Honda Collection Hall Tour

December 31, 2009
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

The Honda Collection Hall features two towers connected by a central lobby and walkways on the upper floors. The South Towers are focused on the Motorcycle history while the North towers housing the automotive side of Honda.
The Honda Collection Hall was opened to the public on March 21, 1998 as part of the 50-year anniversary of Honda.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I found an ad in the cycle trader for a crashed CBR900RR for cheap or trade. This would be my first chance to own a true superbike, the baddest of the bad boys at the time. I managed to trade my crusty 750 and some cash for a cosmetically damaged CBR that I got running right there and rode it home. It was my first Honda streetbike and my sole means of transportation for almost a decade. Many of you probably have a similar tale or maybe you’re simply a racing fan but no matter who you are or what you ride, the name Honda is synonymous with motorcycles and likely played a role in your riding career in some way, shape or form. Twenty years later, the 900RR is one of the key motorcycles I was drawn to while visiting the Honda Collection Hall.

Situated within the hallowed grounds of Twin Ring Motegi, the Honda Collection Hall houses the culmination of over 50 years worth of dreams from the company’s founder, Soichiro Honda. The Honda Collection Hall showcases its rich racing history and development of consumer products

American Nicky Hayden rode the number 69 Repsol Honda RC211V to his first and only MotoGP championship to date in 2006.
This is the Repsol Honda RC211V V5 race bike that our own Nicky Hayden rode to his World Championship in 2006.

across a spectrum that includes automobiles, motorcycles and everything in between. Visiting this special museum was one of the highlights of our tour of Japan during the press introduction for the 2010 Honda VFR1200F. Though we were there to ride the newest motorcycle from Honda, it was the look back in time that made an incredible mission an extraordinary experience.

Highlights of the Collection Hall displays ranged from the first Honda motorcycles to compete at the Isle of Man TT and the Grand Prix racing scene, all the way to the early 12-cylinder Formula One race cars that helped put the company in the automotive lime-light. Of course, our eyes could barely be pried-off of an array of championship-winning motorcycles piloted by the likes of Mike Hailwood, Luigi Taveri , Jim Redman, Fred Merkel, Fast Freddie Spencer, Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi and the Kentucky Kid, Nicky Hayden. Although we are inclined to focus on the late-model race bikes the collection of historic motorcycles, both racing and consumer alike, is equally impressive.

Almost every exhibit in the Honda Collection Hall is in running order. Could you imagine that janitor being tempted to fire up one of Doohans NSR500 race bikes and spinning a few laps around Motegi under the lights - then getting the display back before anyone knows it was missing
The Honda CB750 really was one of the original sport motorcycles. The disc front brake and large-displacement Inline Four Cylinder engine were the heart of its appeal.

Wandering through the displays of the Honda Collection Hall is sure to evoke memories of days gone by for any rider. These visions can vary from the first time you swung a leg over a Monkey bike on to that sunny day in Florida, to watching from the stands of Daytona as Dick Mann took the first-ever win for Honda at the fabled high-banks.

Over in the car display there’s the Honda-powered McLaren Formula One championship-winning machines from the legendary RA301 driven to victory in the 1968 Mexican GP by John Surtess all the way to the dominant Honda-powered F1 machines driven by the likes of Ayrton Senna.

During our visit there was particular interest in the prominent role of the V4 engine throughout the history of Honda. Starting with the motorcycles like the V4-powered RS850R race bike Joey Dunlop rode to TTF1 glory in the early ‘80s to the dawn of the RC-30 era in World Superbike heading into the 90s and ending with the dominant RC45 machine that riders like John Kocinski, Miguel Duhamel and Ben Bostrom all claimed superbike titles with. Then you

Honda believed in  and was racing  the oval-piston technology as early as 1979. This NR500 OX was piloted by Takazumi Katayama during the 1979 British GP.
The first oval-piston V4 Honda was the NR500 Grand Prix racer. While other manufacturers chose to build 2-stroke 500s, Honda tried to do something different. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and the endeavor gave way to 2-Stroke V4 engines in the following years – but the stage was set. Honda believed in the V4 four-stroke and would go on to make it their trademark engine in the decades that followed.

have to consider the dominance of the Honda V4 2-stroke racers in Grand prix that made legends of riders like Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, just to name a few.

While the V4 was proving its mettle with a successful run on the track it also proved to be an excellent engine for the street as well. These race bikes spawned the original V4 powered Magna and Sabre street bikes before ultimately leading to the VF500, VFR750F and VFR750R series motorcycles that established the Honda V4 as a popular engine configuration for any motorcycle. And while the V4 may be the engine most often associated with Honda, it was the Inline-Four that helped the company establish itself as a leader in the motorcycle industry.

Shining examples of the CB450 Dream, CB750 and Honda Cub can easily be overlooked with pure bred specimens like the Doohan-Gardner era NR500 machines in the background, but make no mistake those old-school bikes played a part in bringing motorcycles into the mainstream. When the collection Hall was opened in March of 1998 it was commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Honda. Over a decade has gone by sine that time and even more

This example of the 1997 Honda NSR500 was ridden to the 1997 World Championship by Mick Doohan. It was a dominant year for the Big Red machine as the top five motorcycles in the championship standings were all Hondas.
Almost every exhibit in the Honda Collection Hall is in running order. Could you imagine that janitor being tempted to fire up one of Doohan’s NSR500 race bikes and spinning a few laps around Motegi under the lights – then getting the display back before anyone knows it was missing?

examples of Honda history have been added into the mix. We can only recommend that any world travelers heading to the Land of the Rising Sun make it a point to visit the Honda Collection Hall. It is a time capsule that has something for everyone. You can even watch the restoration process or watch demonstration rides of the museum pieces that are held through out the season. Every machine is in running order and that my friend is what we would expect from Honda.

Throughout this article are some select images, but the photo gallery has photos and detailed captions about many more motorcycles on display in the Honda Collection Hall so we urge you to take a look at the gallery, watch the nifty video and see if any of those old school Hondas bring back a memory or two. They sure had that effect on us. I sure wish I still had my trusty 900RR to take for a nostalgic spin right about now.

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