September 25, 2006

Japan, Honda Collection Hall, Part 8 Outstanding!

After watching the 800's spin some laps, I quickly made my way up and out of the paddock area. You cross through a tunnel to go across the track to the main grandstands area, and then you take a series of escalators to get to the top level of the circuit. While not immediately noticable from the television, Motegi is cut into a bunch of hills and there are some nice elevation changes around the track. The grandstands at Motegi are the tallest I've ever seen. What was also interesting were the flags and banners that the Japanese fans made in support of their favorite riders. They were Professional! I mean, fonts, logos, graphics, everything was perfect. I didn't have time to get many pictures, but they were the best I've seen, and they really showed the devotion and dedication that the Japanese racing fans have.

Anyway, why was I leaving the paddock? I wanted to get to the Honda Museum, known as the Honda Collection Hall.

The circuit is so big, that walking around would have taken a considerable amount of time, so I went to the information office at the main gate and asked where the museum was. When the girl noticed I worked in MotoGP, she smiled and told me to wait a moment. It was well worth the wait, as a bus-driver came out and drove me (just me!) to the museum in this yellow bus. Normally, these were used to bus people to and from the parking areas, but this one was all mine! The slogan on the side of the bus sums up my racing philosophy, Enjoy it! Actually, it's more of a life philosophy. We're not getting out of here alive. . . . .

A short bus ride later, and I was at the front entrance of a gorgeous building that was set aside from the amusement park rides strewn throughout the track. And not just kiddie rides, we're talking adult go-kart type stuff. I highly recommend spending some time at this track if you get the chance. That's why I was there on Monday!

A little disclaimer here: This museum is filled with top-notch examples of groundbreaking cars and motorcycles, both for the street and for the racetrack. I took literally hundreds of photos, and I have selected just a few to be here on my website. There are so many outrageous and beautiful machines here that I wanted to spend as much time as possible just poking around, but I didn't have that luxury, as I needed to be back with Marlboro Ducati later that afternoon. I did the best I could to absorb some part of Soichiro's spirit, and I think I did just that!

The ground floor is tastefully laid out, minimalist, clean, and with a selection of bikes and cars from all eras. It was this bike that caught my eye first. I would love to see a modern iteration of this style of bike, even a modern four banger with a different fairing would be enough. This style is iconic, and although Ducati has released something along the lines of "classic" with their Paul Smart edition, I think a bike that took after one like this would be that much sweeter. But that's me, and I'm a sucker for all things moto.

What was neat about the first floor was that there are sections that not only have original vehicles, but also time pieces on display, of the fashions, trends, art, and things like that. There's a nice cafe, a courtyard out back, and a perfect little souvenir shop. I wanted to see and do as much as possible, as quickly as possible, so I ran up the large stairway to the second floor, which was separated into two sections, one for historical bikes, and one for historical cars. It should be noted that the museum is not strictly reserved for Hondas. Far from it! There are bikes and cars from all manufacturers represented, because history is full of groundbreaking ideas and proof of design from all sides. It was a real treat to see this replica of the very first motorcycle, originally made by Daimler, of later Daimler-Benz (Mercedes) fame. It was utterly stunning and perfect in every way.


More Classics.

Oh, Hot-Diggity-Damn!

I forgot to mention that there's an onsite flat-track, presumably built so HRC could get their RS750 on the ground when they were going after Harley. When they won the championship in the states, they promptly lost interest, or maybe it was because the rules were bent against them.

I love singles. Man! I love singles! What a graceful and elegant frame on this one.

Further back in the motorcycle room, I found a collection of mini's that was phenomenal. These are quite possibly my favorite motorcycles in the world, so this was like hitting the motherlode for me.

A clean (well, perfect, really) example of a KO. One day I'm going to build a super version of one of these hard-tails, with a perfectly balanced motor and all the trick bits I can get my hands on! Mark my words!

One of the more interesting Honda 50's, the industrial Motra. I've seen these in o.d. green, also. What a kick-ass farm bike this would make.

The little bike that started it all, the CZ100. Try finding one of those these days!

On the opposite side of the single cylinder side of things, we have this, which needs no introduction. Honda's great six cylinder streetbike, the CBX.

Another one of Honda's great streetbikes, the V4/V8-ish engine powering what is now a rare collectible, the Honda NR750. What a radical design, with it's oval pistons. Radical, there's no other word for it.

If you see one of these, see if the owner will let it go - Cheap! Good luck, haha!

Ohhhh, one of my absolute favorite. The Rikuo, a Harley-Davidson clone that was manufactured after WWII. These things are just about perfect replicas, and in fact, they should be considered Harley-Davidson's. Just not ones from Milwaukee. They might even be better . . . . . . . .


I don't know the square footage of the rooms, but they are large and filled with so much two wheeled goodness, it can be overwhelming for someone like me. I'm by no means an engineer, but I can recognize and see how certain designs were developed and evolved over time due to higher tolerances, better metalurgy, or just out of sheer popularity. I think Kevin Cameron (of Cycle World, I think) would have a field day here, because while the second floor is filled with "standard" bikes and cars, the third floor is race-only! Here's just a small, small sampling of what was there.

It was really neat being here on a Monday, because literally, there were probably only four other people in the whole museum. FOUR. That meant I pretty much had the place to myself, and you can get darn close to these machines. Close enough to touch them, if you wanted to. . . .
I stumbled upon the endurance racer section, and immediately felt like I was surrounded by Ultraman's bikes, because of all the strange bug-eye headlights. Maybe not Ultraman, but more like Masked Rider, or Kikkaida!

While not especially competitive, the Rock/Elf Honda was ahead of it's time. I really appreciate that they went racing with a new and unique design, though maybe it wasn't so good for Ron Haslam's career. Who knows? I know it's a very special bike, and I wouldn't mind owning a version today, but with a more modern powerplant that was easier to service, or one that didn't need much service, like a VFR!

This place has everything, a wall just full of #1 NSR's, four strokes, two strokes, anything and everything that HRC has raced you can probably find in here. I was at a loss because you can't believe how much racing history is just sitting around quietly. These are terrible machines, warriors on wheels, and now? Now they are polite examples of beautiful design, like a sword on the wall never to be used again. A little sad, really.

Oh, SNAP! Name it if you can. I love this machine.

Nice tail. I like asymmetry. It's more organic in some ways, and that let's the bike flow to the function side of things more than the form.

Ok, last one for a little while. This is a nice Italian/Harley machine made by an aeroplane company, if I remember correctly. As more racing knowledge pours in, more arcane Harley history falls out!


nr500 3x

I named it. what do I win?


hi Liam,
Awesome stuff u got here bro.
one of my dream is to be at dis place seen in d pictures . . .
d historic Honda museum and meet some people from Foundation 25.
And also catch up a Moto Gp race at Motegi . . .
we have biker club here in India n r hardcore Moto GP freaks !
watch for d biker club blog link on my blog.
thanx n keep up d great work u doin here.
PS- the 800s post was superb!
any idea bout der approx BHPs?
cuz dey r postin better lap times n even speeds than d current 990s !???!

Nice stuff Liam, Hondas Endurance bikes are some of the sexiest machines in the world.

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