1963 Honda CR93 Benly
The Honda CR93 production racer was both competitive and reliable
The 1963 Honda CR93 Benly production racer.
Photo by Gary Phelps
1963 Honda CR93 Benly
Claimed power: 18hp @ 12,500rpm
Top speed: 100mph
Engine: 124.8cc air-cooled DOHC parallel twin
Fuel capacity: 2.2 gal (8.4ltr)
Price then/now: $1,400 (approx.)/ NA
Although it may seem like it, Honda hasn’t always been the giant manufacturer of power equipment, motorcycles and cars that it is today. Prior to World War II, founder Soichiro Honda was focused on manufacturing piston rings, and he didn’t produce his first motorcycle, the Model D, until 1949 - a long time before the development of the 1963 Honda CR93 Benly.
Yet thanks to the perseverance and determination of Soichiro Honda, by the early 1960s the company he started on little more than the proverbial wing and a prayer was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. And these weren’t just any motorcycles — they were a new breed of motorcycle that changed the rules of the game and revolutionized the industry.
Honda also had an equally dramatic impact on the world of racing. In 1954, following an unpublicized visit to the Isle of Man TT, Honda declared his intention to build race-winning motorcycles. A former racer himself (he once built a race car powered by a Curtiss-Wright V8), Honda was determined to prove his motorcycles were the equal of anyone else’s, and he knew a win at the Isle of Man TT would make his point.
The company finally arrived on the Isle of Man in 1959, with a team of five riders and a stable of 125cc road racing motorcycles. Honda made history at the TT, for even though the company didn’t finish in the top three, their sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th place finishes proved Honda’s reliability and won Honda the 125cc Class Manufacturers Cup. Two years later in 1961, Honda cleaned up at the TT, with first through fifth place finishes in both the 125cc and 250cc classes.
These wins only furthered Honda’s quest for domination of motorsport. To further this goal the company looked to privateer racers, and in 1962 unleashed the CR93, a limited production 125cc race machine for sale to the public. A remarkable motorcycle that won races thanks more to its reliability than its outright power, the CR93 was only produced in 1962 and 1963, with a total of approximately 150-200 coming out of the factory.
The bike hit race tracks mainly in Europe and Japan, and any that did make it here to the U.S. were gray-market machines. Honda also put together perhaps 30 street-legal CR93s, most of which were sold in Japan. Engines in the street-friendly CR93 had lower horsepower thanks to a more restrictive exhaust (approximately 16.5 horsepower versus up to 21 on the unrestricted racers), employed a kick starter, and were fitted with a neutral switch, centrifugal ignition advance mechanism and a four coil ignition instead of the two coil setup found on the race engines. The street version was also equipped with a headlight, taillight, license plate holder, battery and side covers.
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