Atari released the first home-gaming console. Disney released the first full-length animated movie. And Honda? Honda was the first at a lot of things. Here's 5 of the ways Honda has been a pioneer in the industry:
1. First Japanese Team to Enter Formula 1
Honda founder Soichiro Honda was crazy...in a good way. As such, he believed that he could improve his product by throwing it headlong onto the racetrack. Just one year after launching their first automobile line, Honda entered the Formula One circuit.
At the time, Formula 1 was completely dominated by the big European automakers. And because of a failed partnership with Lotus, Honda undertook the grueling task of developing both the engine and the chassis on which its car would ride. The resulting RA271 debuted in 1961, with its first win coming in the Mexican Grand Prix the next year.
Today, Honda continues to have their hand in the F1 world as the engine supplier for McLaren.
2. VTEC Engine
The 1989 Integra XSi was the first Honda that packed a VTEC engine.
VTEC stands for Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Lift Control.
While Honda seems to have issues developing acronyms, they had no problem shaking the industry up with what's arguably one of the most important engines of all time.
You can control the amount of power an engine produces by varying the distances exhaust valves and inlets open. The only problem with this is that engines become less efficient the more they open. With the VTEC engine, Honda figured out how to open the valves in a way that doesn't diminish performance. This allowed their cars to have great fuel economy at lower speeds and also provide high performance.
The first Honda vehicle to feature the VTEC engine was the 1989 Integra XSi, and the technology was so explosive that soon other major automakers were using it.
3. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, via Wikimedia Commons.
Honda's Clarity FCV is powered by hydrogen and it emits only water. Let that sink in for a second.
Though it's only available for lease in California for now, a relatively affordable $369 a month will get you the Clarity Fuel Cell, $15,000 of hydrogen fuel, roadside assistance, and a slew of other amenities. But let's not let all that deter you from the fact that Honda developed a hydrogen fuel cell engine that's also efficient. It gets an EPA-estimated 366 miles and 68MPGe, which puts it at the head of the segment.
4. The Modern Motorcycle
Honda's everyman motorcycle, the Dream D-Type.
Honda was - and continues to be - the world's largest producer of motorcycles, a title they've held for over 50 years.
Before they were crushing the F1 track or developing industry-changing engines, Honda was making motorcycles to provide cheap transportation in a nation devastated by war. Honda founder Soichiro Honda began creating motorcycles by installing military surplus engines on bicycles. These evolved into the Dream D-Type, released in 1949. Less than a decade later, Honda was making more motorcycles than anyone in the world.
5. Surf-Rock Band Inspiration
As far as we know, Honda is not just the first but the only automaker to inspire a surf rock band. Though The Hondells only had one hit - the aptly named "Little Honda" - it peaked at no. 9 on the US pop singles chart. Not only that, but the song was actually written by Mike Love and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys who later recorded their own version.