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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:1965
Numbers built:3
Predecessor:Honda RA271
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:June 23, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAlready an accomplished motorcycle manufacturer, Honda decided to branch out to four wheeled machines during the first half of the 1960s and what better way to showcase the Japanese company's engineering capabilities than a venture into Formula 1. As luck would have it, the regulations, with a displacement limit of just 1,500cc, meant that the Honda engineers could apply more than a few of the lessons learned constructed multi-cylinder motorcycle engines.

Considering Honda's roots, it was no surprise that the engine would be the new car's piece de resistance. Quite possibly the most sophisticated engine yet developed for the 1.5-litre formula, the new Honda was a V12 equipped with double overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder. During early bench tests over the winter of 1962/63, it reached over 13,000 rpm but the power band proved to be too narrow. Subsequent development work also included replacing the Keihin carburettors with Honda's own fuel injection system. By 1965, it was good for around 230 bhp at a still hugely impressive 11,000 rpm.

Just like Honda's motorcycle engines, the new V12 was mounted transversely in the chassis with the gearbox constructed in unit with the engine. This had six forward gears to suit the still relatively narrow power band. Known as the RA271, the first Honda Formula 1 car featured a straightforward steel tubular space frame chassis, which used some of the duraluminium panels for further strengthening. Suspension also followed conventional lines with lower wishbones and top rockers at the front and a multi-link rear-end. Liveried in white with a red circle reflecting its Japanese roots, the RA271 was first seen in action in Europe during a test at Zandvoort in the summer of 1964.

The Honda RA271 made its competition debut during the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Tasked to drive the sole car entered was American Ronnie Bucknum. Showing that it was still early days in the Honda's development, he qualified 22nd. An accident brought an early end to the race. In the following months, the RA271 was fielded again in the Italian and American Grands Prix. Bucknum managed a tenth on the grid at Italy, where the engine's sheer power covered up the chassis' shortcomings but retired at both outings with mechanical failures. The car's biggest issue was its bulk, which would be addressed over the coming winter.

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  Article Image gallery (33) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (2)