A new temporary exhibition opens at the Manx Museum on Saturday 30th May, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Honda’s arrival at the TT in 1959.
Entitled ‘Honda The Golden Age’, it celebrates the phenomenal rise of Honda on the world motorcycle racing stage from their first entry into top flight competition through to their decision to leave the TT – having won all that there was to win in solo racing – after 1967.
The exhibition includes the memories of Honda mechanics and riders including legends like Mike Hailwood, Tommy Robb, and Jim Redman. With some classic Honda motorcycles on display, together with archive film footage of Honda machines in action, this is one exhibition not to be missed by any fan of classic TT racing.
Soichiro Honda, founder of the Honda Motor Co, began building motorcycles just after the Second World War. As an ex-racer himself he realised that the best way for his machines to gain credibility and to break into important western markets was to win races with them.
He set his sights on the most important race of all – the Isle of Man TT – and proclaimed that he had a dream, a dream that his machines would win motorcycle racing glory and become the best in the world.
Matthew Richardson, Curator: Social History at Manx National Heritage said 'For the first Honda team in 1959, it was a journey into the unknown. They were unfamiliar with western food or culture. One team member remembered learning table manners in order not to embarrass the firm!
'For the first three seasons of racing the team stayed at the Nursery Hotel in Onchan. Only a few years after the ending of the war, there was still much residual anti-Japanese feeling, but the team worked hard to build bridges and they were soon popular with the youngsters of Onchan, to whom they gave caps, badges and other souvenirs.
'Japanese products had a reputation as poor copies of western originals, but when Honda machines began to win races, the world’s top riders began to take notice. With the racing successes went increased sales, and soon Honda was the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world.
'The Isle of Man however retains a special place in the hearts of Honda employees and fans, as the place where it all began to go right.'
‘Honda – The Golden Age’ runs from 30th May to 5th September 2009 at the Manx Museum in Douglas. Admission is free.