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Honda's entry into F1 is a meaningful decision. The "golden RA270" and "urgently built RA271" that added color to the initial stage of Honda F1

table of contents
●Two F1 cars that supported Honda F1 in its early stages
●Target 270 horsepower? The golden prototype car RA270 is too big and heavy
●RA271 was developed urgently due to temporary cancellation of orders by Lotus.
●Honda’s participation in F1 in 1964 has its significance

Two F1 cars that supported the early days of Honda F1


RA271 on display at the Honda Collection

Honda announced its entry into the F1 race on January 30, 1964, 60 years ago, and the "first generation Honda F1" was launched. Although Honda was competing as an engine supplier at the time, its plan later changed due to the relationship with the supplier (Lotus).

Honda is an engine supplier, but it completed Japan's first domestic formula racing car "RA270" faster than Del Contessa and Mitsubishi Colt F3. Since the car is based on the old Cooper T53 design, it cannot be used in F1.

Later, because the impatient founder Soichiro Honda couldn't wait any longer, Honda urgently developed the "RA271" to move towards the goal of the world's highest peak.

This article will introduce to you the RA270 and RA271 racing cars that supported Honda F1 in its early days.

Target 270 horsepower? The golden prototype car RA270 is too big and heavy


270The representative meaning is...

"Golden F1 racing car RA270" is no longer available

Honda's "first phase" F1 project, which started in 1962, began with the development of the 1.5L V12 engine "RA270E". The RA270E is made using Honda’s world-leading two-wheel technology with a 125cc cylinder.

Development was completed at the end of 1963 and entered the RA270E engine test phase. Honda originally planned to participate as an engine supplier and provide engines to teams that were unable to develop engines. However, no matter which way of participating, Honda needed a vehicle to test the engine.

At that time, Honda believed that as long as it was equipped with an engine and the car could run, it installed the RA270E on the Cooper T53 purchased as a reference, and used the same transverse layout as the two-wheeled vehicle to create the "RA270" prototype. On February 6, 1964, testing began at the Arakawa test track.

Honda’s official website explains the meaning of the RA270 numbers as follows.

Akio Okuhira, head of RA270 engine performance, said: "The engine horsepower was decided by President Soichiro. At that time, there was no option of 'can it or not', but if you want to win, you must achieve this goal. RA270 stands for 'It will definitely reach 270 horsepower'" meaning".Source: F1 Joins the War - Issue 1

On the other hand, this code name also means that the target top speed is 270km/h. However, Jack Brabham, who actually drove the RA270 for testing at the Suzuki circuit, gave a harsh evaluation: "The body is heavy and huge, and it has no horsepower at all." Indeed, if you want to win in F1, you must reach 270 horsepower.

Actually only 200 horsepower

Except for the transverse layout of the 1.5L V12 engine, they are all new designs.

When Soichiro Honda announced his participation in F1, he stated that the RA270E engine had 200 horsepower, but it was actually less than that. But since the president has said that the engine has 200 horsepower, Honda must work hard to achieve this goal.

Finally, it successfully reached 200 horsepower during engine testing on February 13, 1964 (eventually reaching 210 horsepower), but there was still some way to go to reach 270 horsepower with 1.5L.

In addition, Soichiro Honda ordered gold foil to be affixed to RA270 at that time, and the paint factory finally completed the order by choosing similar colors. This order led to the birth of the "golden prototype car RA270".

RA271 was developed urgently due to Lotus temporarily canceling orders.


RA271 entered vehicle testing four months after Lotus canceled the order. Because this car was built on an emergency basis, it gives the impression that the prototype car has been "upgraded" and put into actual combat.

Originally, Lotus wanted to equip one of its cars with a Honda engine, but due to various factors both cars used the existing Coventry Climax engine. Until February 1964, before the start of the season, the future direction of RA270E was still undecided.

Later, due to the poor performance of the RA270, Honda decided to upgrade the R271, which was expected to undergo engine testing, to a competition car. And with the goal of competing under the name Honda in 1964, we urgently invested in research and development.

Honda changed the original heavy and bulky tube frame body into an aluminum monocoque body. In order to ensure the position of the rear suspension bracket, a monocoque + space truss design was adopted.

The cylinder spacing of the RA270E, which is bulky, heavy and has no horsepower, was also reduced. In the end, the overall length of the RA271E was shortened by 12cm and the weight became lighter. But after all, it is a product of haste, so there are many unreasonable designs.

The most obvious thing is the completely exposed battery behind the body. Even if the car adopts a mid-mounted layout, loading heavy objects on the rear suspension makes this layout meaningless. Furthermore, the heat dissipation piping extending from the front of the car will pass through the driver's shoulders, causing burns.

Four months after receiving Lotus's polite rejection telegram, RA271 was tested on the Arakawa test track in June 1964, and thus set off towards the sixth F1 Grand Prix held at Nurburgring, Germany, on August 2.

Honda F1 entry in 1964 has its meaning


Participate in three games and complete one walk, with the highest ranking being 13th place

The cockpit is small and there are not many gauges

Honda had only won the GT-1 championship with the S600 in the second Japanese Grand Prix three months ago (May 1964), but the Honda F1 team entrusted the RA271 to Jack Brabham, a rookie racing driver whose strength was still unknown at the time.

Although the results in the preliminaries were not good, they miraculously managed to catch up from last place to ninth place in the main race. Unfortunately, the steering arm broke in the last three laps, causing the vehicle to be damaged in a collision, and they finished in 13th place.

This is also the highest record of RA271. Later, it abstained from Monza (Italian Grand Prix) in September and Watkins Glen (United States Grand Prix) in October. As a result, it failed to complete the race in its first year of participation.

The fundamental problem with RA271 is that it weighs dozens of kilograms more than other racing cars, and the capacity of the rubber fuel tank is not enough to support the vehicle to complete the race. Honda originally participated with the idea of ​​"taking part as long as it can start", so Honda has succeeded three times.

Later, after the German Grand Prix, the KEIHIN carburetor of the RA271E engine was replaced with a mechanical fuel injection device. The improved version RA272 helped Honda F1 win its first victory the following year in 1965.

HondaWhy insist on participating?

The exposed and heavy battery can be seen from the rear. RA271 is an unfinished product.

At that time, the plan to participate as an engine supplier was disrupted. Later, Honda F1, which experienced various difficulties due to its original engine, insisted on participating, mainly because it wanted to "feed back the technology obtained from F1 to commercially available cars."

Of course, for Honda, which has only manufactured the light truck "T30" and the small sports car S600, it is impossible to immediately create a super sports car. But from the perspective of cultivating technical personnel, the competition has achieved its original purpose.

It is said that Honda invested 70% of its budget into F1 at that time. After the F1 project came to an end, it set development priorities and put the development of light cars first.

Engineers who have experienced the F1 project joined the development of new cars and created the powerful sports-style light car "N360". The car was well received after it was launched in 1967, which greatly changed the development of Honda and Japan's light vehicles and automobile popularization.

Original source:“It was a meaningful decision to enter Honda F1.” The “golden RA270” and “hastily built RA271” that graced the early days[Popular car]
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This post was last modified on December 29, 2023 2:16 am

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