Honda Collection Hall - Motegi Museum
An Inside Look At Honda's Museum At Twin Ring Motegi.
October 26, 2009
By Henny Ray Abrams
Photography: Henny Ray Abrams
Officially, it's called the "Honda Collection Hall", but everyone knows it as the Motegi museum.
Situated on the sprawling grounds of the Twin Ring Motegi racing circuit complex in the rural Haga District of the Tochigi prefecture a few hours north of Tokyo, the museum houses a number of collections on the upper floors. The second floor for street-legal machinery is split into two wings; one side is motorcycles, the other side autos and power products.
It's the third floor everyone comes for. Half the floor is dedicated to Honda race cars, which includes the iconic models from Honda's long history in Formula One. The other side houses not only Honda's legendary race bikes, but also many of the landmark race bikes of all time. In all, there are 246 motorcycles in the collection, with each holding a unique place in the history of motorcycling.
Second floor lobby of Honda...
Second floor lobby of Honda Collection Hall showing the 50th anniversary display with a 1998 CBR900RR, 1960 RC143, 2005 RS250RW, 2006 RS250RW, and the 2008 RC212V of Dani Pedrosa.
The attention to detail in the restoration work is exquisite-and not only on the older machinery. Dani Pedrosa's 2008 Repsol Honda RC212V is displayed with the canister of compressed air that pressurizes the pneumatic valve system.
This year the museum added a special display to celebrate Honda's 50th anniversary in Grand Prix racing. And, in keeping with the harsh economic times, they had only a modest celebration on the Friday of the Japanese MotoGP weekend.
1959 RC142, using a 124cc...
1959 RC142, using a 124cc air-cooled, four-stroke DOHC four-valve twin making 17.7 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and weighing 191.8 pounds. This was the five-year culmination of Soichiro Honda's declared intention to race in GPs in 1954. Three RC142s took part in the ultra-lightweight (125cc) class on the Isle of Man's shorter 17.36km Clypse Course.
All of current Honda MotoGP riders, including Repsol Honda's Pedrosa and teammate Andrea Dovizioso, attended. But interestingly, only three non-current riders were invited. Naomi Taniguchi, the now 73-year-old who earned Honda's first point in GP racing on the Isle of Man in 1959, looked fit enough to race. He was joined by Kunimitsu Takahashi, Honda's first Japanese-born GP winner on the 250cc RC162 in West Germany in 1961. And the rider who represented Honda from the modern era wasn't five-time 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan; it was a champion whose talent burned brightly but briefly.
1965 MV500 powered by a DOHC...
1965 MV500 powered by a DOHC 492.7cc air-cooled, inline four-cylinder making 74 horsepower at 11,000 rpm and weighing 260 pounds. The MV won eight of nine races in 1965 World Championship, and won both the constructor and rider's championship with the legendary Mike Hailwood. This was the final version of the GP racer that won for eight consecutive years; the 1966 models onward were three-cylinders.
2001 Honda NSR500, the last...
2001 Honda NSR500, the last of the breed. Valentino Rossi won Honda's 500th GP on this bike at Suzuka. Rossi won the first of his five consecutive premier class titles with this bike (and the last true "500GP" championship). Claimed 177.5 horsepower and a weight of 288.8 pounds.
In the "Motorcycles From around...
In the "Motorcycles From around the World" exhibit is Barry Sheene's 1977 Suzuki RGA500 XR22 that won six of eight rounds in the 1977 World Championship and took the manufacturers and riders championship two years in a row. Powered by a 494.8cc, two-stroke, square-four-cylinder, rotary disc valve engine making 118.3 horsepower at 11,000 rpm, top speed of 174 mph and weighing 282 pounds.
Freddie Spencer holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Honda Motor Company. It was Spencer-then a shy, baby-faced 20-year-old kid from Shreveport, Louisiana-whom Honda chose to represent the world's largest motorcycle company when it returned to GP racing in 1982 after a 15-year absence. Spencer was re-teamed with Erv Kanemoto, the legendary tuner who'd paved the way by spending the 1981 season working with Barry Sheene, then on a Yamaha.
The number 40 machine is the...
The number 40 machine is the 1982 Honda NS500, powered by a 498.6cc liquid-cooled, reed-valve 112 degree V-3 making 120.3 horsepower @ 11,000 rpm, weighing in at 260 pounds. This was Honda's first liquid-cooled two-stroke triple. Spencer won his first GP, over Barry Sheene, then-world champion Franco Uncini, Kenny Roberts and Randy Mamola, on this bike on July 4 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, where he also set the quickest lap of the race. Next to it is the last NS500 made for Spencer in 1984 and the bike he rode in defense of his 1983 title; same basic specs, but with 125.8 horsepower @ 11,000 rpm and weighing 249 pounds. That bike was rolled out because of the disastrous NSR500 "upside-down" four-cylinder experiment.
