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Honda, Soichiro

Born: 1906 AD
Died: 1991 AD
Nationality: Japanese
Categories: Engineers, Founder

1906 – Soichiro Honda, born on the 17th of November in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan. The eldest son of a blacksmith who repaired bicycles, the young Soichiro had only an elementary school education when, in his teens, he left home to seek his fortune in Tokyo. He was a mechanical engineer with a passion for motorcycle and automobile racing.

1922 – An auto repair company hired him, but for a year he was forced to serve as a baby-sitter for the auto shop’s owner and his wife.

1936 – His racing career was short lived, however. He suffered serious injuries in a crash.

1937 – He had recovered from his injuries. He established his own company, manufacturing piston rings, but he found that he lacked a basic knowledge of casting.

1945 – His burgeoning company mass-produced metal propellers during WWII, replacing wooden ones. Allied bombing and an earthquake destroyed most of his factory and he sold what was left to Toyota.

1946 – Started his company by building motorized bicycles with small, war-surplus engines. He would grow to become the world’s leading manufacturer of motorcycles and later one of the leading automakers.
       – He established the Honda Technical Research Institute to motorize bicycles with small, war-surplus engines.

1948 – His bikes became very popular in Japan. The institute soon began making engines. Renamed Honda Motor, the company began manufacturing motorcycles.

1951 – He brought out the Dream Type E motorcycle, which proved an immediate success thanks to Honda’s innovative overhead valve design.

1952 – The smaller F-type cub, accounted for 70% of Japan’s motorcycle production by the end of that year.

1958 – A public offering and support from Mitsubishi Bank allowed Honda to expand and begin exporting. The versatile C100 Super Cub was released and became an international bestseller.

1959 – The American Honda Motor was founded and soon began using the slogan, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda," to offset the stereotype of motorcyclists during that period.

       – In June, the Honda racing team brought their first motorbike to compete in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (T.T.) race, then the world’s most popular motorcycle race. This was the first entry by a Japanese team.

1961 – Their first failure, they were the sensation at the TT by capturing the first five places in both the 125cc and 250cc classes. The upstart Japanese had outclassed all their rivals. As a result of the team’s stellar performance, the Honda name became well known worldwide, and its export volume rose dramatically.

1967 – He oversaw a worldwide company, he entered the automobile market, he never shied away from getting his hands greasy.

1971 – He was awarded the AMA’s highest honor, the Dud Perkins Award.

1973 – At 67, retired on the 25th anniversary of Honda’s founding. He declared his conviction that Honda should remain a youthful company.

1989 – He also received the American auto industry’s highest award when he was admitted to the Automotive Hall of Fame.

1991 – Died on the 5th of August from liver failure at 84.


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