Honda Disc Brakes

NASA Southern California Region Honda Challenge Series NASA Southern California Region Honda Challenge Series

Honda is one of the best-known auto manufacturers in the United States, but it wasn’t always that way. Through ingenuity, determination and skill, founder Soichiro Honda built a brand from humble beginnings to become a multi-billion dollar, worldwide organization.

Soichiro was a smart young man who enjoyed reading books on automotive engineering and was inspired to learn as much as he could about cars, motorcycles and engines. He was hired at the age of 15 as an apprentice at the Art Shokai Automotive Servicing Company, where he repaired and worked on automobiles, motorcycles and other small internal combustion engines.

Soichiro was soon called up for military service but dismissed from duty when he was found to be colorblind. By the age of 21 he completed the apprentice program and opened up a branch of the Art Shokai Company in Hamamatso, Japan. Though the company continued to repair motorcycles and automobiles, Soichiro was inspired to go beyond that. One of his achievements was building a lift that would make working underneath cars easier.

Honda Element Honda Element

With the repair shop doing well, Soichiro decided to get into the manufacturing business and started Tokai Seiki. One of the first accomplishments of his new company was manufacturing piston rings, eventually selling them to Toyota and Nakajima Aircraft.

During a visit with a friend in 1946, Soichiro came upon a small engine that was used to power a generator for a WWII, wireless radio. He had an idea to adapt the engine to power a bicycle, the primary means of transportation in Japan at the time. Though not an original idea, as this was how Harley Davidson got their start at the turn of the century, the two-stroke 50cc engine worked well on Soichiro’s prototype bicycle prompting him to purchase 500 additional engines from the Mikuni Company.

After reworking and adapting the engines, his bicycles began selling well. Determining that he would soon run out of inventory, Soichiro decided to build his own engine. In 1947 he hired Kiyoshi Kawashima, the first member of Tokai Seiki with an engineering degree. Soichiro designed a basic engine plan and showed it to Kawashima who found it interesting but ahead of its time, as the machining required to build the engine wasn’t yet available. Instead, ideas from the existing engine were incorporated and implemented into a new design, and in 1947 the A-Type, Honda’s first motorbike, was introduced. The engine performed to expectations and the motorbike sold well. It was evident that some people needed a bike to haul things so another three-wheel bike was developed called the B-Type. In an effort to build the best motorbike available, Soichiro also developed the C-Type that was more like a motorcycle with pedals on a specially constructed frame. In 1949 Honda introduced the D-Type that was the first Motorcycle with a pressed steel frame. At this point Honda had changed the engine from a two-stroke to a cleaner and quieter four-stroke.

Soichiro was a perfectionist; when he put his mind to something he persisted until it was done right. He strived to please his customers with products that were perfect in every way, and his expertise was evident in every engine the company produced. Soichiro didn’t have an engineering degree, instead teaching himself how engines and other mechanical assemblies worked so he could converse with other engineers, on their level. He was a smart man and knew Japan was a relatively small market, limiting his sales potential. He began looking at larger economies, like the United States, to expand his market.

Honda S2000 Honda S2000

Soichiro found Los Angeles, with its year-round warm weather, perfect for motorcycle riding. He established Honda there in the early 1960s and began looking for dealers. Many existing motorcycle shops started offering Hondas, but a problem was found with the larger bikes, which were removed and sent back to Japan for testing. The only remaining motorcycle, the Super Cub, was known as the Honda 50 in California. It sold for an affordable $250, attracting the youth market and becoming a top seller. Honda’s popularity was on the rise, even attracting the talents of Brian Wilson and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, who wrote and recorded a song called, "Little Honda," under the assumed name of the Hondells.

Honda Civic Si Sedan Honda Civic Si Sedan

From the mid-’60 through the ‘70s, Honda was releasing some really nice motorcycles that became well known for their quality and powerful, smooth-running, high-tech engines. Perhaps the pinnacle of performance was the Honda 750, four-cylinder engine that became known as the first superbike. Enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike were captivated by the quality of Honda products, helping to win people over when the company started releasing cars.

Honda started building cars in Japan in the mid-‘60s. They were quite unique by Japanese standards but not as well-received by American buyers. In the United States the ‘60s was the decade of the muscle car so performance and fast speeds were what attracted both the youth market and older buyers. In 1970 Honda did release a car in the United States, and although it was very reasonably priced, it was small, noisy and cheaply constructed when compared to American cars. While Honda’s motorcycles earned a reputation of being fantastic achievements of engineering, the same couldn’t be said for the first car that was released.

The management at Honda did marketing surveys to get feedback from the American and Japanese buyers. Using that information Honda started working on a new car that would be far superior to their initial offering. Development of the vehicle began during the time that leaded gas was being discontinued and both the Japanese and American governments were mandating higher fuel and emissions standards. Honda designed a new engine, the CVCC, to meet emissions and fuel requirements without the need for a catalytic converter. The CVCC engine was offered in Honda’s new release, the Civic. Though it was smaller and slower than the types of vehicles Americans were used to, sales were stimulated by the oil embargo and the Civic’s gas sipping engine. In the late 70s, the Honda Civic was rated Top Car on the EPA’s first ever list of America’s most fuel efficient automobiles with an EPA fuel economy rating of 40 mpg.

