of the ART piston company also.

Initially he had work with simple tasks like baby sitter, but the more he learnt and the more the management saw him work he became a trusted mechanic. He liked to work on a racing car, Art Daimler, a racing vehicle using a Curtiss aircraft engine and an American Mitchell chassis. This was an experience he could use later in his life. When the car raced for the first time at Tsurumi, and won the Chairman's Trophy, the young man riding alongside as mechanic was Soichiro Honda. He was 17 years old. A few years later Soichiro Honda made a terrible crash with a similar air craft engine car and was lucky not to die. His brother got seriously hurt in the same crash,

As Soichiros reputation grew Tokyo affluent customers brought in their Mercedes, Lincolns and Daimlers, for service and Soichiro memorized all technical solutions of the world’s best cars.

After 6 years in Tokyo Soichiro returned home and was allowed to establish his own ART Shokai garage in Hamamatsu, a honor not given to many, Probably it was some kind of franchisee agreement.

His reputation grew quickly in Hamamatsu and he was nicknamed Edison of Hamamatsu. His employees in the Art Shokai shop soon quickly understood that sloppy workmanship and poor performance would not be tolerated, but since Honda's garage’s tools were already antic this did not always encourage loyalty but those who stayed recognized his total determination to succeed and to establish a business second to none.



According to some sources Soichiro Honda established at the same time, or a little later depending on the sources, the Tokai Seiki Company which manufactured piston rings, among others to Toyota. The technology Honda developed when studying part time at Hammamatsu Industrial Institute. The move was not liked by his investors since the Art Shokai business was highly profitable. A little later 1937 he handed over the running of the ART Shokai to his trainees and joined Tokai Seiki as president.

At the height of its history the Tokai Seiki Company employed 2000 workers. Then came the war and Honda was forced to sell 40% of his business to Toyota and he was down graded to factory manager. Now he had to learn how to run a factory with totally unskilled women as workers, a lesson with made him a strong advocate of automatization and training of the work force.

An funny episode during the war is that on the request of Mr. Kaichi Kawakami, President of Nippon Gakki (nowadays Yamaha), Honda also invented an automatic milling machine for wooden aircraft propellers that Yamaha needed. Kawakami was very impressed with Mr. Honda’s result: previously it took a week to make a single propeller by hand, but now it was possible to make two every thirty minutes.

In 1945 most of Takai Seiki's manufacturing facilities were destroyed by air raids and an earthquake.

So Soichiro Honda came out from WW2 with out any money just good ideas.

One good idea was to put the Japanese workers on wheels and the cheapest way was to put an engine on a bicycle, And that was what Honda did, even before he established the company. You can see this from the Motorized Bicycles chapter before.

On September 24, 1948 Soichiro Honda founded the Honda Motor Co., Ltd. It had a capital of 1 million Yen. There were 34 employees including the President Soichiro Honda.

Several times Honda Motor Co. sailed close to the rocks in the years that followed. Honda was a gambler and Fujisawa knew that expansion would only be possible with risk. Growth at one stage was unprecedented, until the purchase of state-of-the-art machinery in the early Fifties led them perilously close to bankruptcy. Honda stated that "Without Fujisawa, we would have gone bust a long time ago" while Fujisawa stated that "Without Honda, we would have never become this big.

Encouraged by his early success, in 1948 with motorized bicycles he had established the Honda Motor Company. The following year Honda manufactured a small motorcycle called the "Dream D" and prepared to enter the highly competitive Japanese market, which he did through effective advertising. Within a decade Honda was the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world and had a larger share of the American car market than Toyota and Nissan (with its Datsun cars) had in automobiles.

Now Soichiro Honda attracted press attention, and, unlike most Japanese businessmen, he loved it. A small but talkative man, he was the opposite of what westerners imagined Japanese businessmen to be. For example, he promoted executives on the basis of performance rather than age, an unusual practice at large Japanese firms. Honda continued racing autos and motorcycles, dressed casually, and took pride in maintaining his independence from the Japanese business establishment. In addition, Honda openly voiced his admiration of American business practices and way of life.

By this time is the powerful Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) was very much acting as a cartel protector and their ambition was to protect the existing car manufacturers mainly Toyota and Nissan. They didn’t want any new local small scale competition,. but instead they were trying to unite the smaller existing companies into a third large car company , big enough to become global. So when Soichiro Honda applied for a license to manufacture cars they discouraged Honda from entering the car market. Anyhow Soichiro Honda succeeded to get the license by promising to start the manufacture of only small sports cars, starting with the prototype S360 and the first production car S500, followed by the S600 and S800. Actually Honda started what Mazda nowadays quite successfully continues with their M5 sports car. and Honda has reentered the market with their S2000. The S500 went into production in October 1963.

The 500s was introduced with a 492cc engine, the specifications read like those from a Formula 1 race car; double overhead camshafts, four carburetors, a needle roller bearing crankshaft, and a 9,500 rpm redline. The car produced 44 horsepower at 8,000 rpm from its later, production displacement of 531cc, weighed approximately 1,500 pounds, and could achieve a top speed of 80 miles per hour.

It had a four speed gear box (with synchromesh on the top three gears) Final drive was by oil bath chains to the rear wheels. It had a four wheel independent suspension system with torsion bars in the front, and diagonally attaching coil-over-shock strut units to the rear of each chain case. A fiberglass hardtop was offered as an optional accessory. There were 1,363 units S500s produced between October 1963 and September 1964 (136 in 1963, and 1,227 in 1964), when it was replaced by the larger-engine S600 and later S800. The last model; S800 had the same engine type but it was now a 791 cc producing 70 hp and the engine could be tuned up to 100 hp for racing.

Just to give you an idea how advanced it was we must remember that the highlight of the Honda was its engine, all-aluminum, 4-cylinder, twin-cam, cross-flow cylinder head and 4 carburetors. It was the most technological advanced engine people could imagine at that time ! In contrast, most British sports cars still employed cast iron engine with push-rod head and one carburetor or double carburetor solutions. The English. competitors MG Midget, and the Triumph Spitfire were far behind in technology. Actually the Honda was often compared to the legendary Lotus Elan and Ferrari. No wonder Honda could enter F1 racing in 1964.

In 1968 I worked for the Honda importer in Finland as a mechanic and in their garage were one S600 and one S800, which we “raced” inside the warehouse and the backyard when working over time. Great fun. and we were never caught.

Today the S500,S600 and S800 are on high demand as collectors item.. The S500 was manufactured between 1963-1964 and 1.363 units was sold. The S600 was manufactured 13.084 units between 1964-1966 and the S800 followed between 1966-1970 with its 11.535 units.



At this time there was a small “friction” inside the Honda Company between Soichiro Honda who wanted to make highly technical sport cars and mr Takeo Fujisawa who thought that Honda should concentrate on small utility cars for the local market.

Fortunately for Honda, his loyal friend and business partner, Takeo Fujisawa, convinced him that a second, more sellable car built alongside the roadster might be a good idea. Like partners in a buddy cop movie, Honda dreamed big and chased new technologies, while the pragmatic Fujisawa planned, strategize and ran the more mundane aspects of the company. Each man capitalized on his own skills, and Fujisawa's methodic research of the market pointed him in the direction of a small commercial pickup.

Mr Fujisawa won this internal battle since the utility Honda, the T360 was sold between 1963-1967 108,620 units. It used a used a small 4-stroke, OHC, air cooled 356 cc twin engine. This engine generated 30 hp (22 kW) at 8500 rpm, reflecting Honda's motorcycle heritage. The T360 was produced as a conventional rear wheel drive pickup truck, a flatbed (the T360F), flatbed with folding sides (the T360H), and as a covered van (the T360V).

The similar T500 used a 38 hp (28 kW) 531 cc version of the engine, exempting it from the Kei car class. 10,226 T500s were built from 1964 through 1967.



The T360/500 was developed for the very bad roads in Japan at that time. Since snowy roads were a big problem in North Japan they also delivered a special snow model:


Then Honda started to manufacture small sedan cars with the same air cooled twin engine the N360/600 series. The N600 was exported all over the world and I was lucky to own one N600 in the early 1970’s. Actually to drive the car was like driving a bike on 4 wheels. The engine needed high revs, it was very noisy inside the cabin because of the air cooled engine, but it handled well and was faster than most, more big cars at the red lights.

The N600 was developed as Z600 for the American market. The car targeted the young people and especially those families where the bill was paid by the father. It was very cheap and it was quick because of the light weight and a motorcycle like engine. In the US it was advertised like this:

And as you can see from the pictures below the engine was very much motorcycle like:



Thus in 1967 the Car Honda product line in Japan was like this:






But Soichiro Honda wanted more, so a bigger Honda Sedan, named H1300 was developed, first like a 2doors version, later as a 3 doors Hatchback and still later as a 5 doors model. Later it was called. Honda Civic. It was first developed as H1300 and there is a huge story behind this car which also reflect the changes that happened at Honda company at that time.

