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It is easy to find a Honda on the road. This popular Japanese car brand has grown exponentially over the last seven decades since its inception. It is now a vast, multi-national brand that produces automobiles, motorcycles, and aerospace engines. You may own a Honda, but do you know what the first two automobiles Honda gave the public were? Let’s take a look back in time. 

Honda started in Japan before World War II

According to Premier Honda, the Honda company was founded by Japanese engineer and industrialist Solchiro Honda. Honda started as a mechanic working out of a garage. He tuned cars and entered them in local races. 

After acquiring some financing, Honda began manufacturing pistons. He started his first company, Tōkai Seiki (the Eastern Precision Machine Company), in 1937 to produce these pistons. The beginning of this venture was not easy and came with initial failures, but Honda persevered and acquired a sizable contract with Toyota to supply these pistons. 

Honda sold his company to Toyota after World War II and then used the proceeds from the sale to establish the Honda Technical Research Institute. Their first motorcycle rolled out of the Institute in 1949. 

The first Honda automobile rolled out in 1963. 

The first Honda was a small pickup truck 

Honda was well acquainted with motorcycles by 1963. The company poured that knowledge into developing their first automobile, the T360 truck. It turns out that Honda did not like two-stroke engines in any of the motorcycles developed by his company. He preferred tiny, four-stroke, four-cylinder engines. The engineers took that particular knowledge and used it to develop their first truck. 

The T360 truck came with a 360cc, twin-cam, four-cylinder engine. It made about 30 horsepower and revved to about 9000 rpm. The Subaru contemporary model was a twin-cylinder two-stroke vehicle that made half that power. 

Honda originally developed this engine for a sports car that never made it to production, the S360 Roadster. Honda believed that a two-seater with a tiny engine would do well then. He instead launched another car with an oversized 500cc engine, the S500. 

While the T360 pickup truck was Honda’s first car, the S500 was Honda’s first addition to the passenger car market. Honda continued to use his incredible knowledge of motorcycles to develop the S500. 

Honda broke away from what his Japanese automaking peers were doing and developed his first passenger car from a blank slate. He did not use inspiration from European or American designs. Thus the first Hondas were very different than other cars on the market. 

The S500 was powered by a four-cylinder engine with one carburetor per cylinder. It had dual overhead camshafts, needle-roller bearings, and a 9,500-rpm redline

Honda came to the US in the 1970s 

Honda made waves with the ingenuity of the T360 truck and S500 car. But, neither model was ever sold in the United States. They both stayed in the Japanese market. 

Interestingly, the American Honda Motor Co, Inc opened its doors on June 11, 1959. The American branch opened in Los Angeles, California, with three employees. By 1968, Honda had sold over 1 million motorcycles. 

In 1969, Honda sold its first car in the United States. The Honda N600 featured the unique features of the distinctly Japanese brand. The Z600 coupe followed. 

The ever-popular Honda Civic was introduced in 1973. But, in 1974, Honda continued its path of innovation by developing a CVCC engine that made the Civic the first vehicle to meet the Clean Air Act emissions standard without a catalytic converter. 


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