Encourage by Civic sales, Honda opened a research and development facility in Gardena, California, to study the American car market. Based on their studies, Honda released a new model in 1976, the Accord hatchback, that featured styling unlike any American vehicle. The cars were affordable, inexpensive to insure and had a reputation for great fuel economy. College students, women and young buyers were especially attracted to Hondas.

As Honda products were being shipped to the United States from Japan, a tariff was looming on cars and large displacement motorcycles. Honda realized they would need a plant in the United States and in 1979 opened a facility in Maysville, Ohio, to build CR250M motorcycles. The American workers were indoctrinated to understand the Japanese building philosophies and company policies and practices. Japanese associates were brought into the new plant to teach their American counterparts how to assemble the motorcycles. Once trained, Americans started building the motorcycles with the same quality standards found in Japan.

Honda was continuing to ship cars to the United States from Japan; a cost that had to be worked into the price structure. To lower costs and increase efficiency, Honda opened another plant close to their Marysville, Ohio facility, in 1982, to produce the Accord.

Honda marketed itself as the leader in building fuel efficient, clean cars. In the late 80s, they introduced the CRX-HF, the first car to achieve an EPA fuel economy rating in excess of 50 miles per gallon.

It didn’t take long for Honda to become comfortable with the quality of the products being made by American workers. In 1985, they opened a motorcycle engine plant in Anna, Ohio, that soon expanded to build automobile engines. Since Honda had several plants in Ohio, the company opened up an R&D facility for the engineering of new automobiles, motorcycles and other power equipment products.

Honda started their upscale product line, Acura, in 1986. They began by producing two models: the Integra Sport Sedan and the Legend. Both were sold through 60 dealers in the United States.

In 1988 the Honda Accord produced in Ohio became the first Japanese car built in the U.S. to be exported back to Japan. It was also the first vehicle from an international company to earn the title of America’s best selling automobile.

In 1989 Honda founded its second U.S. auto plant in East Liberty, Ohio, to build the Civic.

The Acura automobiles started selling well in the U.S. prompting Honda to change its image from being known as only an economy car builder. They began development of the Acura NS-X, one of the first cars built with an aluminum chassis and body. The sports car was fine tuned in Germany and tested on the Nürburgring race course. It featured a mid-engine, rear wheel drive platform using the new VTEC engine that was developing 290 horsepower. Japanese designers brought in the famous Italian designer, Pininfarina to style the body, producing a timeless Ferrari-style design. The Ferrari was the sports car the Japanese most wanted to exceed in performance with their new NS-X but in a price range that people could afford. The NS-X went on sale in 1990 and continued through 2005.

The American Honda engineers were busy on another project: the Honda Accord Wagon. In 1991 the new Honda was the first vehicle to be designed, developed and built in the U.S. This car was designed for the American who wanted more utility for transporting groceries and luggage, as well as driving kids to baseball or soccer games.

In an effort to show how good their engines were, Honda decided to enter the Indy Car, open-wheel racing series. Right from the start they were very competitive.

In the ‘90s Hondas were being built with more powerful engines and many of the younger buyers were starting to modify the cars to improve their performance for the street and track. Since the Hondas were being built as fuel-efficient transportation cars, they were delivered with a very basic brake system. Wilwood saw a need for improved Honda brakes and came out with several kits for the Honda Civic and other models built on the same platform. It should be noted that Honda may have changed the body design over the years but the Civic platform remained essentially the same from 1990 to mid-2000s, so the brakes we are going to mention cover a wide array of vehicles. The only changes will be in the caliper bracket construction and rotor size. The Dynapro 6 Big Brake Front Brake Kit, part number 140-10736, is a major improvement for the Honda Civic. This kit features forged billet Dynapro six-piston calipers in a black powder coat finish. The strong caliper works with 12.19-inch rotors in a standard or drilled and slotted style. The Forged Dynalite Big Brake Front Brake Kit, part number 140-8695, is also very effective, featuring a forged billet Dynalite four-piston caliper in black or red powder coat finish. The 11-inch rotors come in a standard or drilled and slotted style. Another powerful kit is The Forged Dynalite Big Brake Front Brake Kit, part number 140-6310. This kit features forged billet Dynalite four-piston calipers in a red or black powder coat finish and 12.19-inch rotors in a standard or drilled and slotted style. Some Honda models require the Dynapro 6 Big Brake Front Brake Kit, part number 140-10735. This kit is similar to the other Dynapro 6 kit but it uses slightly different caliper brackets. This kit features a forged billet Dynapro six-piston caliper in black powder coat and works with 12.19-inch rotors in a standard or drilled and slotted style. Another front brake kit that works well on certain Honda models is The Forged Dynalite Big Brake Kit part, number 140-6163. This kit features a forged billet Dynalite four-piston caliper in black or red powder coat finish. The caliper works with an 11.75-inch rotor in a standard or drilled and slotted style.