Soichiro Honda was still very active at this time. He wanted a high tech car that compete with Toyota Corolla and Nissan/Datsun Bluebird and he wanted the car to be by far better. He spent most of his time at the RD-center causing problems between his younger engineers. Soichiro Honda, then the president of Honda, was a veritable fountain of ideas, issuing his instructions for one design change after another He interrupted his younger engineers by introducing modifications to the car at any stage of the development. In this way he caused big problems for the engineers at the Suzuka factory where the product line was set up.
But the biggest problem was caused by Mr Soichiro Honda demanding that the engines must be Air Cooled. (Don’t ask me why the S-series were already water cooled). His argument was that:

"Since water-cooled engines eventually use air to cool the water, we can implement air cooling from the very beginning," His R.D. team on the other side wanted that this new car has a water cooled engine but Soichiro Honda’s word was impossible to test, Anyhow the engineers continued the work on a water cooled engine version, without Soichiro Honda knowing it.

Soichiro Honda started to be such a big problem when developing the car that was about to come the CIVIC and that was the car that conquered the America market.. The first step was that the R.D department put up a special front desk, where Soichiro Honda could leave his proposals which were then monitored by a team of senior engineers. MrSugiura. In charge of R&D at Honda had to tell Mr. Honda with a tone of diplomacy, "please do not relate your ideas directly to the engineers, since it only confuses them. Please submit them to the special desk instead."

Assigned to this desk position was Yukiteru Mori, a senior research engineer whom the other engineers regarded as a "big brother." Mori's job was to listen to Mr. Honda's ideas and determine whether they should be accepted. In order for the engineers to concentrate fully on each design change-a process that required adjustments to engineering specifications used in mass production-Mori would prioritize Mr. Honda's various ideas before handing them over to the engineers.

The H1300 project, with its constant design changes, was far from exemplary in terms of development. Taking into account the huge Honda plans to manufacture a broad range of cars it was not possible for a single genius (Soichiro Honda) to run the entire operation. Instead, a team approach was required. If there were ten people on a team, each of them had to work together for the resolution of problems.

The younger engineers had several meetings where they tried to solve the problems caused by Soichiro Honda. The purpose of the gatherings as R&D boss, Sugiura said, was to "find ways of urging the Old Man to rethink his direction." The company's all-out effort had produced a new, air-cooled engine, but the unit's weight was a problem.

The research engineers, already inundated with work as the Suzuka Plant's mass-production date drew near, now had to cope with the endless design changes that came in throughout each day. Working from morning to midnight, they were forced to their limits, both physically and mentally.

Kawashima, having learned a bitter lesson from the H1300 experience, then proposed the establishment of a development system and structural reforms for the R&D Center.Mr. Kume later Ceo of Honda took the lead in designing the framework, the elements of which were as follows:

1, The simultaneous, competitive development of different models, along with the separation of D-development and R-research, including research of technologies previously unknown

2, Promote participation of "sales" and "manufacturing" departments in the process from the start of development.

3,Set "objectives and target requirements" for each product development.

4,Establish a team-based promotional system.

5.Implement S•E•D evaluation at each stage of development.

6.Implement engineering evaluations as supply-monetary assessments.

The H1300 provided the shock needed to change Honda s operating structure. Under the new system, Honda introduced the water-cooled Life and Civic models as its new mini automobile and small passenger cars. "All that pain we experienced is now a pleasant memory. The experience provided us with the ultimate learning ground for automotive development

Those involved in the H1300 project agree unanimously. The pain indeed contributed much to the development of Honda's subsequent, highly successful automobile models.

The Civic project also changed to Honda Factory from being an one mans show motorcycle company into becoming a creditable car manufacturer.

The research engineers, already inundated with work as the Suzuka Plant's mass-production date drew near, now had to cope with the endless design changes that came in throughout each day. Working from morning to midnight, they were forced to their limits, both physically and mentally.

Hideo Sugiura, then head of R&D center was no longer able to remain indifferent to his engineers' ordeal, set up a special desk in the Design Room. "Mr. Honda," he said with a tone of diplomacy, "please do not relate your ideas directly to the engineers, since it only confuses them. Please submit them to the special desk instead."

Hideo Sugiura, looked back upon the sentiment of the time: "We had a powerful company founder, who was on top of the engineering operation. He also had expertise, which he had acquired through a string of enormous successes. Having such a leader, the sentiment in the company was that we had to see it all the way through, regardless of where the road might take us. There was to be no surrender. We could not give up halfway."

"Streamlining the bulky construction of the air-cooled engine, and giving it the quietness of a water-cooled engine, will create the ideal power plant...." With that concept in mind, the research engineers worked tirelessly to achieve their ideal. It was from this grueling process of trial and error that the DDAC (Duo Dyna Air Cooling) integrated dual air-cooled engine was achieved. The initial prototype was completed in July 1968, after which dynamic performance testing, temperature measurements and other basic evaluations were conducted.

As most of you probably know this model is together with Toyota Corolla the longest lasted model line in car industry. You probably also know that it was with this car with the CVVC engine that Honda conquered the American market

Before 1973, Honda was a company known for its motorcycles. Okay the tiny two-cylinder 600cc cars were known but they were actually motorcycles on 4 wheels. This changed when the Civic debuted 1973.

The Civic offered amazing space inside a car that achieved more than 40 mpg on the highway. It easily accommodated four passengers was quite a feat for a car that possessed such diminutive dimensions as an 86.6-inch wheelbase and 139.8-inch overall length. A small transversely mounted engine and front-wheel-drive layout (an arrangement that was something of a novelty to the American car market) and 12-inch wheels maximized interior room. Indeed, early ads for the Civic boasted that it had more passenger room than many larger cars.

Two similar body styles were available, a hatchback and a "sedan." These Civics were identical, even the rear of the cars looked the same, except that one had a hatchback and the other had a small vertical panel that opened to allow access to the "trunk." The early Civic had a few style quirks, such as turn signal lights that looked as if they were added on after the car was already built and a bulging center divider in the grille. Standard equipment included power front disc brakes, vinyl seating, reclining bucket seats and a wood grain-accented dashboard. The hatchback added a fold-down rear seat, an AM radio and cloth upholstery. Options were minimal, consisting of air conditioning, an automatic transmission, radial tires and a rear wiper for the hatchback.

A 1,169cc (or about 70-cubic-inch) inline four-cylinder engine motivated the first-year Civic and put out 50 horsepower. This was an impressive output when considered in terms of power per unit of displacement: The Civic had 0.71 horsepower per cubic inch. And with a weight of only around 1,500 pounds, a whole lot of power wasn't needed to propel the Civic. Transmissions offered included a four-speed manual or a two-speed "Hondamatic" automatic gearbox. An all-independent suspension made the Civic an agile econobox that could run circles around American-built competitors like the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega.

The Civic's base price was around $2,200 in US and Honda's early slogan, "It will get you where you're going," emphasized the practical and economical mission of the Civic and made no pretenses otherwise.

For 1974, the Civic's engine size grew slightly, to 1,237 cc and power went up to 52 horsepower. In order to meet the new 5-mph bumper impact standard, the Civic's bumpers grew, as did its overall length, which was now 146.9 inches.

The CVCC (or Controlled Vortex Combustion Chamber) engine debuted in 1974/1975. Offered alongside the standard Civic engine, the 53-horsepower CVCC engine displaced 1,488 cc and had a head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion. The CVCC design eliminated a need for a catalytic converter or unleaded fuel to meet emissions standards. (Nearly every other U.S. market car for this year underwent the change to exhaust catalysts and the requirement to use only unleaded fuel.) Due to California's stricter emissions standards, only the Civic CVCC was available in that state. A five-speed manual gearbox became available this year, as did a Civic station wagon (only with the CVCC engine), which had a wheelbase of 89.9 inches and an overall length of 160 inches. Civic sales topped 100,000 units for this year.

Honda had introduced the Civic to the American market first time in 1972. It got thirty-nine miles per gallon (mpg) on the road and twenty-seven mpg in city driving, remarkably efficient for an automobile. The popularity of the Civic rose throughout the 1970s, and in 1980 Honda sold 375,000 cars in the American market—almost three times as many as Subaru and twice as many as Mazda, but still behind Toyota and Nissan. The reasons for this success were obvious: Honda combined high quality with efficiency and economy. But his small cars still appealed to a limited market.

When the Civic, became equipped with a CVCC engine in full compliance with the Air Pollution Control Act, it drew the world's attention to Honda's superior engineering.

