August 2012

Mr. Honda loved racing

 

 

In 1968 I bought a Honda 305 Scrambler and started riding on the street and in the New England woods. I was a sophomore in high school.  After I learned how to ride (I taught myself) and damaged the gearbox the local Honda shop repaired it over the winter. That was when I met Joe Bolger and Richard Lundgren. Both owners of the two local motorcycle repair shops. As I did most of the small repairs myself I bought parts from whoever had them in stock.  Richard’s Honda was OK but Sportsman Cycle Sales, Joe’s shop was a better place back then. I didn’t even know that Honda was a Japanese name and the Beach Boys sang about Hondas so they must be cool machines.

 

After the gears were fixed the bill was almost what I paid for the bike and living in the projects with little income of my own Joe offered me a job to pay off the bill. I worked after school and Saturdays that entire summer and finally got $1.60 an hour after a couple months. It was my senior year and I was required to sign up for the draft. I carried my draft card for a year.

 

Joe Bolger, at that time in his late 30’s was trying to mold me into a good mechanic and a good person.  I rebelled inwardly but did what I was told. I learned soon after getting hired that Joe knew Siochiro Honda and almost worshipped the Honda technology he worked with every day.  Mr. Honda was still the CEO and Bolger showed me almost daily one more piece of a Honda that was superior to the competition from the US and UK. Harley Davidson was not doing well as were Norton, Triumph or BSA; some of the big names back then.  BMW was in a class by itself and largely ignored by the boomers.

 

What I learned about the Honda Motor Company, LTD by working on their 2 wheels machines and lectures from Joe was design is king. Not style or raw power but more a simplicity and elegance that as simple a part as the front forks were there to do a job and with improvement it can do it better over time. Mr. Honda also has his philosophy. There was a label on every gas tank near the fuel cap that read “Respect nature. Always were a helmet”.  Words to live by.

Craig Van Batenburg