Shortly after the end of World War II, Soichiro Honda became interested in small gasoline-powered engines. While visiting a friend, Honda came upon a generator engine for a radio. It occurred to him to attach the engine to a bicycle, Japan's primary mode of transportation after the war. The small 50cc engine became the basis of Honda Motor Company, destined to become the world's largest manufacturer of motorbikes and motorcycles.
In 1945, Japan needed an inexpensive, compact, practical mode of transportation. Soichiro Honda strove to meet the demand by attaching 500 war-surplus two-stroke gasoline engines to bicycles. By 1946, Honda had a factory in Hamamatsu building complete motorbikes. The bikes ran on turpentine, as gas was in short supply. The bikes sold well and the army surplus engine supply soon ran out, so Honda began to manufacture his own 50cc engines.
Soichiro Honda built a modified two-stroke 50cc engine based on the design of a small motor used by the Imperial Army to power generators. Honda built the 50cc as an auxiliary bicycle motor and to run small personal transportation motorbikes. The Honda Technical Research Institute perfected the engine under President Soichiro Honda's guidance. The 1947 A-Type Honda motorbike featuring a 1/2-horsepower 50cc engine was known as the "Chimney," as the engine smoked excessively from its turpentine fuel.
Honda motorbikes sold very well and Soichiro founded the Honda Motor Company in 1948 to keep up with the increasing demand. In 1952, Honda introduced the F-Type Cub, outfitted with a 50cc engine generating 1/2 horsepower. A year later, Honda was building 6,500 Cubs a month, producing 70 per cent of Japan's motorised two-wheeler market. The 50cc engine was sold as an attachment for push-bikes, or as the powerplant of the red and white Cub, called the Auto Bai by its Japanese riders.
Honda Super Cub
In 1958, Honda introduced to Japan the C-100 Super Cub. Powered by a four-sroke 50cc overhead valve engine, the motorbike went on to become the world's best-selling model. Honda increased the power and efficiency of the 50cc engine by increasing its rpm. The higher-revving Honda four-stroke successfully competed in a market dominated by two-stroke engines. By 1967, the 4.5-horsepower pushrod 50cc evolved into a 4.9-horsepower single-overhead-cam 50cc engine.
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