Almost everyone has heard of Honda vehicles. Their cars and motorcycles can be found on roads across the world, but few people know the incredible story of the company’s founder Soichiro Honda.
Soichiro Honda’s Early Years
Honda was born on November 17th, 1906 in Shizuoka, Japan. His mother was a skilled weaver and his father was a blacksmith who also managed a bike repair shop.
Honda learned quickly by helping his father. His studies in school, however, were not as stellar. He forged the family seal he was supposed to stamp on his report card. When he was found out, his father punished him for not noticing the seal’s mirror-image properties.
Art Shokai Auto Repair
Honda applied to work at Art Shokai, an auto repair shop in Tokyo. Eventually, the owner allowed him in the workshops where he started designing and working on race cars. He even worked as a mechanic during races and helped their team win first place in a championship.
Art Shokai became one of the biggest workshops in the Tokyo area. Honda, now 21, managed one of the branches in Hamamatsu.
Honda’s Ideas and Early Production
A destructive earthquake inspired Honda to develop more durable parts for vehicles. He upgraded wooden spokes to metal ones and even got a patent for his idea. He sank a huge portion of his money into the development of the piston rings and even had to pawn his wife’s jewels.
Honda was forced to apply to a technological school though he spent his free time designing race cars. It was then that he discovered the problem of overheating engines and developed a new design to prevent the issue. He used this new technology to create a car and race in a high-speed rally.
From Rock Bottom
While racing, Honda’s car crashed and his vehicle flipped several times. He was thrown from the vehicle and injured so badly he nearly lost his life. Honda ended up in the hospital for three months.
He received bad news while in the hospital… only a handful of his piston rings passed quality control. Honda was also kicked out of school because he didn’t want to take tests for graduation. It was a hard time in his life, but he would not give up.
In 1937 he created the company Tokai Seiki. He provided Toyota with piston rings while also supplying parts for ships and aircraft.
Things changed again after World War II. His factory suffered major damage in the war and Honda had no choice but to sell it.
Honda Motor Company and Honda Cars
Eventually, Honda created a new business which later became the Honda Motor Company. By 1958, Honda was the biggest Japanese motorcycle manufacturer and even out-produced 200 other competitors.
He once hosted a foreign businessman and offered him too much to drink. The man lost his dentures in the toilet but without hesitation, Honda retrieved them. He placed them in his own mouth and performed a jovial dance. Due to Honda’s actions and sense of humor, the deal was salvaged.
Being a successful motorcycle manufacturer was only the beginning. Soon, Honda turned his attention towards his lifelong dream of designing automobiles. He created an environmentally friendly engine with a low pollution output and eventually opened a production plant in Marysville, Ohio. By the end of the 1980s, Honda Motor Company was the third largest car manufacturer in the world.
Honda’s Dreams Realized
Honda retired in 1973 but he continued to contribute to the automotive industry. His research on the influence of science on the environment helped create more eco-friendly vehicles. He passed away on August 5th, 1991 but his legacy continues to live on.