Motorcycles

1967 Honda RC174

Honda_1967_RC174_HnH.jpg

1967 Honda RC174
For Sale


Reg Number: N/A
Frame Number:
Engine Number:
Body Colour: Red
Cc: 297
MOT ExpiryDate: N/A
ex-Mike Hailwood

One of two in existence and the only one in private ownership

Without doubt the most important racing motorcycle in the world

While citing the RC174 as proof of time travel is patently absurd, the notion is not quite as outlandishly bizarre as it may first appear. For Honda's ultimate six-cylinder racing motorcycle - like many of mankind's greatest creations - was both rooted-in, and yet divorced from, its era. A handsome but predominantly conventional design, what made the RC174 so special was its engine. Some four decades after the multiple grand prix runner had retired from frontline competition, Honda sanctioned a tiny series of replicas. Tasked with reverse engineering the legendary bike's 297cc powerplant, analysts at the French firm JPX (a subsidiary of Mecachrome) were stunned to discover that it contained a number of unfamiliar but highly sophisticated alloys and treatment processes.

A gifted metallurgist, Sochiro Honda was renowned for pushing his employees hard but also for listening to their ideas. The company's research and development department was thus a hotbed of innovation. Arguably, among the (automotive) world's most exquisite expressions of form following function, the RC174's engine was just as much a work of art as Patek Philippe's Supercomplication or one of Faberge's Imperial Eggs. Each individual component was constructed according to its intended performance capabilities with little or no margin for error. Supple enough in one plane to be deformed by hand but sufficiently strong in another to spin to 17,000rpm, the thirteen-piece crankshaft ran in seven bearings (24mm in the centre tapering out to 14mm at the ends) and played host to three different types of con-rod.

The four overhead camshafts were barrel-shaped and acted in pairs to control the twenty-four inlet and exhaust valves (a set-up which effectively altered the cam profile from one cylinder to the next). Beautifully wrought, the cylinder block, cylinder head and crankcase were formed from twenty-nine, twenty-three and fifteen interlocking sub-moulds respectively. Stocked with needle, roller and ball bearings (almost all of which are non-standard sizes), the true beauty of a Honda 'Six' is only revealed via X-ray. Indicative of the 'no compromise' approach behind its development, the unit was riddled with oil ways some of which are siamesed so as to make tiny but discernible savings in overall width / weight. The result of such painstaking attention to detail was an engine that not only developed a sensational 222bhp per litre but also dominated its class despite giving away a nigh on eighteen percent capacity advantage (can you imagine any of the contemporary F1 teams fielding a 2 litre V8 rather than a 2.4 litre unit?)

There are only two RC174 motorcycles in existence and the other one is owned by Honda. Rarer and more exotic than such four-wheeled motorsport titans as the Mercedes-Benz W154 or Auto-Union D-type, the RC174 was no less crushingly effective. A milestone year for those interested in 'blue chip' machinery, be it on two wheels or four, 2010 saw a Jaguar D-type reportedly change hands for $10 million and the ex-Dr Peter Williamson Bugatti Type 57SC reputedly command $35 million. Few would argue that in terms of iconic motorcycles, the Honda RC174 is as good as it gets. And for those unmoved by its scarcity, competition pedigree or technological brilliance, there is always the exhaust note. Like Enzo Ferrari, Sochiro Honda felt that the engine was the heart and soul of a machine and nothing but nothing sounds like the big Honda 'Six'.

SPECIFICATIONS

Cubic capacity: 297cc

Bore x stroke: 41 x 37.5mm

Compression ratio: 11:1

Carburation: 6 x 23mm Keihin, magnesium

Ignition: Kokusan magneto

Clutch: dry, 16-plate

Gearbox: seven-speed

Frame: tubular, engine as stressed member

Suspension: front: telescopic fork, rear: swingarm with twin shocks

Wheels: 18in, wire-spoked with alloy rims

Brakes: front 2 x 220mm drums, rear 200mm drum

Power output: 66bhp@ 17,000rpm

Weight: 118kg (260lb)

Top speed: more than 150mph (240km/h)

RACE WINS 1967-1968

1967 FIM WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Mike Hailwood

350cc West German GP - Hockenheim (lap record)

350cc Junior TT - Isle of Man (lap record)

350cc Dutch GP - Assen

350cc East German GP - Sachsenring (lap record)

350cc Czech GP - Brno (lap record

350cc Japanese GP - Fuji (lap record)

Ralph Bryans

350cc Italian GP - Monza (lap record)

1967 NON-CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS

Mike Hailwood

350cc - Oulton Park, UK

350cc and 750cc - Cadwell Park, UK (lap records)

Race of the Year and 350cc - Mallory Park, UK (lap records)

350cc and Race of the South - Brands Hatch, UK (350cc lap record)

1968 NON-CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS

Mike Hailwood

350cc - Rimini, Italy

350cc - Cadwell Park (lap record)

350cc Post-TT - Mallory Park

350cc and two invitation races - Brands Hatch (lap record)

350cc and 1000cc - Snetterton (lap records)

350cc - Oulton Park

Race of the Year and 350cc - Mallory Park

350cc and 1000cc - Brands Hatch (lap records)

350cc - Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (lap record)

1969 NON-CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT

1000cc - Killarney, South Africa

Image and description kindly supplied by H&H Classic Auctions

1967 Honda RC174

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