If you can't go to the museum, Honda will bring it to you.
Nestled in the heart of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Tochigi, Japan, is the global treasure known as the Honda Collection Hall. Its curators continue to post quality videos to their YouTube channel, each focusing on a particular facet of Honda’s extremely eventful and significant history. Today, though, the Collection Hall brings us something even more special than usual. A gem among gems, if you will.
You see, the Honda Collection Hall is now doing a VR series, where it takes you as close to the action as you’re likely to get, with some of its rarest and most historically significant models. On March 26, 2021, it posted two such VR videos focusing on the legendary RC142 race bike.
The first video takes you inside the garage, as Honda technicians service the RC142 in 2021. Formula One fans may note the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 low-key lurking in the background for most of the beginning of this video. Later, you’ll see that there’s an S500 in the garage as well, because this is apparently the place where Honda keeps all its coolest specimens.
The second video is much shorter, but essentially puts you in the cockpit of the RC142 as former Honda Factory rider Hikaru Miyagi takes you around the track. Here, you get an extremely nice helmet cam view. Thankfully, the video is also enhanced by the rich, clear audio that Honda recorded. Will this be one of the best things you see all day? I don’t know what your day is like, but I also don’t know how it could not be. Make sure you have some headphones in for the full experience.
For those unfamiliar with the RC142, it’s one of the bikes that Honda took to its first-ever Isle of Man TT appearance in 1959. When Soichiro Honda decided to compete, the initial team working on the bikes was made up of a bunch of young, unproven, but extremely passionate guys. Everyone, from team leader Kiyoshi Kawashima to the riders themselves—Naomi Taniguchi, Giichi and Junzo Suzuki, and Teisuke Tanaka—worked incredibly long, hard hours to get their bikes ready for competition, both before they left Japan and after they arrived on the Isle of Man.
From one of Honda’s own histories of the events, Kawashima recollected, "Anyone who was a respectable engineer wouldn't have considered getting into anything so reckless as competing in the Isle of Man TT Race. As for us, from the Old Man on down, none of us were respectable."
As the team worked to develop its race bikes, they acquired a 125cc F.B. Mondial in September of 1958, from which Kawashima said they learned a lot. They didn’t copy it, though. The Mondial was a single-cylinder machine, and Honda instead opted for a two-cylinder design with its RC141. After deciding that this first attempt’s paltry 15.3 PS (or approximately 15 mechanical horsepower) wouldn’t cut it when the Mondial made 16.5 PS (about 16.3 hp), Honda went on to develop the RC142. That new engine had a new four valve design, and could make 17.4 PS (or about 17.2 hp), which was pretty impressive for the time.
Now, when Honda first showed up on the Isle of Man, no one was expecting much of anything—even the Honda team, themselves. They just went in expecting to gather data. Kawashima even instructed his riders to simply try their best to finish the race, because you can’t gather data if you don’t finish. The team realistically set their sights on being competitive in the next three years, using what they learned from what were meant to be reconnaissance races.
To everyone’s surprise, all four machines Honda entered finished their first TT. Kawashima had been hoping for at least one to do it, and instead, the whole team got a very pleasant surprise. Naomi Taniguchi came in sixth on the RC142. Giichi Suzuki came seventh, Teisuke Tanaka took eighth, and Junzo Suzuki took tenth. By their powers combined, Honda also took home the Constructor’s Trophy in its first-ever IOMTT competition.
When the team arrived on the island, no one knew Honda’s name. By the following year, though, the world was just starting to get an idea of what Honda was all about.