|E-Type The Early Days of the Honda 4-Stroke (1951)
|It was March 1951 when Honda summoned Kiyoshi Kawashima from Hamamatsu. Kawashima, would you mind coming over for a moment? It was the beginning of a two-month stint in the capital as I worked on the design of the E-Type 4-stroke engine in a corner of the Tokyo Plant, said Kawashima. When the plans were at last ready the Old Man dashed in to see it, bringing Fujisawa, with him.
Kawashima can remember clearly that day in May 1951.
As he showed the plans to Fujisawa, Mr. Honda gave us an enthusiastic commentary: Ah, I see. You have this kind of valve and the cam goes like that. This is what I call an engine, it isnt just a 2-stroke machine that looks as though its been cut from a bamboo tube with holes drilled. This will sell. Honda will do well with this! Mr. Fujisawa didnt have any understanding of the plans, he didnt know anything about mechanical things at all, so he just said things like Hm, yes, thats great, said Kawashima, laughing.
The now-legendary test crossing of the Hakone Pass took place on July 15.
In those days the Hakone Pass was considered the ultimate test for a motor vehicle. Even trucks could only get over it if they stopped for a rest every now and then. So it was certainly a challenge for a small 150 cc motorcycle. Kawashima acted as both the engine designer and, on that occasion, as test driver.
Actually wed been using the Hakone Pass as a test track for quite some time by then. I was sure we could climb it, but I was pretty nervous because the Old Man and Mr. Fujisawa were coming along as well. If the engine had overheated or something and conked out right in front of Mr. Fujisawa, the Old Man would have suffered a terrible loss of face. That day a typhoon was approaching but history relates that the engine was completely untroubled in the torrential rain and raced up the hill in top gear. I joked to myself that it was lucky there was so much rain and spray, because it meant that the air-cooling worked liked water-cooling and helped keep the temperature down. Although I say that I went up in top gear, there were only two gears, which was just as well, he said, laughing. Looking back on it, I think that was a good, plucky little engine.
The story goes that the motorcycle overtook the Buick that Honda and Fujisawa were riding in. Kawashima went over first and the three men were reunited at the summit of the pass, where they hugged each other with delight.
That was a bit of a bad moment, he laughs. Although I was wearing a raincoat I was soaked to the skin when I shook hands with them.
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