Remembering Soichiro Honda

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The Fifth of August marks a quiet anniversary, an event that will most likely pass by unknown amidst the media circus over the Civic losing its Consumer Reports Recommendation and other worldly affairs. Twenty years have passed since Soichiro Honda breathed his last on August 5, 1991. He rose from humble beginnings to a position of global prominence  powered by his dreams and his work ethic.

It was his inquisitive mind coupled with a desire to constantly push his boundaries that set him on the path towards creating “the engine company.” His zeal for innovation and zest for racing rubbed off on several of his people and products. It is the reason why Honda surged to multiple racing victories on two wheels and four.

Although he retired from the affairs of the company in 1973, he had set the mold whereby others could follow in his footsteps. Facing bankruptcy in the 50s, he embarked on a campaign to race his motorcycles on the Isle of Man, thereby establishing Honda as a force to reckon with. Victories in Formula One followed as well with American Richie Ginther driving Honda to its first podium at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. When the Japanese government tried to get Honda to join a consortium of other manufacturers to form a third large car company to compete with Toyota and Nissan, Honda responded by building the S500 sports car and retained his right to remain an independent manufacturer. By doing all of that, he ensured that his company always marched to a different tune and was never afraid to take calculated risks.

In his own words,  Products don’t lie. If a product is really good, it will succeed. What did we at Honda intend when we created our products? We should only present what we created. Our products speak the truth about Honda. Such was his drive to engineer the best possible product.

The Barber Vintage Motorsports museum in Birmingham, Alabama contains a Honda exhibit that has the following words on a glass plaque –

A motor journalist named Shotaro Kobayashi asked Soichiro Honda:
What made you happiest as an engineer?
This was Honda’s response:
To start with I’ll tell you what most disappointed me…
This attitude is what makes Honda.

As we spend time today, driving (or riding) home, or are outdoors mowing our lawn, perhaps we can spare a few quiet moments remembering Soichiro Honda and the extent to which his dreams continue to touch and inspire us.

For everything you dreamed and achieved, thank you, Soichiro-san.


Images: MotorWeb blog and BikeWriter.Com

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