Honda celebrates Collection Hall reopening by revving classic race engines

We can’t think of a more Honda way to open a museum than revving the crap out of some classic racing machines. Recently, the Honda Collection Hall in Japan reopened after a months-long remodel, and Honda held an opening ceremony with two of its most important vehicles, the 1965 RA272 Formula 1 car, and the 1966 RC166 Grand Prix motorcycle.

In the 1966 motorcycle world championships Honda entered the RC166 for the 250cc class. Honda had been Japan’s first motorcycle manufacturer to win an international championship and had taken the 250cc title three years in a row, from 1961-63. But Yamaha had come in from 1964-65 and wrested the crown away.

The RC166 was newly developed to reclaim that top honor. Its air-cooled inline-6 engine was an engineering marvel. With twin cams and four valves per cylinder it made around 60 horsepower (exact figures aren’t known) on its way to an 18,000 rpm redline. Mated with a 7-speed transmission, it was capable of a 150 mph top speed. With the RC166, Honda took back the 250cc world championships, not only for 1966 but in 1967 as well with the same bike.

The RA272 was Honda’s first successful Formula 1 racer, winning the Mexican Grand Prix in 1965. Honda had only entered F1 one year prior. Originally it had planned to enter only as an engine supplier, but no one wanted to take a gamble on a Honda motor. So Honda fast-tracked its own chassis in the RA271, which was uncompetitive.

1965 was a different story. A new aluminum semi-monococque body and pipe-frame chassis was developed. The engine, a 1.5-liter 48-valve water-cooled V12, was mounted transversely and canted toward the front, its forward bank tucked into the body. The setup was very much like a motorcycle’s, with a coil of center-exit exhaust pipes. The engine made 230 horsepower, more than what the Ferraris and BRMs could achieve at the time, and topped out a 12,000 rpm redline.

Incidentally, Honda recently released a new logo marking the 60th Anniversary of its F1 debut. It’s pretty neat, depicting the RA271 zooming out of the zero. The company says it will be using it throughout the year for promotional purposes and on apparel.

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