The Civic CVCC, launched in the United States in 1974, was instrumental in cementing Honda’s reputation overseas. Initially, practically all manufacturers regarded the U.S. Clean Air Act*2 restrictions as impossible to meet. In 1972, however, a new Civic equipped with a CVCC engine became the first model in the world to officially qualify under the new standards. Honda, a latecomer to the automobile market, saw the legislation as a golden opportunity, not only to protect the environment and otherwise fulfill its social commitment but also to join the leaders in the front line of technology. The Company instantly took on the challenge with conviction.

U.S. Clean Air Act In 1970, the so-called “Muskie Law,” an amendment to the U.S. Clean Air Act, was passed. Under the new law, the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide levels in emissions of 1975- and 1976-model vehicles had to be at least 90% lower than for 1970 and 1971 models. At the time, these were the most stringent emission standards in the world.

Since first entering the Isle of Man TT races in 1954, Honda had used the racetrack as a testing ground, making excellent technological progress in the areas of speed and durability, as well as maximizing safety. The Company also learned much about setting and meeting difficult goals through its racing activities, and soon fully mastered the principles of engine combustion. Indeed, the renowned CVCC engine was the result of product development conducted through Honda’s racing activities.

The CVCC engine won acclaim not only for its clean emissions but also for its excellent fuel efficiency, and Honda later even offered its technologies to other companies. In subsequent tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CVCC received the No. 1 fuel efficiency ranking for four consecutive years. In addition to meeting stringent emission standards, therefore, the Civic CVCC delivered superior economy and performance, thus strengthening Honda’s reputation for technological excellence in the minds of customers.

To this day, Honda has pursued an unwavering policy of meeting social obligations and offering technologies that benefit the world. This policy began with the CVCC engine.

In the early 1970s auto emission standards were being established in North America. American automakers resisted strongly, and complained bitterly that they were being forced to fit expensive catalytic converters and other power-robbing devices to meet these standards.

Honda set to work and came up with a low-pollution engine with three valves per cylinder. They called their system Compound Vortex - Controlled Combustion (CVCC), and when tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1973, it comfortably met all of the pollution standards without a converter or other add-on hardware.

The Civic not only became the foundation for subsequent Honda compact vehicles but has since prevailed through periods of major change, including oil crises and diversifying values. It has become a true “car for the people,” as its name suggests.

When American engineers responded by saying that this was easy to do on a small four-cylinder engine, but not on Detroit’s large power plants, Honda’s engineers went to work again. They quietly took two 5.7 litre Chevrolet V-8s, fitted them with the CVCC system, and proceeded to pass the EPA standards with them. Needless to say there were some red faces around Detroit.

The Civic CVCC, launched in the United States in 1974, was instrumental in cementing Honda’s reputation overseas. Initially, practically all manufacturers regarded the U.S. Clean Air Act*2 restrictions as impossible to meet. In 1972, however, a new Civic equipped with a CVCC engine became the first model in the world to officially qualify under the new standards. Honda, a latecomer to the automobile market, saw the legislation as a golden opportunity, not only to protect the environment and otherwise fulfill its social commitment but also to join the leaders in the front line of technology. The Company instantly took on the challenge with conviction.
U.S. Clean Air Act In 1970, the so-called “Muskie Law,” an amendment to the U.S. Clean Air Act, was passed. Under the new law, the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide levels in emissions of 1975- and 1976-model vehicles had to be at least 90% lower than for 1970 and 1971 models. At the time, these were the most stringent emission standards in the world.

Since first entering the Isle of Man TT races in 1954, Honda had used the racetrack as a testing ground, making excellent technological progress in the areas of speed and durability, as well as maximizing safety. The Company also learned much about setting and meeting difficult goals through its racing activities, and soon fully mastered the principles of engine combustion. Indeed, the renowned CVCC engine was the result of product development conducted through Honda’s racing activities.

The CVCC engine won acclaim not only for its clean emissions but also for its excellent fuel efficiency, and Honda later even offered its technologies to other companies. In subsequent tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CVCC received the No. 1 fuel efficiency ranking for four consecutive years. In addition to meeting stringent emission standards, therefore, the Civic CVCC delivered superior economy and performance, thus strengthening Honda’s reputation for technological excellence in the minds of customers.

To this day, Honda has pursued an unwavering policy of meeting social obligations and offering technologies that benefit the world. This policy began with the CVCC engine.

The Civic not only became the foundation for subsequent Honda compact vehicles but has since prevailed through periods of major change, including oil crises and diversifying values. It has become a true “car for the people,” as its name suggests.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Honda expanded his car company overseas. In 1979 he opened a motorcycle plant near Columbus, Ohio, and an auto plant followed soon after, prompting other Japanese companies to follow his lead. In the late 1970s Toyota and Nissan sold one-third of their cars to the United States, while Honda sold half of his in that market.

Soichiro Honda did not directly supervise these introductions or the development of overseas plants in the United States and Europe. He resigned in 1973, but stayed at the company as "supreme adviser." In 1988 he became the first Japanese carmaker to be inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame. Honda died of liver failure August 5, 1991, in a Tokyo hospital. Honda's rise from humble beginnings to a powerful and influential businessman is one of twentieth century's most inspirational stories.


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Nov 7, 2005

But this is supposed to be a motorcycle thread,. In 1949 Honda produced the first in-house manufactured real motor bike the Model D. There were some employees, who saw the motorbike ridden on a test drive outside the factory and they said “it is like a dream”, thus giving the name DREAM. to the bike.. It had a pressed steel frame and the engine was a 2-stroke, single rotary valve 98cc engine producing 3,4 hp at 4.500 rpm. It had a 2 gear transmission and it could reach 60km/h with the weight being 46 kg.
Soichiro Honda also liked the Dream name.


Hondas first motorcycle was the Honda Dream D presented in 1949
In 1951 Mr. Honda is infuriated by the noise, smell and fumes from the two-stroke motorbikes (including his own) that crowd Japanese city streets. In response, the company creates its first four-stroke motorcycle, the Dream E (146cc).

So Honda’s next model was Honda’s first 4-stroke bike. It had a OHV engine of 146 cc developing 5,4 hp at 5.500 rpm. It still had a Channel pressed steel frame as well as a 2-gear transmission. It became a famous bike because it could clime the Fuji (Hakone) mountains in heavy rains. The top speed was now 75 km/h and the weight 97 kg. It later grew to 220 cc and it had 2 inlet valves with two carburetors

It was March 1951 when SoichiroHonda asked an engineer from Hammamatsu Kiyoshi Kawashima “would you mind coming over for a moment?’ It was the beginning of a two-month stint in the capital as I worked on the design of the E-Type 4-stroke engine in a corner of the Tokyo Plant,” said Kawashima. “When the plans were at last ready the Old Man dashed in to see it, bringing Fujisawa, with him.”

Kawashima can remember clearly that day in May 1951.

“As he showed the plans to Fujisawa, Mr. Honda gave us an enthusiastic commentary: ‘Ah, I see. You have this kind of valve and the cam goes like that. This is what I call an engine, it isn’t just a 2-stroke machine that looks as though it’s been cut from a bamboo tube with holes drilled. This will sell. Honda will do well with this!’ Mr. Fujisawa didn’t have any understanding of the plans, he didn’t know anything about mechanical things at all, so he just said things like ‘Hm, yes, that’s great,’” said Kawashima, laughing.

The bike then passed the now-legendary test crossing of the Hakone Pass on July 15.

In those days the Hakone Pass was considered the ultimate test for a motor vehicle. Even trucks could only get over it if they stopped for a rest every now and then. So it was certainly a challenge for a small 150 cc motorcycle. Kawashima acted as both the engine designer and, on that occasion, as test driver.

“Actually we’d been using the Hakone Pass as a test track for quite some time by then. I was sure we could climb it, but I was pretty nervous because the Old Man and Mr. Fujisawa were coming along as well. If the engine had overheated or something and conked out right in front of Mr. Fujisawa, the Old Man would have suffered a terrible loss of face. That day a typhoon was approaching but history relates that the engine was completely untroubled in the torrential rain and raced up the hill in top gear. I joked to myself that it was lucky there was so much rain and spray, because it meant that the air-cooling worked liked water-cooling and helped keep the temperature down. Although I say that I went up in top gear, there were only two gears, which was just as well,” he said, laughing. “Looking back on it, I think that was a good, plucky little engine”.

According to the legend the 4 stroke Honda motorcycle overtook the Buick that Mr. Honda and Fujisawa were riding in. Kawashima went over first and the three men were reunited at the summit of the pass, where they hugged each other with delight.

“That was a bit of a bad moment”, he laughs. “Although I was wearing a raincoat I was soaked to the skin when I shook hands with them.”

