While motorcycles were nothing new to the buying public, by 1949, that year, a new bike floated onto the scene that would change the biking industry forever. Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Corporation, had worked tirelessly for years before he finally released a bike that would be nicked named “The Dream” and would turn the world of motorcycles onto its ear.
This motorcycle had innovations that American and European bikes did not possess, which does not consider its effect on the racing world. While the Dream was but the first of many Hondas that would make their mark on the industry, it will go down in history as one of the greatest innovations that the biking community would ever know.
According to Honda execs at the time, their goal was to live the Dream of bringing consumers a motorcycle that surpassed those available on the market at the time. From there, they wanted to live the Dream, and the moniker stuck. Though that was not their first model available to the public, from that point forward, the company’s offerings at the time were called the Dream.
This new offering to the motorcycle-buying public came with many innovations to make it stand out amongst its competitors.
Surprisingly, one of the greatest innovations that made the Dream stand out was not in the realm of engineering. It dealt directly with the bike’s appearance, but it was not because it offered a new shape. It provided a unique color that the buying public, at least in Japan where it was initially marked, was utterly there for. While the competition focused on painting their motorcycles a dark black color wherever possible, Honda opted for an eye-catching maroon color for the Dream. Though it might seem insignificant in terms of what the bike had to offer, the color was embraced, and the differentiation made those in the market go wild.
Aside from its unique color, the Dream also brought about many other innovations that had yet to be seen in the world of motorcycles. The Dream came complete with a 98cc two-stroke engine that was air-cooled and produced a whopping 3 hp. It also had a newly innovated clutch, the first of its type to be seen on a motorcycle. Rather than a hand-shifted clutch, this semi-automatic clutch was integrated into the foot pedals. It was thought that by doing this, Honda was opening the Dream up to a broader market of buyers because the new clutch made it easier to maneuver.
Other features of the new Honda Dream included:
A rear wheel controlled by a chain rather than a belt.
Front and rear drum breaks.
The first Honda bike that did not come with bicycle pedals.
A-frame made from pressed steel sheets, reminiscent of the German-made BMW bikes.
The front end came with telescopic forks, while the rear was rigid.
Unusual for the time, the bike was fully lighted so that it could be ridden day or night.
A tank that could hold 1.8 gallons.
It also came with a luggage rack and a tool kit.
While the Dream had many innovations that made it better in many ways than other motorcycles, it did have its flaws.
Some of the issues that the developers at Honda had to improve upon included:
The semi-automatic transmission was not a favorite because if the rider did not keep constant pressure on the shifter, it would fall into neutral.
Because of the condition of Japanese roads at the time, the frames were apt to break if they hit a bump too hard or hit bumps too often.
Again, due to Japanese road conditions at the time, the space between the front tire and fender would often fill up with mud.
The engine was prone to making loud, squealing noises.
Honda continued to improve upon the Dream, but it wasn’t until 1959 that it was exported to America.
When Honda began to sell the Dream in the States, the new models offered a 305 cc engine with 24 hp, a far cry from its original 3 hp. This expansion to the US truly helped to put the Honda Dream on the map.
One man had a dream, and that Dream went far beyond coming true. Soichiro Honda changed the face of the motorcycle industry when he released his vision and shook the world with a totally new, innovative bike.
His consistency with improvements to the bike paved the way for it to become one of the best and brightest in the industry. While the Dream Honda had might have seemed impossible, he dared to dream it nonetheless, and he made the Dream come true.