A kit that should be of interest to Honda drag racers is The Forged Dynalite Front Drag Brake Kit, part number 140-8442. This kit features forged billet Dynalite four-piston calipers in black. The caliper works with the 11.75-inch lightweight rotor in a standard or drilled style.

It would be advisable to improve the rear brakes to complement the front brakes. Wilwood makes several excellent rear brake kits for Hondas, and the Combination Parking Brake Caliper Rear Brake Kit, part number 140-10210, is one of them. The kit features a combination hydro-mechanical parking brake caliper that uses hydraulic power for the brake pads and a mechanical lock for the parking brake. The caliper is available in black or red powder coat and works with 11-inch rotors in a standard or drilled and slotted style. A similar kit, part number 140-10211, is also available and features larger 12.19-inch rotors. Other similar kits in this style include part numbers 140-10206, 140-10207, 140-10208 and 140-10209. A kit for Honda’s sports model, S2000, is also available. The front kit is a Superlite 6R Big Brake Kit, part number 140-10309. It features a forged billet Superlite six-piston caliper in red or black powder coat. The calipers squeeze against 12.88-inch rotors in a slotted or drilled and slotted style. The S2000 rear kit features a Combination Parking Brake Caliper Rear Brake Kit, part number 140-10310. The kit features a combination hydro-mechanical caliper in red or black powder coat. The caliper works with 12.88-inch rotors in a slotted or drilled and slotted style. The same kits mentioned here also work on the Acura Integra because they were built on a similar chassis design.

Over the years Honda has taken pride in meeting all national and California emissions requirements with their engine designs. In 1995 the Civic was the first vehicle to meet the stringent California requirements. In 1997 the ’98 Honda Accord was also able to meet California’s vehicle emissions standards.

In 1996 Honda opened another factory in Russells Point, Ohio, to begin producing transmissions. Ohio quickly became an important state for the production of Honda products.

While Honda was meeting and beating emissions standards in California, they were also working on zero-emissions cars in the form of electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles. In 1997 Honda began leasing the Honda EV Plus, a four-passenger, battery electric vehicle powered by a nickel-metal Hydride battery and an electric motor. The cars drove nicely with ample power, but similar to other electric vehicles the range of the cars was limited. In 1998 Honda introduced the Civic GX an extremely low emissions, natural gas powered model. It was the cleanest internal combustion engine ever tested by the U.S. EPA, but few natural gas stations existed for refueling.

Honda was quick to dial into American trends such as the interest in all-terrain vehicles, in various sizes. A new plant was built in Timmonsville, South Carolina, to build the small off-road vehicles.

1999 Honda Civic DVS 1999 Honda Civic - Wilwood Brakes

In 1999 the 2000 Honda Insight was introduced as America’s first gasoline-electric hybrid automobile. It was the most fuel efficient vehicle in America with an EPA rating of 70 mpg. The following year Honda America designed, developed and manufactured a Civic coupe that was the first car to earn a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration for both frontal and side impacts. 2001 was also the year that a new plant in Lincoln, Alabama, began production of the Odyssey minivan. The Japanese marketing executives were hesitant about producing the van but it turned out to be a winner with the American public.

In 2002 the Civic hybrid became Honda’s first mass produced automobile to apply gasoline-electric, power train technology, and the Honda FLX became the world’s first fuel cell vehicle certified by the U.S. EPA for everyday use.

In 2006 Honda Aircraft Company, Inc. began sales of a new, advanced light jet aircraft. Honda worked with General Electric to develop powerful and quiet engines for the corporate jet. That same year Honda opened a transmission plant in Tallapoosa, Georgia, and an Advanced Design Studio in Pasadena, California, to create design concepts for future Honda and Acura vehicles.

In 2008 Honda Japan started the world’s first production line dedicated to the manufacture of advanced, zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles to be used in the FLX Clarity model. These vehicles will be leased to customers in Southern California.

Honda also opened another factory in 2008 to produce Civic sedans in Greensburg, Indiana, and a marine engine research facility in Grant-Valicaria, Florida. In the same year, Honda Aircraft Company, Inc. began construction of its new headquarters and engine production facility in Burlington, North Carolina, for the manufacture of the GE-Honda, HFRO turbo jet engine.

In 2009 Honda introduced the 2010 Insight with an MSRP of $19,800 making it the most affordable gas-electric hybrid car in America followed by the 2010 Honda Fit and 2011 Honda CRZ Hybrid.

1999 Honda Civic DVS 1999 Honda Civic with Wilwood Brakes

When Honda first began producing cars they took a different approach from the Americans. Growing up in Japan, where fuel was scarce and expensive, inspired Soichiro to build small and fuel efficient vehicles. He also placed a heavy emphasis on reliability. Though no longer with the company, Soichiro Honda’s ideas carry on. Key features that remain in Honda cars are attention to detail, advanced engine engineering for fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, and reliability so buyers don’t have to worry about mechanical problems. The Honda Company was also instrumental in building factories in the United States, effectively helping both the Japanese and American economies. The new Hondas also received beautiful styling, much of which can be credited to the Advanced Design Studio in Pasadena, California.

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