According to Kawashima the Old Man probably wanted to make proper 4-stroke bikes from the very beginning. In those days people’s ideas about 2-stroke engines were rather hazy and since they burn up lubricating oil, which isn’t meant to be burnt, the Old Man probably only tolerated them as a kind of stop-gap at a time when he had no money and inadequate facility,” said Kawashima. “For two decades after the launch in the following year of Cub F-Type (a 2-stroke machine), Honda made only 4-stroke bikes. The E-Type was the first bike the Old Man really enjoyed making.” Kawashima recalls, “On reflection, we realized we had made a mistake in being too unique and we decided to make our bikes more conventional. But since it’s not Honda’s way to revert to old designs, we decided that the point of difference should be the quality of the engine. These were extraordinary bikes in the best sense. They sold well and brought pleasure to both customers and dealers.”
It was at this stage Soichiro Honda came up with the slogan “If You’re Not the No.1 in the World, You Can’t Be No.1 in Japan” in a newsletter to his employees. This slogan in turn was followed by a huge investment in new western manufacturing tools. Mr Honda went on a two months buying spread to the US and Kawashima went to German and Switzerland. This occasion is very well and humoristicly documented in this thread:
http://world.honda.com/history/limitles ... xt/01.html



In 1953 The Benly J (4-stroke, 90cc) is released. At least some of these were sold with “Benly” tank-badges, and carried the Honda name on engine cases only. The Benly series also lasted a long time, and ushered in an era of improved performance. They were immediately popular with Japan’s amateur racers. The engine was a: 90cc OHV engine, 3.8 horsepower, 3 speed transmission, inverted telescopic front suspension, swing arm pivot in unison with the engine. Reverse pivot brake and clutch levers characterize the original attention to design detail as do the highly sculpted swing arm. Designed personally by Mr. Honda in 1952 with no CAD programs, no college educated team of engineers. Mostly pencil, paper, imagination and lot of trial and error. Soichiro is sometimes quoted as saying "success is just what is left over after much failure."

The Benly J was the first motorcycle Honda ever attempted to race. It had its limitations and while it was not fast, it was succesful. The Honda factory still had very limited resources when the Benly J was first released in November of 1953 so production numbers were small.

The slogan “120% Quality” first appeared in an article in the March 1953 issue of Honda Monthly. It was typical of Honda’s style.

“When human beings aim for 100% they will always miss by about 1%. If a customer buys one of our products that fall short by that 1%, it will mean that Honda has sold a product that is 100% defective. To eliminate the possibility of missing by 1%, we should aim for 120% quality.” People who were in the company at that time would get their practical education from Mr. Honda in even more blunt terms.

“The incredible thing about him was the way he put the customer first,” explained Kiyoshi Kawashima., later appointed CEO “Because he always looked at things from the customer’s point of view, he actually became a customer himself. The slogan ‘Aim for 120%’ was so effective because it showed how he saw himself as an angry customer who had suffered because of a 1% failure.”

In August, the Benly J-Type came out. This had an integrated engine and was a full-fledged 4-stroke motorcycle. Because it was conceived as a practical, low-cost and easy-to-use machine it was called “Benly” (from the Japanese word “benri” meaning convenient) to contrast with the “Dream”. It was Honda who christened the new product.



The Honda Benly was further developed. In1957 it was called Honda Benly JC57 it had a 125 cc OHV engine, 3 speed transmission, leading link front suspension, enclosed chain case


Then in 1955 Honda presented the new Honda Dream Sa, with a much bigger chassis together with a 246cc engine providing 10,4 hp at 5.500cc. It had a real swing arm, a 4 gear transmission, 171 kg and a top speed of 100km/h

based on this strategy. Honda had early on equipped its single lowly factory with the very latest equipment and most modern European and American machine tools. Thus the little Hondas, indifferently designed as they were, could be depended upon, and when repairs were needed, spare parts could be guaranteed to fit. Hondas became an instant success

Just to give you an idea about the working conditions at Honda Research I think the story below tells a lot:

I was struck by the word ‘giken’ (which means research and development) which I saw in a Honda recruitment ad,” remembers Tamotsu Nakano, a former member of the Board of Directors. “In January 1951, I joined the Design Department of the Tokyo Plant. But because I was an electrician there was nothing for me to do and when this was realized I was transferred to assembly. The little assembly line at the Tokyo Plant had only just started and I found myself surrounded by beginners. More experienced workers would come from Hamamatsu, give a few instructions and go back again. Because I was inexperienced I would forget things or fail to do up screws tightly enough. Whenever the Old Man appeared he would spot any mistakes - not mine but something the guy next to me had done. The Old Man’d look at him as if he was going to bite him and come up saying ‘Idiot! Fool! Clod!’ and then ‘Where does your pay come from?’ ‘From the company,’ He’d reply. ‘Where does the company get its money from?’ ‘From people who buy our products.’ ‘So, your pay comes from the customers. But you turn out shoddy work–do you want to kill those customers?!’ When the Old Man talked like this I realized that his sense of humanity wasn’t just a matter of words but came from the heart. ‘Respect for human beings,’ now one of Honda’s basic concepts, has its roots in the Old Man’s idea of humanism. I never heard him say the exact words ‘Respect human beings’ but all of us had plenty of opportunities to come face to face with his concern for others whenever he gave us a talking to. And he was always very careful who he chose to launch one of his ‘thunderbolts’ against. ‘He looks promising, and if I get angry with him it might do him some good.’ In fact he himself used to say ‘A lot of people get angry because they’re nice deep down, but I’m not like that. When I see something I don’t like I get really nasty, because if there’s anything wrong with our products, it could put lives in danger. I just can’t tolerate people who don’t take their work seriously.’ So the person he’d got angry with would really feel the pressure and break out in a cold sweat. You got the message not to make another mistake. But the next day the Old Man would act as if nothing had happened and look as if he’d completely forgotten getting angry. Afterwards we realized that his ‘thunderbolts’ were meant to be educational.”

In April, the Cub FII-Type was launched with a 60 cc capacity that met the prevailing license requirements.

Yoshiro Harada, who experienced the development of the Benly as a member of the engineering design team, has this to say about it:

“A 4-stroke machine with an integrated engine was a new idea. Other makers had brought out quite a few 4-stroke bikes but most bikes were still 2-stroke. We chose a more modern frame than the Dream E-Type, with a pressed-steel backbone which is more suited to mass-production. The pressed frame came in two parts which fitted together like a sandwich and were then welded together; it was modeled on a German bike. From the mass-production point of view, German bikes were more advanced than British ones and a lot of them had this type of frame. The Benly was directly based on the NSU Fox, but it certainly didn’t slavishly copy its appearance. We developed a see-saw type swing arm for it, by extending forward the swing arms from the rear suspension and mounting the engine on them instead of fixing it to the frame. The idea was to make the bike more comfortable by stopping the engine vibration from being transferred to the rider. This was pretty successful, but there were some problems. When the rear wheel went up and down, because of the see-saw system the engine went up and down as well. On a bumpy road the carburetor would shake, fuel would come bubbling out and the engine wouldn’t work well. If you banged something heavy down on the luggage rack the rear tire would hit the rear fender. Although we aimed at the ideal of 120% quality, it was no good and the first version of the Benly wasn’t a success. But we learned from our mistakes and made improvements until at last the Benly earned a reputation as the best practical bike around.”

May 1953 saw the delivery to the Shirako Plant of the first consignment of the eagerly-awaited machine tools. The quality improvement systems essential to Honda’s plans for 120% excellence were gradually put in place.

In July the Saitama Labor Union was formed at the Shirako Plant, the forerunner of the Honda Motor Workers’ Union. In November, a pay structure was worked out and the company implemented its system of lifetime employment. In December, Honda carried out its fourth capital increase, bringing the company’s capitalization to ¥60 million, and work started on the construction of Hamamatsu Factory (the Aoi Plant).

Now started the most ambitious Honda Project ever the Honda Cub. Soichiro Honda had a dream about producing a cheap and reliable motorbike that can be sold all over the world., He succeeded.

The name 'Cub' was said to be the acronym of Cheap Urban Bike because the development of this model was aimed to provide a kind of cheap urban transportation in busy cities. The name also likely refers to the earlier Piper Cub, an affordable and extremely popular light aircraft from the 1930s possessing many of the same mechanical qualities of the Honda bike (note that improved versions of the Piper Cub were also called Super Cubs, with spacing in between the words).

In 1958 The Super Cub C100, CA100 hits the market. It features a pressed-steel frame, leading-link fork, step-through design and a 50cc four-stroke motor. It is destined to be sold under various names, and will later grow to 70cc, and finally 90cc. It will become the most popular motorcycle–indeed, the most popular motor vehicle of any kind. Up to now 60 million manufactured.

The decision to manufacture a 50cc four stroke must have been a difficult one. At that time all 50cc motorcycles ought to be two strokes. Soichiro Honda didn’t like two stroke bikes. During a Europe trip in the middle of the 1950’s together with Mr.Fujisawa Soichiro Honda disliked the newspaper delivery bikes which were handled by two stroke bikes. They smell and are noisy.

That was the reason why Soichiro Honda wanted the CUB to be four stroke and he also realized that he needed large scale production in order to be competitive with a four stroke.

