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A Brief History of Honda Cars

Born in 1906, Soichiro Honda was the son of a blacksmith and a weaver, who in 1921 at the age of fifteen, with very little formal education, began an apprenticeship at a garage, working as a car mechanic. Just over one hundred years after his birth, the name Honda is now synonymous with many forms of engineering including motor cars, motorcycles, generators, boats, water pumps, ATV's, jet aircraft and even robots.

In 1928, Honda set up his first business repairing cars, his passion however was building and racing his own cars, one of the first he made used a V8 aircraft engine as the source of power, this passion to race stayed with Soichiro throughout his life, but a very serious accident in 1936 finished his own personal racing career.

After selling his first venture, Soichiro formed the Honda Motor Company in 1948 and production of the first Honda motorcycles began. Early successes included the A-Type and this convinced Honda that he had found the answer to cheap transportation. Other successes followed and in 1954 Soichiro visited the Isle of Man to watch the annual TT races. Vowing to return and win the TT, Soichiro focused his efforts into producing a bike capable of winning and in 1961 with the help of Mike Hailwood, Honda won both the Ultra Lightweight and Lightweight TT races. So began a pedigree in motor racing that still continues to this day.

The 1960's saw Honda move into the car market, producing small cars mainly for the Japanese market, although because of the size of the cars they made, Honda struggled in the largest marketplace, America, that is until the energy crisis of the 1970's. New laws meant that American manufacturers needed to add a catalytic converter to their cars dramatically adding to the cost. The Honda Civic of 1975 however, could pass the stringent emission tests without a catalytic converter. Cheaper than its competitors, Honda had found itself a niche in one of the largest marketplaces in the world.

Other successes followed and Honda quickly gained itself a reputation as a premium car manufacturer, comfortable and reliable the Honda brand grew quickly throughout the world and with the introduction of the VTEC variable valve timing system in the late 1980's Honda achieved another first. This mechanism worked on the idea of tuning one engine to operate at two different 'settings' depending on speed, when driving at low speed the engine would use a "shorter" cam lobe resulting in more power and torque low down, then when more power is needed a more aggressive "longer" cam is used for high-speeds and continued acceleration. Most manufacturers have now introduced their own versions of Variable Valve Timing and Honda use it across their range of cars today - including the NSX, Civic and CR-V.

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