Archive | 11:06 AM

American Honda’s Secret Automobile Stash…

5 Jan

Hmm... What do I feel like driving down to the deli today? 😉

I was catching up on my reading and I came across this interesting article in this past Sunday’s edition of  The New York Times about American Honda’s secret warehouse full of “sampling[s] of models important to the company’s United States history.” I for one knew nothing about this and I think it’s cool as hell that the Times did an article on it.

Here is the direct link to the article:
Honda’s Cache, Private for Now

AMERICAN HONDA does not have a corporate museum in the United States — not officially, anyway.

But there is a carefully considered collection of Hondas tucked away in a warehouse a few blocks from the company’s headquarters here.

The trove came to light several years ago when officials from the Rose Parade — Honda is a longtime sponsor of the New Year’s Day tradition in Pasadena — were invited to view a few of the more interesting models in the warehouse. A Honda executive from Japan wound up joining the tour of the collection.

Its cover was blown.

The collection was started by a former executive of American Honda, Tom Elliott, who had put aside a sampling of models important to the company’s United States history, said John Mendel.

“The problem was, we kept turning up more and more significant models that we couldn’t let go of,” said Mr. Mendel, who succeeded Mr. Elliott as American Honda’s executive vice president for sales. “We just kept parking them in this warehouse. We kept expanding the warehouse. Pretty soon, we just ran out of room.”

The collection has grown to several dozen vehicles, including Honda racecars from the IndyCar series, a selection of motorcycles and, more recently, early examples of a Honda-made generator and an outboard motor. At least that’s what Honda will admit to, although many more vehicles could be seen in storage farther back in the building when an informal lunch for journalists was held there.

While the collection is not open to the public — there is not even a sign on the building — the space is used for company meetings and events. The dream of someday being able to showcase these vehicles is at least a year or two away from becoming reality. One of the questions that American Honda officials will face at that point is which vehicles to display.

Certainly they’ll reserve a place of honor for the Honda 50, or Super Cub, a spindly motorcycle powered by a 50 cc engine. That was the first vehicle Honda marketed in the United States, soon after it incorporated in 1959 and established American headquarters on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. (A replica of that storefront has been created in the collection’s warehouse space.)

The Super Cub is still being produced; Honda says that 60 million Cubs have been produced, making it the best-selling vehicle of all time.

The Cub was followed by bikes like the dual-purpose 250 Scrambler, famous for tackling the Baja California peninsula of Mexico. And of course there would be a spot for the original 4-cylinder CB750, which helped establish Japan’s credibility as a maker of modern superbikes.

“A lot of people don’t remember that Honda was first a motorcycle company,” Mr. Mendel said. “Cars didn’t come along until sometime later.”

The collection includes an N600, the first Honda car sold in the United States, arriving in Hawaii in 1969 and on the mainland a year later. Americans didn’t warm to the tiny dimensions and wimpy 599 cc engine of the N600, but the car has still earned a place in the company’s holdings.

“The N600 started it all,” Mr. Mendel said. “It was full of innovative ideas that were applied to later models.”

It wasn’t until 1973 that Honda car sales took off, when the first Civic was introduced. Since then there have been many best-sellers, as Honda has grown to become one of the world’s premier automobile manufacturers.

“It will be easy to know which of the early models to include,” Mr. Mendel said. “But there will be a lot of discussion about which of the later models should be in there.

“Everybody has a favorite,” he added. “Unfortunately, there won’t be room for all of them.”