If you want to know more about the SUPER CUB project go to:

http://world.honda.com/history/limitles ... xt/01.html



Then in 1959 Honda introduced the CB92 Benly Super Sport, 125cc OHC twin engine with 15 hp at 10.500. Top speed was acclaimed to be 75 mph. It cost in 1961 495,- USD in the US and today you have to pay between 5.500 USD to 14.000 USD if you want one. The bike was a beauty, look at the tank and the huge front brake the friction steering damper and the small tiny fly screen.. I owned one in 1966 and I was so proud. of it. The bike was manufactured in 24.251 units between 1959 to 1962
If anyone wonders how Honda rose to dominate the motorcycle world so rapidly, becoming the biggest manufacturer in a little more than ten years, almost half a century ago the CB92 provides the perfect illustration. It was a masterpiece



The CB92 also had its same-sized siblings the C92 touring model and high-piped CS92 scramble.. Below is the tourer.



Honda also increased the cc and introduced Honda’s C95 was in 1958 and this model enjoyed a production run lasting until 1967. It was powered by an inclined twin cylinder, overhead camshaft engine with bore and stroke of 49x61mm, displacing 154.6cc. Revving to 9,500rpm it developed 13.5bhp, leaving most of its European competitors behind and it was a little more reliable than the CB92..



Then Honda introduced the C72 & CA72 (and the identical C77/CA77 bikes with 305cc capacity) to be the first larger-capacity motorcycles that Honda mass-exported, and were significant motorcycles of their time They not only introduced Honda as a brand to be reckoned with, but were the first 'proper' motorcycles to emerge from Japan. They were characterized by a pressed steel frame and alloy overhead cam twin cylinder engines, and were very well equipped, with 12v electrics, electric starter, indicators, dual seats and other advanced features, not common to most motorcycles of the period.

The bike that eventually became the C72/C77 started out as the Honda C70 Dream. Soichiro Honda had dubbed many of his earlier bikes 'Dream' after his dream of building complete motorcycles, and the new bike followed this naming pattern.

The C70 was a 250cc pressed-frame bike (very similar frame to the later bikes) released in 1956, and was called the Dream for the Japanese market. It was usually seen with a single seat & rack, with clip-on pillion pad. It was a well-equipped bike. The C75 was the 305cc version. They had a square head-light & shocks, leading link forks, pressed-steel handlebars and were somewhat unusual in appearance. The engine was dry sumped, and had 6v electrics. The design of both the frame and engine was heavily influenced by bikes built by NSU Motorenwerke AG and its 250 Rennmax which Soichiro Honda had seen on his visit to Europe in 1955, including the Isle of Man TT races. According to rumors Soichiro Honda bought the Rennmax and the Mondial racing bikes when he visited the IOM. Anyhow Honda didn’t copy the Renmax’s gear driven cam shafts. That happened 30 years later with the RC30 and VFR750R. A C70 is shown below, note the lack of start motor:e-mail will be sent to this Address)



The C71/C76 were later developments, from 1957 or '58 onwards. The C71 was the 250cc bike, while the C76 was 305cc. Not much had changed visually, but they were fitted with electric starters. Dual seats were common on export bikes, but the single seat/rack combination was available. They were exported to Europe & the US, and other markets. A C71 was shown in the Netherlands in 1958 , and shown at the Earls court show in either 1958 or 1959, while the C76 became the flag-ship bike for the Honda range released into the US in 1959.

A 1960 C76 is shown below: There were four colors available, White, Black, Blue and Scarlet Red. The handlebars were low rise made of pressed steel. The tank was chromed but didn’t have any rubber knee pads. The headlight was square with a speedometer inside. The engine was 305cc 4 stroke OHC parallel Twin with a single carburetor.


The CA-76 Dream Touring differed from the C76 by having high rise chrome tubular handlebars



The Honda CS76 Dream Sport 300 Had the low rise pressed painted handle bars but it differed from the C76 by it’s two upswept chrome mufflers. The engine was still the same dry sump 305 cc with a single carburetor. The gas tank was chromed with knee pads made of black rubber.



The CSA 76 only differs from the CS76 by having a solid tubular handlebars. Same colors, same engine.



The C77 model was sold between 1961-1964. It was actually quite a new model, even if you couldn’t see it from the outside. The engine was now a 305cc wet sump but still with a single carburetor. It was also provided with a tire pump under the seat. The handlebars were again the low rise pressed steel version.



The early models of the CA77 Dream Touring was sold between 1960-1963 Same colors as before a little bigger tank and high rise handle bars.. The late CA77 had again the tank changed and it was sold between was sold between 1960-1963





The CSA77 Dream Sport was sold between 1960-1963The bike looked the same as CSA76 but had a wet sump engine.



The CS77 Dream Sport was also sold between 1960-1963. The bike looked same as the CS76 but had the new wet sump engine, The handle bars were low rise pressed steel in the same color as the bike.



The CE71 Dream Sport is a closely related version, and very rare.The dry-sumped engine, in the same pressed frame, with tubular handlebars, low sports exhaust pipes & dual seat, with an angular fuel tank similar to the CB92. They were exported to the US & Europe, a bit over 400 were made & they were all recalled because the engines broke down. Most were scrapped, a few survived.
Another rare version was the CB71 - another sports version of the dry sump bikes. It was only available in Japan, and it seems only in limited numbers. It was very reminiscent of the CB92 - pressed frame, flat 'ace' handlebars, fly screen, low megaphone exhaust pipes, cut down rear mudguard, cycle-style front guard, angular fuel tank with the 'wrap-over' rubber kneepad of the CB92. It was possibly a special-order racing-only bike.
The final development of these bikes was a significant one the C72/C77 was available from 1960, and the American market CA72/CA77 was available in 1961, although a 1960 C72/C77 would be a very rare bike, most came out in 1961 too. These bikes were made until 1967, although it seems that because of the way US bikes are dated, many are referred to in the US as 1968 or even 1969 models.
These bikes saw a completely redesigned engine - a wet-sump engine with many internal differences, essentially a new motor, with electric start & 12v system.

The C72/C77 was exported to Europe, Britain, Australia & other markets, and sold in some numbers, although as it was comparatively expensive, not as well as hoped. Post-WW2 anti-Japanese sentiment was still rife, and in the UK, manufacturers like BSA & Triumph attempted to blackmail dealers into not selling Japanese bikes. Also, the style was considered to be somewhat unusual to European eyes, and by the mid-1960s quite old-fashioned in appearance.

In 1959 Honda became the biggest motorcycle manufacturer of the world, just 11 years after it was established.

The Honda Hawk 250 CB72 and 305cc CB77 were sold from 1959 to 1966. Three colors were available: Blue with Silver, Scarlet Red with Silver, and Black with Silver. The fuel tank, fork covers, headlight shell, and frame were painted the basic color. The fenders and side covers were silver. The tank panel was chrome with rubber knee pads. In the first few years, the handlebars were flat with no rise in them. Later there was a slight rise. The engine was a 247cc respective 305cc 4-stroke OHC parallel twin with two carburetors. The transmission was a 4-speed. The serial number began CB72-100001 and CB77-100001

The bigger version the 305 cc CB77 was sold between 1968-1967 .In some countries it was called Honda Superhawk CB77


HONDA CB72 250cc

The CB77 305cc looked exactly the same as the 250. The CB77 below belongs to Robert Pirsig, the guy who wrote the bestseller book ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE and I thought that he was a Beemer or Triumph guy.



And there was some other famous Honda Hawk riders.





Honda also manufactured a Scramble model of the CB72/CB77 model. The frame was a tubular steele frame, not a pressed steel frame like the CS scramble models. The bikes were called CL72/77.



One bike that maybe belong under the C75 headline but since it looks like a CB250/305 let us post it here. Honda made a “minihawk” with a 160cc engine but the CB chassis. I couldn’t find any civil version so I .post a racing version.



In 1963 Honda started to develop a bigger bike for the US-market. They still believed in a smaller cc engine with more power than their competitors. The result was the CB450 a technically very advanced motorocycle. It was a DOHC (double overhead camshaft) engine at that time very unique and advanced technology. It also had valves controlled by torsion bars instead of normal springs a techniques never seen before on a motorbike.
The Honda CB450 was the first "big" Honda motorcycle with athe444cc dual overhead cam engine .producing 43-45 horsepower (more than 100 HP/ liter). It came on the market in 1965 as a four-speed K0 model, and developing through a series of up to K7 models with various improvements and styling changes, notably a redesigned petrol tank and 5 speed gearbox in the 1968 K1 model. K0 models are known as "Black Bomber"..


And here we have the first ad for the bike:



Honda also had a CL-model with the scramble exhaust:



Honda imported 25 police versions of the Honda 450 to the US but they failed to sell them. Harley still ruled at the police stations.



