13 years after it’s foundation in 1949 Honda Motor Company moved into the production of it’s first S360 micro sports cars in June 1963.
A month earlier Soichiro Honda set his Research and Development engineers to work on a 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui 60 ° V12 motor for use in a Formula One application.
It would appear that after a deal fell through to work with Lotus the engineers, who had become world champions in Motorcycle Racing, used a 1961 Cooper in their possession as the starting point for an all new RA270 chassis.
This gold prototype tested, but never raced, by Jack Brabham in 1964 was notable for a transverse mounted engine and for having 12 exhausts coming straight out of the back.
At the 1964 German Grand Prix Honda made their Formula One debut with the RA271 driven by American Ronnie Bucknum, which still had a transverse mounted V12, but conventional exhaust manifolds with two tail pipes.
Ronnie qualified 22nd and was classified 13th despite having an accident after completing 11 laps of the scheduled 15 lap race, Ronnie retired from both the Italian and US Grand Prix later in the season.
For 1965 the Honda engineers Yoshio Nakamura and Shoichi Sano kept the transverse mounted V12 which was said to produce 230 hp at 13,000 rpm.
American BRM refugee Richie Ginther joined Ronnie Bucknum in the team.
After the team missed the season opening South African Grand Prix and recording two retirements at Monaco, Richie scored the team’s first World Championship point with a sixth place finish at Belgian Grand Prix after starting 4th on the grid.
At the French and British Grand Prix Richie two more retirement and with the team now running just the one car he finished 6th in the Dutch Grand Prix from third on the grid.
Honda missed the German Grand Prix but came back with cars for Richie and Ronnie for the remaining three races of the season.
Richie finished 14th and 7th in Italian and the United States Grand Prix where Ronnie retired and was classified 13 respectively with both drivers suffering from ignition issues.
However at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix, the last of the 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui era it all came good for Honda when Richie qualified 3rd and Ronnie 10th.
Against the form of British drivers and British built cars from Lotus and BRM winning the previous nine races of the season Richie came through for the win and Ronnie came home in fifth place.
This race would remain Richie’s only victory in Formula One and remarkably the Honda team have added only two more Formula One victories as constructors to that total, at the Italian Grand Prix with John Surtees in 1967 and with Jenson Button in 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Former Italian Formula One Driver and Honda works world touring car driver Gabriel Tarquini is seen at the the wheel of Richie Ginther’s #11 Mexican Grand Prix winning car at Goodwood Festival of Speed last year.
Thanks for joining me on this “Longitudinal Success” edition of “Gettin a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Maserati Monday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !
19/04/15 Thanks to Tim Murray for pointing out that the RA 272’s kept the transverse mounted engine layout for 1965.