Honda Collection Hall
Words and Photos: Georges Ramirez
Before I get into it, let me tell you about the location of this magnificent museum. It is a part of Honda’s Twin Ring Motegi race track, a facility which as most of you may know has both an oval and circuit type tracks. What I didn’t realize, however, was how it was a lot more than just a race track.
Sitting on this enormous plot of land that stretches as far as your eyes can see, Honda has integrated the attributes of both nature and motoring into a park. Like a reserve, this vast estate has beautiful trees and mountains with camp sites and trails. Nestled around the race track’s periphery are the theme park-like areas, hotels, hot spring pools, rides for kids, go-kart tracks, multiple test and training facilities, as well as the Honda Collection Hall.
Surrounded by manicured lawns and matured trees is the Honda Collection, a museum that occupies a three story building. As you walk into the lobby, you can see how deeply the soul of this company is rooted in racing with their first Formula One car and motorcycle that debuted the Honda brand into the premier levels of global motorsport. These displays also had actual footage of these endeavors and even showed their founder, Mr. Soichiro Honda, on his hands and knees as he observed his creations perform just feet away from him, making it clear to me whose soul pulsates through this company’s veins.
Walk to the right and you’ll see some prototype alternative fuel vehicles as well as the stages of development of their robot technology, the path that led them to the charming Asimo that we know today.
The second and third floors had motorcycles on the south wings and cars on the north wings. I started with the production bikes on the second floor after being welcomed into the wing by an early production motorized bicycle and two of their their biggest successes: the Honda Cub and the CB.
As it moved into the 60’s, the Honda Collection started to turn into such a nostalgic pilgrimage; apart from now being able to recognize the bikes, they actually had the Honda P25, the first motorized vehicle I rode along with the “monkey bike”. Then came the first few motocross bikes I used and the cool thing was, they also carried other bike makes that were relevant at the time. The collection displayed their technological breakthroughs; the 4-cylinder Super Sport, the vibration free CB’s, shaft driven Gold Wing, the 6-cylinder Super Sport, so on and so forth.
As I crossed over to the cars on the north wing, they displayed the top cars from the 1990’s Japan Touring Car Championships were there; the same cars we used when we revived circuit racing in the Philippines. It wasn’t all Honda Civics and Accords though, as examples of Toyota and Nissan race cars were also present.
Entering the production car wing, you are greeted by several variants of the Honda S500 which was a cool little sports car in its time. Then came the small mini car and a string of other models, some of which I had not seen before. Then when this time machine got to the 80’s out came the game changing CR-X, followed by the NSX and even the Integra Type R; the production version of the car I raced in Macao. Sweet.
Rushing off to the third floor, I popped into the motorcycle wing and found a collection of pristine race bikes. Naturally, the main hall was dominated by the café racers starting from the first one to compete in the legendary perilous “Isle of Man” race to more familiar MotoGP machines. On the right side were nooks for “Flat Track” bikes and “Scramblers”, classes which eventually evolved into the Motocross, Enduro and Trials bikes of today. As I made my way to the other side of the hall, the shiny polished aluminum gas tank of the dominating Elsinore CR250 caught my eye; bringing back fond memories of the one I once had.
Finally I was at the race car wing. It was here that my jaw dropped given that so many of Honda’s old Formula One cars were lined up in a row. On the pillars behind them were large photos of the drivers who piloted those screaming 11500RPM revving, V12 cars. Flanking them was the old Cooper Formula car that probably inspired the engineers of the time, and just after it was an early Honda formula car that even sported the British racing green color.
From that era, next was when Honda set their sights on F1 again and started with the beautiful JPS and Ralt F2 cars before they moved on to Formula 1 as an engine supplier. The cars Honda powered were for Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Satoru Nakajima, Japan’s most successful F1 driver. In this section, you could see how they moved the drivers to the front of the car with the fuel tank in the middle so as to minimize the change in the car’s balance when the fuel was depleted. Due to the subsequent injuries to the drivers, they repositioned them back to their original spot.
The hall also showcased the time when Honda fully immersed itself again in Formula One with the complete package, engine and chassis as BAR-Honda F1, and later, Honda F1. Honda once again became a force in Formula One, winning the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix with Jenson Button behind the wheel. In this line up you can see the radical developments in aerodynamic design up until the most radical one of the lot: the final Honda Earth Dreams F1 car.
Across the F1 cars, Honda displayed a series of sport and touring cars like the S500, Civic and NSX, capped off with two championship-winning Honda-powered Indy Cars.
At this point, I was all alone up there and could hear the sound of children coming into the building, so I hurried out and just as I walked into the foyer of the third floor, four intake stacks stared at me with the manicured lawns in the background. It was surreal.
As mentioned before, the perfect condition of the vehicles and manner they were displayed were passionately done. The old photos and the footage of special races really did it for me because, back in the day most of us were limited to magazine articles.
The Honda Collection was a clear example of “If you can dream it, you can do it”. The founders set their targets to be the best, not just in Japan or the region, but simply the best. Now I am looking forward to the next couple of F1 seasons to see what they come up with.
I find it only fitting that I end this article with a quote from Honda’s founder, Mr. Soichiro Honda, at the inception of this magnificent museum.
“Machines never lie. Success will always come if they’re really good. So let’s show the world what we’ve done. Then they can see the real Honda!”