Despite that the sale of Honda CB450 didn’t fulfill Honda’s expectations it was a long runner. It was produced up to the K7 model in 1977 The k4 model looked like this with smaller tank and discbarke in the front.



The last Honda CB450 was the K7 which was still manufactured in 1967,



Honds still continued the CB450 story. The CB350/450 models in 1980 had nothing to do with the CB450 DOHC but they did a 500 DOHC, I think for the American market and that model was made up to 1989.



• 1968 19 years after the company’s first two-wheeler rolled out of the factory, Honda produces its 10 millionth motorcycle. Then came the CB750 and here ends the Honda story . The rest is modern History.


But I will still try to make you understand how unique the Honda company is, not only as a motorcycle company but as an extremely well run truly global company and still run in the spirit of Soichiro Honda.

The CEO Presidents have been as follows:

1948-1973—Soichiro Honda
1973-1983—Kiyoshi Kawashima
1983-1990—Tadashi Kume
1990-1998—Nobuhiko Kawamoto
1998-2004—Hiroyuki Yoshino
2004-2009---Takeo Fukui
2009- -------Takanobu Ito

Honda was and still is a company run by high tech engineers all interested in racing

Soichiro Honda we all know that he had his love for high tech and racing, both with cars and motorcycles. He also had some very good qualifications as a CEO (and some very bad also) He had a very strong respect for the individual both employees as well as customers. His very early management Philosophy was the three Joys

The Three Joys
"The Three Joys" — commonly expressed as The Joy of Buying, The Joy of Selling and The Joy of Creating — express Honda's belief and desire that each person working in, or coming into contact with the company, directly or through or products, should share a sense of joy through that experience. For customers, to experience the Joy of Buying, they need to receive a product that exceeds their expectations. The Joy of Selling occurs when those who are engaged in selling and servicing Honda products develop relationships with customers based on mutual trust. Through this relationship, Honda associates, dealers and distributors experience pride and joy in satisfying the customer. The Joy of Creating occurs when Honda associates and suppliers produce quality products that exceed customer expectations and experience pride in a job well done.

Kiyoshi Kawashima who succeeded Mr. Honda was the mastermind behind Honda’s first 4-stroke the E-type when he was employed by Honda as a young engineer and was forced both build the bike s well as racing it over the Hakone. Honda also made him responsible for the first international racing effort the Isle of Man TT in 1959, and that was a huge project. You can read more about it here:

http://world.honda.com/history/limitles ... ce/text01/

Tadashi Kume was the mastermind behind Honda’s first entry into Formel 1 and he constructed the 1,5 liter V12, the RA272. He continued to make more Formel 1 cars and he was the main designer for the HONDA NSX sports car, nicknamed the worlds best Ferrari, and he himself got the nickname MR NSX. He was also involved in “Hondas First real Car” the CIVIC and he even left the company because fighting with Mr Honda about water cooling or air cooling. He later returned to the company and CIVIC got its water cooled engine and HONDA the NSX.

If you are interested to read more about the birth of CIVIC and the CVCC engine you can read it here:


If you are interested in the NSX project please red this one

http://world.honda.com/history/challeng ... index.html

Nobuhiko Kawamoto was hired direct after finishing his engineering studies and sent immediately to Europe as a Formel One car designer and mechanic. During his studies he repaired old Buicks and Lincolns left by the US army, He designed about 10 Honda Racing Cars and became involved in the CVCC project when Honda first time pulled out of the Formula one.. He became head of Honda R&D. When Honda later reentered F2 and F1 he designed the new engines but when he became CEO of the whole Honda after Tadashi Kume he had realized how expensive that game was and Honda withdrew from Formula I again. His desire to manufacture a complete Honda Formula 1 car anyhow lived on so he took Honda back into Formula one by establishing a factory in England under Harvey Postlethwaite and they had Dallara in Italy built the prototype chassis in secret. Kawamoto was anyhow ousted in a power struggle inside Honda in 1998. He was replaced by Hiroyki Yoshino on the demand of Honda America who didn’t want Honda to get involved with Formula 1 again, Indy races rules the game…

Anyhow Hiroyki Yoshino had the same background. Aviation Engineer, worked through Honda R&D, Honda Racing Ceo and then 10 year as CEO for Honda America Manufacturing. He is a devoted motorcyclist but he has also run the Honda Aviation program (being an aviation engineer) to the end of a prototype plane and engine and production will start 2011.

The now outgoing CEO at the moment is Takeo Fukui who is the “father” of the CVCC engine. He is a chemist engineer and he went to work with Honda because he was interested in Formel 1. He has been chef engineer for Honda R&D, later managing director, he had the same posts later at Honda Racing Corporation and then he moved to Honda America where he was CEO. The career evolution for Honda’s CEO’s seems quite familiar.

Takanobu Ito, is a 1954 born engineer who will take over the reigns as president and CEO in late June 2009.
Ito joined Honda in 1978, and began his career in its automobile research and development operations, principally as an engineer in the area of chassis design. Ito was in charge of developing the all-aluminum uni-body frame structure for the mid-engine NSX sports car that went on sale in 1990, a world's first for a production vehicle of any volume. I He worked for Honda R&D America and now holds the post as CEO of Honda R&D a post he will keep also after he becomes CEO of the whole Honda Company

So as you can see Honda is still a company that strives to make products based on technical innovations, made by young, highly motivated, engineers who dares to make tough questions to the older more experienced.. Almost every time this is learning by failure and trial and error process which is widely accepted at Honda. Many of these innovations are also learned the hard way on the Racing Circuits all over the world.

The Japanese didn’t conquer the motorcycle industry by copying the easy way. Yes they copied but they improved and reinvented everything so their copies were by far better than their original. They invented the mass producing of motorcycles based economies of scale. They reinvented the meaning of Quality in the whole manufacturing process. They (especially Honda) created a management style that encouraged innovations, accepted failure and learned from failure, They didn’t lay off managers who failed, they promoted them because they had a valuable experience. They all knew that involvement in racing is the play yard for product development. They didn’t have a fixed plan for conquering the world but they made it the hard way and learnt quickly from their mistakes. They went truly global despite lack of language skill. They transformed the militant relationships with the labour unions into cooperative common goal cooperation. Actually they have done everything that the European and American motorcycle industry management forgot and neglected and now at least the American car industry is facing the same hard medicine. Some people don’t learn.

I will end this long post by posting the philosophy behind Honda’s long run Slogan THE POWER OF DREAMS

Everyone has a dream, some goal or activity that gives their life deeper meaning and sparks passion.

When we pursue our dreams, we feel empowered. This power, in turn, connects us to others who share the same dreams. It gives us the strength to overcome great challenges. It inspires us to spread the joy of our dreams to other people. Ultimately, the power borne of a dream is a creative force, capable of producing revolutionary ideas.

Honda encourages all its associates to pursue their dreams. That's why we say we are a company built on dreams. The power of Honda's dreams will continue to lead to new insights and technologies in automobiles, motorcycles, power products, parts and other fields of mobility.

And here you have some of the best commercials Honda have done. Take a few beer and enjoy them. It will take maybe one hour but after that You will be a Honda fan for sure, Like I am.

Here you have the original Impossible Dream Commercial

This is a documentary from the UK advertising agency behind the Impossible Dream Campaign




Warming-up of original HONDA F1. 1965 Mexico GP Win. Listen to the Sound

Honda F1 Music


U.S. HONDA TV AD : Starting Up!

HONDA Aeroplane Commercial.


The Power of Dreams just the song Who is singing

The Power of Dreams The Honda CB 1300 Bol Dor Japanese Commercial.



KICKA OUT THE LADDER. This is a long commercial where you can discover the Hondaism and the
this inspirational metaphor that has helped impossible dreams come true explained from Honda associates who have. kicked out the ladder, as well as those who have achieved success as a result of it. Watch this Honda philosophy in action, and learn the meaning behind it.

And here is another Honda Bestseller. Failure the secret to success. Failure, the mere thought may paralyze even the most heroic thinkers and keep great ideas off the engineers’ drawing board. But is failing really that bad? We get an inside look at the mishaps of Honda racers... Still another notion about the importance of racing. You ca learn from there not only technical stuff.

A short funny story about Soichiro Honda when he went to Isle of Man
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 5934447550

Brain-Machine Interface Technology Enabling Control of a Robot by Human Thought Alone One of Honda’s Technology at the Edge projects.

The ASIMO robot project maybe started as a pr thing but now Honda are entering a total new area of moving around independently. With -Honda Walking Assist Devices Honda has developed two prototype walking assist devices that are intended to support walking for the elderly or people with weakened leg muscles. The devices are currently being tested under real circumstances at different hospitals.

The Honda Super Cub 50th anniversary commercial.

http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/ ... anoth.html
A funny story about Soichiro Honda when returning back from IOM.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 5934447550

A French speaking story about Soichiro Honda

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 7037&hl=en

A quite funny animation spot telling about Soichiro Honda’s life.


