Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964

Reaching for the Top in Motorsports (F-1: The Initial Phase)

Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964

The Challenge: Building a Complete Machine

The drafting of detailed layouts for the prototype RA270 engine was started in August 1962, and by June of the following year the team was ready to test its performance. Their prototype F-1 car, which, like the Cooper Climax on which it was modeled, was covered with a steel space frame, was tested in Arakawa on February 6, 1964.

Mr. Honda and Yoshio Nakamura, assistant director of the research center (later becoming the first F-1 team manager), drove the metallic-gold car two laps around the course. The RA270 recorded 8,500 rpm in fifth gear, with a maximum speed of 175 km per hour. The following week, on February 13, the RA270 tested at 210 horsepower with 11,800 rpm, exceeding the 200-horsepower mark for the first time. Fujiya Maruno, an engine design engineer who witnessed the test, made this entry in his notebook: "The Old Man is happy."

Photo

The notebook of Maruno, in charge of engine design. The entry for February 13, 1964, reads, "The Old Man is happy."

"The Old Man (Soichiro) had been racking his brains. He used to come to the design room and tell us we should do this and do that before going home. Then, he would come back the following morning and ask us what had happened. Of course, by that time he had a different, better idea with him. He wasn’t getting enough sleep, either. It was like that for a long time, so it was no wonder he was so happy that day," says Maruno.

The test car’s chassis was built at the research center, but the center also had to devote its resources toward the development of passenger vehicles.

Nakamura discussed the matter with Mr. Honda, and it was decided that they would build only the engine and have European teams use it in their own chassis designs. Nakamura flew to Europe in summer 1963, visiting several F-1 teams and promoting Honda's engine.

Finally, Lotus was selected to be their partner. However, in January 1964, when they were ready to ship the engine, the partnership collapsed due to a situation that had arisen on the Lotus side. Honda had to build the chassis by itself after all. Of course, they were plagued with problems, from design and materials to parts and components, since the company had relatively little experience in auto manufacturing, not to mention racing machines. Each day, their designs were changed following rebuttals by the shouting Mr. Honda.

All these efforts, however, were rewarded when the first race-ready F-1 machine, the RA271, was finally completed. The body was painted ivory white, and the front nose donned a vivid red circle symbolizing the Japanese flag.

The first attempt was the German Grand Prix held in August 1964. The driver was Ronnie Bucknam. Regrettably, the RA271 crashed out of this highly anticipated debut race, only three laps before it was to cross the finish line. However, the car was running in ninth position when it retired, and it gave great confidence to the team after a disappointing qualifying round in which the RA271 could not complete a single lap.

Photo

The August 1964 German Grand Prix, the initial F-1 race in Honda’s first phase

That year, the RA271 competed in three races, but ended up retiring in all of them. The team’s staff was not at all pessimistic about its performance or prospects, though. Instead, the thinking was on how to make use of the knowledge acquired from those three races, and apply it to the next season.

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

A System that Fosters Expertise
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  2. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
Products Emerging From Technology and Innovation
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  2. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
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  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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