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Honda RC 142. The reborn Honda

The reborn Honda
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Archaeologists can reconstruct a Viking ship from a few pieces of wood. Mike Buttinger, founder and former owner of Japanese motorcycle parts supplier CMSNL, is not an archaeologist. But as a sincere tribute to the genius Soïchiro Honda, he has done something worthy of any archaeologist: He reborn a Honda RC 142 through an engine found in the United States, a huge amount of research and research. That perfect '1959'er' four-valve 125 cc racer with a power of 17,4 hp is not a 'replica' it is a 're-creation'.

It felt like a duty

Once the engine and some parts were found through his worldwide network, Mike Buttinger, as a Honda enthusiast, felt it was his moral duty to restore the Honda RC 142 to all its authentic glory. He notes with satisfaction that this whole quest has been completely irresponsible from a business point of view. But the result is astonishing: The machine has been created from as much craftsmanship as the ones from the time that Honda came to the Isle of Man in 1959. It has become a very real Honda R 142. And the parts? They have been gathered around the world or simply made.


As early as 1954, Soichiro Honda had begun to shed light on motorcycle road racing in Europe. He visited the Isle of Man TT and some Italian factories so that he could study the race course and the machines used. For the 1959 TT, Kiyoshi Kawashima was appointed as project manager in 1958. His first task was to develop a racing machine. Although there were many middle-aged engineers at Honda, “Oyaji” (Father) Honda only recruited young people to the team. Tadashi Kume and Kimio Shinmura were responsible for the engine and Toshiji Baba developed the frame. The drivers were recruited from the Honda Speed ​​Club, a factory association that also entered the hill climb competitions on the Asama volcano. They bought a 125 cc FB Mondial from 1956 to serve as an example. Although the example was a single-cylinder, it was decided to build a two-cylinder.

In January 1959 this first machine, which was called Honda RC 141, was ready

However, it only produced 15,3 horsepower, which was much less than the two-year-old Mondial. The Honda RC 141 was an upright parallel twin with double overhead camshafts, which were driven by a king shaft. The bore/stroke ratio was 44 x 41 mm, bringing the displacement to 124,7 cc. However, the machine only had two valves per cylinder.

More is better, because enough was too little

A second machine was immediately developed that had four valves per cylinder. This Honda RC 142 delivered 17,4 hp. The machines had a backbone frame with the engine as a load-bearing part and a swinging front fork. The brakes were simplex brakes. The cylinders lean forward 6°. The inlet valves made an angle of 40° and the exhaust valves an angle of 44°. Keihin flat-slide carburetors with separate float chambers were used. Lubrication was provided by a wet sump system with two liters of oil. The machines had six gears.

The four-valve heads that turned the Honda RC 141 into the Honda RC 142 arrived by airmail

In 1959 the RC with its aluminum fairing and dated rocking arm front suspension was a strange machine for European riders on the Isle of Man. And the Japanese were strange people. Kiyoshi Kawashima's team itself had reservations about the stiffness of the frame and brakes.

The Honda RC 142 engines were actually RC 141 engines with four-valve heads.

Those headlines, the updates, were airmailed to Man, but only three machines could be converted for the race. And that's where Honda took its first steps on an asphalt track. The rest of the history is known.

The reborn Honda
The 1959 Honda Team

photos CMSNL

Honda RC 142. The reborn Honda
The reborn Honda

2 Comments

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  1. Great story, kudos to the builder.
    Financially a drama, of course, but how many RC 142's are there left..?!
    Fantastic result

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