PS1. Sorry for making this thread too long and too heavy. I started when I tried to answer a simple question why did the glorious English motorcycle industry fall down. Then when I tried to answer it I became involved in a two months long learning process, which I actually had gone through 30 years earlier when I studied the same phenomena in a more professional way. At that time you had to sit in the library reading books and business magazines, interviewing people etc. Nowadays you can sit at the internet drinking beer. Nowadays is more fun.

PS2. Some of the Honda threads that I refer to can be heavy to open, at least in Thailand with TOT, TT&T and CAT who are the worst shit ever entering the telecommunication business.

PS3. Yes the Japanese racing section is missing and it is important. Same is the Honda Gold Wing, CX500, VFR750 and many other important bikes. I will do them at a later stage. Now I must concentrate my self on Paul Dunstall, Seeley, Metisse Dresda, Honda Japauto etc so that the site owner David gets some personal satisfaction.


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Feb 22, 2013
this is all amazing information you have gathered there.

I want to add some pics that are missing from the text.
I hope you are still watching this thread.
They are all copied from the internet. Unfortunately I didn't keep any record on the sources.
Here we go:

Cabton twin 1954.It looks lice Indian's Arrow.The failled attemp of Indian to join the British.
The arrow itself was heavily influenced by Triumph.
I think I see an OHC drive between the cylinders.

Cabton single(?)1954 350cc16HP 5500rpm.English style upright cylinder.

Asahi Miyata 1954.Looks like a BSA C11 or something.

Another Asahi.A 2stroke.Date unknown.It looks older than the previous.Can it be prewar?
And what is the car behind?More mystery.

This is a Lilac boxer twin but a side valve this time.

Meguro z7 1959.

A single cylinder Meguro looking very modern.It reminds me of Sanglas but they couldn't have copied
Sanglas.could they?


Nov 7, 2005
fkostas, the pictures You posted are beatiful and I will come back. I think I replied You in another Thread.

MP-Terveisin HIKO


Feb 22, 2013
Hello Hiko,
yes you answered in the other thread.
Trying to find if Cabton twins where used in autorace I came to this japanese wikipedia page(with google translation):
It has all the engines that were racing and it doesn't list any Cabton,twin or single.
About the Meguro I read through google translation again,which is a little surealistic,that in late 70's they started developing a copy of the 500 triumph twin which was very succesful in autorace,because it was getting difficult to find parts for it.
In 1984 when Triumph closed the doors they sold their new engine as an alternative.
This is the Meguro engine:

I have to say that it looks stuning and I love the"calligraphy" on the crankcases.
And next the Triunmph(Tiger I think) that they copied:

I think the similarities are obvious.
A Meguro pic.again just because it's so pretty:

What I don't understand is how come they have a new engine in the 80's?Wasn't Meguro sold to Kawasaki years before?
Was it semi independant or this new engine is a Kawasaki with a Meguro badge because Meguro had a good reputation
in autorace

The engine that Meguro copied from Motosacoche in pre war times was used for autorace too,in OHV and OHC form
but I will lieve autorace for you.
It seems that it was also used for for regular track racing from this picture:

Somewhere around 1960 trying to take a piece of the sales in smaller cc's from Honda they developed a modern
unit engine that they produced in 170,250,350 and I think 500cc.
This next pic. is a 250 and it's called SG7:

When I shaw this model,sudenly,the Kawasaki Estrela made sense.
Another 250 with same engine:


And the 170 version:


Feb 22, 2013
Some more tommorow or the day after(or the day after that).
Why my posts take ages to appear?AmI beeing moderated very carefully?


Feb 22, 2013
Hi it's me again,
today a few things that I learned about Cabton :
The Misuho Motor co.Started in 1923 to make aircraft parts (?)and by '27 they started selling their first 350side valve and later 350 and 500 copies of the British Ariel Red Hunter 4stroke single OHV.
This is apicture that I found of a Cabton VG 500 of !937:

Although I only found information about a post war Red Hunter copy this bike on top looks realy pre war,
Who knows.
And this next one is the post WW2 350 "Knightly"of 1954(Supposedly from the name of the founder of the co.Shoichi Naito.It kind of sounds the same)

And the Ariel that was cloned without a license I believe,a NH350from'52:

Check out that even the badge on the gas tank has the same shape and same kind of lettering.


By the way the name of the bike comes from:Come And Buy To Osaka Nakagawa. Osaka Nakagawa is the area of their factory or maybe their main outlet.(or something).Propably because a 'western' sounding name meant quality to the Japanese back then.Next a brochure from1935 with the acronym C.A.B.T.O.N.(The bike in the brochure has an engine copied from the Meguro engine that was copied from Motosacoche and not the Cabton engine that was copied from Ariel!!!)
(Or they bought the engine from Meguro?Or it is a Meguro bike sold by Cabton who were dealers for other brands too?Dammit.I am lost.But there is a Meguro conection somewhere there.)


Anyway, it can't have been very fast with 14hp3750rpm from the 70X90 single cylinder but it had a good reputation for
cheap and reliable "real bike" ownership in post war austerity.
By the early '50's the competition beetwen the factories was fierce and Cabton produced 125 and 250cc
bikes that was the popular category.I couldnt find any dedtails on these,but around 54 they made a
twin in 600cc and 250cc.These where copied from the Indian Warrior(not arrow as I said in a previous post)but they where a mirror copy,drive side on the left for Cabton and on the right for Indian.


Feb 22, 2013
I continue from the previous post.
So this is the Cabton RTS 600 engine :


And a 250 version of the Cabton for which I could'nt find any info.Can it be single cylinder just like Indian had a single version of that engine in250cc called Arrow?I can't tell from this pic. but here it is:

And next the Indian engine.See how it has the timing side on the left of the engine while Cabton has it to the right.

The RTS had28hp/4000rpm the torque was5.0kg3500rpm and a top speed of 130km/h.Why would they go to the trouble of copying as a mirror image is really a mystery to me,although we have to say that when
indian made that engine inspired by Triumph (TheWarrior is not a copy but is heavily influenced by the British school)
they made it also as a mirror image of the usual British practice of drive side on the left and timing side to the right.
So Cabton just went back to the British practice.(Why?).
It's also strange why did they pick this Indian to copy.The Warrior-Arrow-Super Scout was an effort of Indian to catch up
with the British who where doing great in the USA with the 500-650 twins.The engineer who designed these engines
was working for an outboard engine company(maybe Evinrude?) and wasn't aware of the different loads that a motorcycle
puts on the moving parts of the engine.So used to draw boat engines that more or less work in constant rpm he made a very weak engine which as soon as it came on the market it got a bad reliability name.So Indian beetwen paying the
repairs and trying to improve the engine for the next models went bankrupt and those where the last true made in USA
Indians.Not that they would'nt go out of bussines anyway but the warrior was the last nail in their coffin.
Mizuho Cabton didnt go very well either.To compete to the other brands in the market they followed a policy of low prices
mass production and deals with other manufacturers to develope together new engines.
In 1954 the year that the RTS 600 came out they had 800 workers but two years later the production stopped the factory
closed the doors and a few years later the founder,Shoichi Naito,suicided.
The policy of prices lower than the competition,mainly Honda and Meguro,meant less quality control,deteriorating quality of their products and loss of their good reputation.
Mizuho in Japan is considered to be a company that commited suicide.
Somehow the"technical lineage" was inherited by Kawasaki,I don't know how but propably by hiring the Cabton engineers.
Next pic the RTS 600.I could'nt find a better picture.This bike has a big story.Sunk in the sea after a huricane when almost new,saved,restored only to get burried in mud in some other natural disaster in the 80's

And this is the Indian Warrior TT version.A real beauty.

Here I have to say that all this story is very brief Cabton made about20 different models mostly postWW2 but the info is almost non excisting.As I read in a Japanese classic bike blog,even today there's a type of cylindrical exaust silencer
that is called"cabton muffler" (something like the "goldie"type silencer )but not many know what it is named from
and they think it is a brand.Which goes to show that not even there they know about Cabton.
Pictures that I see from Japanese classic bike meetings makes me believe that the twin is very rare While the single
appears more often but still not as often as Meguros Rikuos and the big four's old models.
They propably didn't sell to many in such a sort time they where in production although police forces did buy a few.
Didn't find any conection of Cabton with autorace or any other kind of racing and this is not surprising considering
the unreliability issues that I read about every time someone says something about the Cabton twins.
Next a 500 single with sidecar

And another single a 350 I think


Feb 22, 2013
Hello again,
writing in the previous post about the Cabton choosing the wrong bike to copy reminded me of another
bike manufacturer that did the same wrong choice.
This manufacturer was Kitagawa motor works from Hamamatsu(where else?) and they existed from
1948 to1959.
There are written records of that co. importing 3 Sunbeams S8 and in 1954 they came out with a copy
of it which was actualy a scaled down copy because the Sumbeam was 500cc while the Liner as they
named it was 250cc.
next picture the Liner TW250.OHC twin,12,6hp/5500rpm,55mmX52mm.