It didn't take long to validate Honda's decision; Spencer became the youngest ever premier class winner when he won in his seventh outing on the nimble NS500 triple at Spa-Francorchamps in 1982. That machine, which wore the number 40, is one of several on show in Spencer's corner display, the largest by far dedicated to any rider.
"I was very fortunate to have great engineers, (Satoru) Horiike and (Suguru) Kanazawa and Erv Kanemoto, so we were kind of the genesis, the beginning. And learning," Spencer said. "We believed keeping a bike flat with a very steep steering head angle, not much rake and trail, was the best way, or they believed. And I had to learn how to ride it.
The 1964 Honda RC165E, a 249.42...
The 1964 Honda RC165E, a 249.42 cc DOHC air-cooled inline four-valve, six-cylinder engine making 53.5 horsepower @17,500 rpm with a seven-speed transmission. Used in 250cc World Championship from 1964-67, this was the first Honda six-cylinder to win a GP in the Isle of Man TT in June 1964.
1992 NR750, a limited production...
1992 NR750, a limited production motorcycle powered by a 747cc DOHC 90 degree V-4 oval-piston four-stroke with eight valves per cylinder. A technological tour de force, the NR was the first and only production motorcycle to use oval pistons. It also had titanium, carbon fiber and other advanced technologies in its construction.
The 1989 Honda NSR500 powered...
The 1989 Honda NSR500 powered by a 499cc reed-valve, two-stroke V-4 making 148 horsepower and weighing 269 pounds. This is Eddie Lawson's 1989 500cc World Championship winner, a bike that he termed "evil" for its wayward handling and power before he and Kanemoto tamed it.
1981 Honda NS750 dirt tracker...
1981 Honda NS750 dirt tracker designed specifically for Freddie Spencer. Engine was a modified OHV, four-valve CX500 V-twin turned sideways in the chassis and was the predecessor of the RS750D dirt-tracker that won many AMA Grand National championships.
Honda RS250R-W powered by...
Honda RS250R-W powered by a 249.6cc liquid-cooled 90 degree V-twin with reed-valve induction. Making 72 horsepower at 11,500 rpm and weighing 224.8 pounds. Ridden by Freddie Spencer to the 1985 World Championship and Manufacturers Championship, part of his 500/250 double title-winning year. Spencer calls it his favorite bike.
1982 Honda CB750F ridden by...
1982 Honda CB750F ridden by Freddie Spencer, Mike Baldwin, and Roberto Pietri to a sweep of the 100-mile Superbike podium at Daytona that year. Powered by a 1023cc DOHC air-cooled, four-valve inline four-cylinder making 138 horsepower @ 10,500 rpm. Maximum speed of 155 mph.
Honda RS1000RW powered by...
Honda RS1000RW powered by a 1024.5cc DOHC four-stroke, four-valve liquid-cooled V-4 making 148 horsepower at 11,000 rpm and weighing 363.7 pounds. This RS1000RW was ridden by Spencer to second place behind Kenny Roberts in the 1982 Daytona 200.
"So in some ways it was really difficult, but in other ways it taught me how to work around things. For instance, between '82 and '83 I knew which part of the corner I was going to have to improve to run with Kenny [Roberts] and the four-cylinder [Yamaha]. So, I feel fortunate that I got to be there at the beginning, even though it was very hard, and also the fact that I won the first 500cc championship [for Honda]." When Spencer won the 1983 500cc World Championship at Imola in 1983, he became the youngest-ever premier class world champion. The honor remains to this day.
The 1983 Honda NR500, powered...
The 1983 Honda NR500, powered by a 499.5cc oval piston DOHC liquid-cooled eight-valve, 90 degree V-4 with magnesium cases. The NR500's frame, swingarm, wheels, and fork tubes were all made from carbon fiber. This was the bike that Honda initially returned to GP racing with back in '79, thinking that it could design a four-stroke to compete with the two-strokes on equal footing. While a superb technical exercise, it failed to make a dent in the two-stroke dominance, and was quietly replaced with the NS/NSR500 two-stroke racebikes
Spencer's favorite race bike is the NSR250R-W that he rode alongside the four-cylinder NSR500 to the historic double 250cc/500cc world titles in 1985. Spencer said Horiike built it in three months. "I set a lap record at Suzuka the first minute I rode it."