In 1937 Soichiro Honda founded a company to produce piston rings for Toyota. The walls soon came tumbling down. At first, he had to forfeit the production contracts due to poor quality of his parts. After conducting further manufacturing research the deal was reinstated in 1941. The global war hit soon after. During WWII one of his factories was bombed and the other collapsed in an earthquake in 1945. He sold off salvageable parts and machinery to Toyota and used the funds to start the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946. This led to the development of a motorized bicycle, which was moved by Honda’s first mass produced engine. These achievements would result in the incorporation of Honda Motor Company on this day in 1948.
The first full motorcycle, including frame and engine, built by Honda was the 1949 D-Type “Dream.” Honda released the Super Cub underbone motorcycle in 1958, which is the most produced Honda vehicle to date. It remains in production in various forms, having sold its 100 millionth unit in 2017.
After winning Grand Prix victories and World Championships in 125cc and 250cc, Honda began a period of rapid growth. The first production Honda four wheeler, the T360, arrived in 1963. It was a small pickup truck that went on sale just four months before the release of the 1963 Honda S500 roadster. However, it was the release of the 1973 Honda Civic that would secure Honda’s place in automotive history. Released the same year that Soichiro stepped down from the company, the Civic was an affordable, eco-friendly vehicle that appealed to the masses all over the world, and remains so today.
Soichiro Honda and his business partner Takeo Fujisawa were known for thinking differently in the automotive industry. They aimed to award individual achievements instead of general success of the business. Their way of management allowed for the hiring of more creatives within design, engineering and other fields. The results were, well, look at Honda now. Soichiro Honda became the first Japanese person inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989. He remained active in his later years, even maintaining a personal pilot license. He passed away in August of 1991 at the age of 84.