Honda is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Japan and has been since it started production in 1955. The company was founded by Soichiro Honda, a mechanic who managed to develop his own design for piston rings back in 1938.
After initial failures, Tōkai Seiki – the initial name for the company – won a contract to supply piston rings to Toyota, but lost the contract due to the poor quality of their products. Soichiro Honda visited numerous factories across the country so as to become acquainted with the quality control processes so that the product he made could come up to par with what Toyota wanted.
After his plants at Yamashita and Itawa, were destroyed by US bombings and an earthquake later, he sold the remaining part of his company to Toyota, and founded Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946, with 12 men operating out of a shack, where they built and sold improvised motorized bikes.
The first motorcycle was essentially a bicycles onto which had been attached a 2 stroke 50 CC, Tohatsu radio generator engine. This was nicknamed the Bata Bata due to the sound that this type of engine emitted.
The first bike to be completely built under the Honda brand was released in 1949 and was called Dream D-Type. It produced around 3 horse power and had a full 98cc. After this, came their first big seller, the 146cc, OHV, four-stroke E-Type Dream which reached a production capacity of 130 units per day by October 1951.
One year later, Honda made the F-Type, which had a 50cc two-stroke engine which took over the two-wheeler Japanese market producing 6,500 units per month. In 1953 they made the J-Type Benly which was followed up in 1954 by the 200cc scooter Juno. In 1957 Honda introduced their first twin-cylinder bike, the legendary 250cc OHC four-stroke C70 Dream.
The same model was altered in 1958 by fitting it with an electric starter and renaming it C71. The same year, 1958, came the C100 Super Cub which became the world's most successful motorcycle because it was cheap and practical. The first Honda bike to be available in Europe was the 250cc C72 Dream in 1959.
Since then, Honda motorcycles have gone world over, even taking part in motorcycle racing and being represented by top names in the industry like Valentino Rossi.