A brief history of Honda and its cars by Carphile
Honda is a marque well known for its lightweight and fuel-efficient bestsellers, as well as a few notable sporty numbers. Its roots as a motorcycle producer have led to the production of some impressive lightweight yet powerful vehicles and in recent years it has helped pave the way for the success of hybrid cars with the Honda Insight.
Honda – the early years
Born out of the Honda Technical Research Institute, founded by Soichiro Honda, the Honda Motor Company was incorporated in 1948 and a year later was producing its first motorcycles.
From a young age Soichiro had been around bikes – he was the son of a blacksmith who owned a shop that sold repaired second-hand bicycles. However, Soichiro was more inspired by the sight and smell of the first cars that he’d seen in his village as a child.
It wasn’t until 1963 that Honda started producing cars, and once it did it never looked back. The change began in 1961 when the Japanese government announced the Specified Industry Promotion bill. The bill offered special support for carmakers so that they could compete with foreign firms, and helped Soichiro to realise his long-held dream.
Although it’s still one of the world’s leading motorcycle producers, most of its sales now come from the four-wheeled branch of the company.
Honda’s first four-wheeler
The first four-wheeled vehicle to roll out of the Honda plant was the T360 pickup truck – but it wasn’t long before the sporty S500 roadster joined the T360. Featuring a 531cc dual overhead cam straight-4 engine, that revved to 8,000rpm, which wasn’t common in 1963 and came directly from their expertise of building motorcycle engines. The tiny S500 weighed 725kg and could reach speeds of up to 80mph.
Later the S500 would be joined by the S600 and S800. However, these initial sports car offerings would eventually give way to the Civic and the Accord throughout the seventies and following decades. The Civic and Accord were part of a drive for good-looking and popular hatchbacks and saloons, which dominated in the US in the eighties.
The Honda ‘H’ logo
While Honda’s motorcycles were adorned by its famous winged logo, a simple ‘H’ on the bonnet identified the marque’s cars. This logo design that has gone largely unchanged since the S500 rolled off the production line.
The exception being Honda’s sports-oriented Type R line. These cars feature the Honda ‘H’ logo, with a white/silver logo on a red background.
Despite the threat of a possible takeover by Mitsubishi in the early nineties the company remains independent and continues to build its evergreen Civic and Accord, in addition to leading the way in the hybrid market with the Insight and into Hydrogen-powered cars with their FCX Clarity.
2015 also marks the beginning of production for the second generation NSX, a hybrid version of Honda’s popular sports car that was produced between 1990 and 2005.
If you’re a Honda owner, be sure to check out our Honda owners’ clubs section to find out about clubs near to you and for information about club meetings and events.