The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

The Concept: An OHV + Inclined Cylinder that Changed the World of General Purpose Engines

The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

The Reality: Learning from Damaged Parts

Traveling upstream on the Menam (Chao Phraya) River past Bangkok reveals many "longtails" floating on Thailand's giant river. Longtails are small boats equipped with general purpose engines instead of outboard marine engines. This type of engine has a long propeller shaft that sticks out of the boat, resembling a dragonfly's tail. The boat is called a "longtail" because of this propeller shaft. Longtails are indispensable to the lives of people in Thailand, as well as to those in other developing nations in Southeast Asia. They are an important means of livelihood, facilitating transportation and fishing.

Photo

The longtail's engine operates with its body kept at an angle. Understanding the actual conditions of engine use had led to many of the features employed in the ZE engine. (Photographed in Indonesia)

"I found one! Let's go after that boat!"

Running ahead in the direction the voice had indicated was a longtail with an engine painted red and white. That particular color combination meant that it was an ME, the engine developed by Honda in 1977. The voice came from Yoshinobu Yamaguchi, who had been involved in the engine's testing. He and his colleagues wanted to verify how their engine was being used, and whether or not there were any problems regarding its real world use. They were chasing the boat ahead of them, searching for the kind of information they could not obtain simply by analyzing data in the cold environs of a distant office. They had managed to make time during their business trip in order to travel up the Menam, all the while hoping they would make contact with users and obtain some feedback.

General purpose engines are used in a number of ways, meaning one cannot develop a truly applicable product unless its conditions of use are understood. Therefore, the ME engine's notable success was largely attributable to the efforts of a development staff that had traveled the world identifying its requirements. They had the ability to see things and analyze them from the standpoint of engineering. For example, during a visit to a retailer the staff would go to the repair area and search the drums and other waste containers filled with damaged engine parts. It was a noisy process going through the parts, but in the process they could usually find worn cylinders and other clues. They would examine the oil deposits and find them to be filled with dust, proving there was a need to improve the air cleaner. In this way, every damaged part would tell its own story, often inferring a great deal about the harshness of use and the environment surrounding it. Ultimately, improvements would be made and ideas for new models proposed. This indeed symbolizes the Honda's principle of "focusing on real-world, on-site operations while facing up to the challenges inherent in reaching a goal."

"It didn't matter that we couldn't speak the language," said Yamaguchi. "As engineers we knew what kinds of data we'd need to apply in our workstations. We simply had to watch the users as they brought their products in for repair. That way we could find out more about the problems they'd been having."

Yamaguchi held firmly to the belief that such a strategy was of paramount importance in the development of reliable, high-performance products. Each time he went abroad, he would make time available in which to study the market. He would journey through the dry cattle lands of Australia, visit busy rental shops in America, and wade into the rice paddies of Thailand. The world market was to Yamaguchi the very soul of research, and knowing something of his customers and their lives kindled in him a sense of ambition. It was the desire to build an engine that would satisfy the needs of each customer who bought it.

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

A System that Fosters Expertise
  1. A System that Fosters ExpertiseA System that Fosters Expertise
  2. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
  3. Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification  / 1960Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
  1. A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the WorldA Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
  2. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  3. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  4. Introducing N360 / 1967Introducing N360 / 1967
  5. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  6. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  7. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  8. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
Marketing Globally, Producing Lacally
  1. Marketing Globally, Producing LocallyMarketing Globally, Producing Locally
  2. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959
  3. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  4. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
A Refreshing New Development
  1. A Refreshing New DevelopmentA Refreshing New Development
Products Emerging From Technology and Innovation
  1. Products Emerging From Technology and InnovationProducts Emerging From Technology and Innovation
  2. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  7. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  8. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  9. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  10. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  11. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  12. Road Pal / 1976Road Pal / 1976
  13. City / 1981City / 1981
  14. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
  15. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  16. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  17. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  18. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  19. The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
Production Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufacturing
  1. Production Technology: The Essence of Creative ManufaturingProduction Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufaturing
  2. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  3. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  4. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  5. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
A Neverending Passion for Racing
  1. A Neverending Passion for RacingA Neverending Passion for Racing
  2. Completion of Suzuka Circuit / 1962Completion of Suzuka Circuit / 1962
  3. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  4. Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964
  5. Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983
  6. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  7. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
Creativity - The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder
  1. Creativity – The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder Creativity – The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder
  2. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
People and Society Coexisting in Harmony with Nature
  1. People and Society Coexisting in Harmony with NaturePeople and Society Coexisting in Harmony with Nature
  2. Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992
  3. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  4. Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991

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