1. Honda was the world's largest motorcycle maker by the 1960s. But Honda also wanted to make automobiles, which led to the N600, a car considered by many to be a sort of precursor to the Civic. The N600's 599cc engine—from which its name was derived if you bother to round up—only made 45hp, and at 1,356 lbs, would cost you about a buck a pound.
2. The first Honda wasn't even a Honda at all! In 1928, before the company was formed, the automaker's founder, Soichiro Honda, plopped a Curtiss-Wright V8 aircraft engine into a Ford that he used to set a 75mph Japanese speed record.
3. Even after Soichiro Honda established his first manufacturing company in 1937, it was nothing at all like what the automaker would later become. Here, Honda manufactured and supplied piston rings to what would later be his competitor—Toyota. The company shut down after WWII and was restructured as Honda Technical Research Institute where he began experimenting with internal combustion engines.
4. Honda was hardly synonymous with racing or with going fast at first, despite its later, rich heritage that includes Formula One, CART, Indy Racing League, IndyCar Series and more. A '65 Mexican Grand Prix Formula One win at the hands of driver Richi Ginther changed all of that, though, forever altering the company's stereotype of not being able to win a race.
5. The winning didn't stop there. Former Honda district service representative Bob "Honda Bob" Boileau's championship-winning, '74 SCCA Civic held the title of the World's Fastest Civic throughout the late-1980s and early 1990s, reaching speeds as high as 146mph.
6. In 1994 Honda found itself among the ranks of CART as a works engine supplier and, ultimately, transitioned to the IRL IndyCar series in 2003. It's here that Honda's H13R engine was used to dominate the series in 2004. Two years later, Honda was its sole engine supplier at which time the 2006 Indianapolis 500 took place for the first time ever without a single engine problem. Sign up for your very own Honda racing engine now: packages are available to race teams under lease-only arrangements at about $1,000,000 a season.
7. In 1984 Honda sought to capitalize on its racing efforts and developed a Mugen-outfitted CRX to help gauge American interest in what was then a still relatively new Japanese tuning firm founded by Hirotoshi Honda, son of Soichiro Honda. The US showed little interest in the brand, though, until Mugen's Formula One involvement, at which time the company—and its line of famed and now highly sought-after parts—had already retreated to Japan. Had the program succeeded, Mugen goods would've been made available at American Honda dealerships alongside Accord floor mats and wiper blades.
8. That infamous CRX—the one that did its part in seeking to deliver now-rarified Mugen wares to American fanboys—now rests in American Honda Motor Company's private collection hall in Torrance, CA. It's a top-secret museum located in an undisclosed, nondescript warehouse that features 51 examples of Honda's racing efforts and most beloved American-sold cars (see P. 84 for our special report).
9. Honda's private museum is full of all sorts of vehicles you never knew existed, like the EV Plus, of which only 340 were ever made. Produced from 1997-1999, it was the first battery-electric vehicle of any major automaker. The chassis was later reused to help develop alternative-fuel technology, some of which led to the current FCX fuel-cell vehicle.
10. Despite its racing efforts, Honda's spent decades developing ways to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. In 1975, the company attempted to forge its own path to low emissions with CVCC. Here, fuel was injected into the cylinders before ignition, resulting in reduced combustion chamber temperatures, fewer chances of detonation, reduced heat loss and lower pumping losses. This stratified-charge technology was implemented only by Honda—even though other manufacturers tried—but was ultimately discontinued in favor of other solutions, like the catalytic converter.
11. It was only a few years later that American Honda bigwigs began discussing the impending launch of a luxury car brand. In late 1985, Acura was formed and was introduced along with the Legend and the Integra. The brand's name wasn't settled upon right away, though, and was referred to as Channel Two among Honda personnel. Early Legends and Integras didn't even feature Acura's iconic caliper emblem, of which two versions exist.
12. Speaking of Acura, a small run of special, Alex Zanardi-edition NSXs were produced for the '99 model year. Similar to the Japanese NSX-S, only 50 versions of the car that honored the CART champion were ever sold and were only offered in the company's signature New Formula Red.
13. Stories of limited-production Japanese supercars cannot be told without mentioning the tale of the NSX-R GT. The fabled sports car, of which only five were supposedly built and sold for roughly $500,000 a piece, was allegedly made to comply with Super GT race car homologation requirements. Trouble is, none of those five cars nor their owners have ever surfaced, nor have any Honda personnel privy to the special-edition NSX. Like any good fairly tale, though, the lore lives on in the hearts and minds of Honda loyalists everywhere.