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Honda RC500

RC500

Until the beginning of the seventies motocross was very much the preserve of the European factories, however with the surge in interest in off road riding and motocross in particular that took place in the United States, the Japanese manufacturers began to take a serious interest. Suzuki led the way in the World Championship securing five titles between1970 and 1979, in the premier 500cc class with Roger De Coster in the saddle. This was obviously not acceptable to Honda whose response was to initiate development of a two stroke single capable of winning the 500cc championship.

The new machine made its debut on the 2nd May 1976, typed the RC500 A1E Type II, it was a no holds barred Grand Prix bike that benefited from the full input of the Honda R and D department. Hand-built at enormous expense, the new machine made extensive use of exotic materials, the crankcases were cast in magnesium as were items such as the brake hubs and titanium fittings abounded. The frame was designed from the outset to utilise long travel suspension, the forks being cartridge units, an innovation that would not grace production machines until 1981. A recurring theme in interviews with the machines riders, and the versions that followed, concerned the engine characteristics, Pierre Karsmakers stated that "the bike was fast and had a very smooth power-band". A revised version , typed the RC500A1E was introduced for the 1977 season. The new version befitted from a revised frame and increased suspension travel. Like the previous seasons version it was a hand-built Grand Prix bike, the crankshaft alone reputedly costing in the region of $10,000 dollars. Revisions to the engine were centred on broadening the power band and addressing a cooling issue that had afflicted the previous seasons model in muddy conditions with radial finning now gracing the cylinder head. The new model won the USGP at Carlbad with Jim Pomeroy in the saddle , who went on to have a strong season in the Trans-am series and secured the AMA 500cc Championship in the hands of Marty Smith.

For 1978 Honda introduced an extensively revised machine, which with Brad Lackey riding secured second place in the World Championship, further development resulted in the introduction of the RC450-79 season with which Graham Noyce won the first of three consecutive ( for Honda) World Championship crowns.

The machine offered dates from 1977 and until recently has been housed in a private collection in Japan. It represents a unique opportunity to acquire a genuine, hand-built works Grand Prix motorcycle, successful not only in its own right, but important in the evolution of Honda's Grand Prix motocross machinery that culminated in Graham Noyce's championship winning RC450-79. History suggests that these machines cost Honda in the region of $80,000 each.

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