And the Sumbeam S8 for comparison:

Very nice cast aluminum muffler by the way.
The Sunbeam was made by BSA, who owned the Sunbeam name,after they studied the blue prints of the BMW twin that they took home from Germany as war reparations.
BSA hired Erling Poppe who was involved in many projects pre and post war with Douglas bikes ,some
weird three wheeler and others.He even had his own motorcycle brand,Packman and Poppe(1922 1930),
but in all of these ventures he was using bought in engines.I didn't find any evidence that he ever
produce an engine designed by him.
Anyway BSA hired him and of course they didn't want to make a distinctively Germanic bike,there was strong antigerman feelings still in GB,so they chose to make an OHC parallel twin lengthwise on the frame so they use shaft final drive.
But the bike just wasn't good.It had a fragile shaft,head oiling issues and other handling problems.
Of course BSA improved it and had a new nodel before the year ended and they improved it more until
!956 when they stopped making it.
It never became popular,even though the later models are really sweet,and I wonder what drew
Kitagawa's attention on that specific model especialy in '54 when all the issues of the S8 where common knowledge(the S7 was introduced in 1946 and the S8 in '48) and the fact that they were not good sellers has been proved already.
So back at Hamamatsu thinks didn't look vey good either and in 1959 Yamaha bought the company or
bought part of it and eventually absorbed it.
Somehow it still exist inside Yamaha as Body Industries Yamaha(???).
Of course they had other models too like the Portly Robin.A side valve 150cc

Later a side valve with a 125 cc unit engine that imitates Showa's SH engine and it's called Liner Portly 125.
It shares this brochure with the TW:

In 1953 they make an OHC 150 cc version of this engine, 55 mmX63 mm,compresion 6.5:1,7hp at 5000rpm.
They raced it in the first Nagoya TT.

Sometime they also made a scooter the Crown KC:

I also found this brochure with a TW 250 with earles fork and deep valanced mudguards.I think it is the second version of the TW.The bike behind it is a 125 side valve Portly Robin.



Feb 22, 2013
Hello Hiko,
as I was looking back through your posts I see this blue bike that you say the only thing you know about is that itis called FB 250 and it looks like a BMW single.
Well,this bike is a Rikuo FB250.Rikuo in 1949 went bankrupt and the production of the Harley style bikes
passed to Showa aircrafts(?)who resumed production of the"king of the road".At the same time Rikuo (the new Rikuo?)started working on aBMW type of
engine.In 1952(1954 elsewhere)they started selling the first model,RikuoF 250 and 350.
Here a picture of it:

It looks like a BMW dressed in american clothes.
It had a68X68 cylinder the same as BMW R26(Ithink),low compression on 6.7:1 and 12hp/5200rpm.
Next abrochure of the Rikuo F:

The bike on your post Hiko is the second model the FB250.Here is another picture:

From what I can understand in a Japanese blog,someone who had one when new says he had to fix it all the time and pickup the parts that where falling on the road(but he still has the best memories of
Unreliable or not, Rikuo took it to Asama mountain races where all the manufacturers of the era where
racing their new engines.This was the proving ground of the industry and a victoy there meant
(usualy) good sales.

The one above is a 350 and it has suspension different from the production bikes .
I also see one pushrod tunnel.Does it have another one on the other side?Is it a special racing engine?
Rikuo in1959 after they made a new 750 twin (RX 750) wich was made only in prototype form they went bankrupt again(third time?)and passed into history.
In my next post I will talk for the other BMW copies or imitations from Japan.
Is anybody interested?AmI abusing the hospitality of this forum with irelevant info.?


Feb 22, 2013
Hi again,
I got lost in Japan for a while.
So the most well known BMW type of Japanese bikes are the Marusho lilac wich are more or less covered
in this thread already.
Some more pictures here
This is what I have tagged as Baby Lilac JF-2 90cc:

No one can say that they copied THAT FRAME.

Next a 250 UY2 from 1957

Next Lilac LB side valve

This is called Lilac Dragon!!

A 125cc from 1958

And one that went racing:Lilac SYZ.I think Asama mountain races .
Imagine a BMW R26 racing!!


Feb 22, 2013
Another industry that made BMW copies was Daito Seiki and from 1953 to 1959 they made the DSK A25,a copy of the BMW
R25,the 500 A50 copy of the R51 and the AB25 copy of the R26.
This company was making knitting machinery as many others that made bikes after the war
and it was in this business until 2004.
In 1953 they made the A25,a 100% copy of the BMW down to the last bolt.
This is it:

But this wasn't a cheap bike with stolen technology but more of an upmarket product, expensive comparing to the competition but still cheaper than the imported(and heavily taxed) BMW and they sold well.
As I read they mesured each part and analysed the exact composition of each metal alloy and went a long way to find high quality steel and alluminum that where in sort suply in
post war Japan.
Next the A50:


The only difference from the BMW is the exaust pipe that is takced in close to the frame and a kink up just before the muffler
because Japan's roads where many times unpaved and this gave them a little more ground clearence.
When BMW found out about that clone they send a team of investigators to check on them,but when
they visited the production line and they realised the care and thoroughness that went into each step of the production they gave permision to continue without charging them for
a licence.Maybe BMW thought that imitation is the sincerest form of flatery.Though I don't think so and propably BMW could'nt do much to stop it and maybe because of the import taxes they had no sales in Japan anyway.Also I think BMW in the 50s had their own financial problems and didn't want to get involved in endless court cases.Who knows.
Of course they forbid any exports to DSK but they did gave them technical assistance!!!
next the AB 25 from '59:


And the one of the two different badges they used:

I have no idea what DMW stands for.
It seems everybody entered the races that where on unpaved tracks
This is called R50(?)

And this R25

In 1957 the factory burned down to ashes.The dealers that where sellingDSK bikes had a meeting and agreed to fund the company to build a new factory and continue production.The company re emerged as DSK automotive industry.They made the AB model,a copy of the R26 but by '59 it was all over,for good this time.


Feb 22, 2013
One more BMW clone was made by the Iwata industries from 1953(or 55) to 1960.
Iwata was a big co. with various divisions and they were producing shoe making machinery but also
leather shoes among other things.
They were very advanced in metalurgy with their own laboratory doing the research on special steels and alloys but also machining methods and they produced machinery to the finest tolerances.
They were making subcontract work for other manufacturers including parts for a tricycle(maybe for Daihatsu?).
In 1953 they decided to profit themselves from their own technical know how and copied a BMW 500
aiming to make a luxury tourer for the Japanese market.

This was state of the art engineering and the people that made it happen where proud of their bike.
The reason they copied was that they didn't have experiance in motorcycles so they chose to
do a well proven design ,of very high standards for the era, as an engineering chalenge.Let's not forget that from the 30's to the 60's almost every motorcycle producing
country had their own BMW clone and they were not considered cheap copies in the sense of today's
chinese copies
Next a nicely restored one:

The BIM was virtualy hand made with the finest metals by a small workforce and they made about 230
units altogether.
Next picture is the workforce (I think all of it).The man on the left of the pic.on the BIM with a white shirt is
Mr Tomizuka Kiyoshi(?),a two stroke expert(!!!) and on the BIM next to him with the leather jacket
is Mr Toichi Tanahashi who I believe was the chief engineer.

The BIM was an exact copy except for wider handlebars padded seat and exaust pipes routed close to the frame
just like the DSK and probably for the same reason,the bad roads of Japan in the 50's

In 1960 they stopped bike production.I can't find why but maybe they decided that it was not worth it.
A big corporation having a small division producing low volume hand made bikes doesn't sound very
profitable and they probably only did it to prove that they can.
Nowhere in the story of BIM I see them having any plans for mass production or for another models.
The company still exists as Madras shoes in Japan.


Feb 22, 2013
One more industry that made BMW tyype of engines was Tsubasa who was producing the two stroke engine for the Daihatsu midget tricycle and was either a division of Daihatsu or indipendent that was absorbed by the bigger co.in 1952.
Tsubasa first made a 250, English type, 4 stroke the T80 A in 1954:


250cc OHV 12hp/5500rpm.They entered it to the Asama track races,which was a dirt track,with good results.This model is called R1:

I don't know why the next one has girder fork and hard tail but it's also a racer.

And the engine:

If you want to have as light as possible an engine why bother making holes? You can just cut
everything out and hold them together with metal rod.I just love the hand made look of it.
The same engine was also used in autorace:


I see a B.S.A. gearbox in there !!!. There was also a futuristic 2stroke designed by the young Mr Hachiro Tamura who had a think for integrated headlamps.It is the Fighter HC 125
of 1953: