Monday, March 21, 2011

Notable engineer countdown - at #3, Yoshiro Harada – led development of the Honda CB750

It is impossible to overstate the impact of the first truly mass-production four-cylinder, disc-braked motorcycle. When the CB750 was unveiled at the 1968 Tokyo Motor Show consumers gasped and the world press (and rival companies) were taken by surprise. It had been developed by a small team working in total secrecy. The team leader was Yoshiro Harada.

Harada toured the United States a few years earlier, meeting American riders and Honda motorcycle dealers when Honda introduced the CB450 twin. That bike had sold poorly in America despite the fact that it outperformed much bigger British twins. He realized that the U.S. with its wide-open spaces, would embrace a big, powerful bike. The decision to make it 750cc was based on the knowledge that Triumph and BSA were developing 750cc triples. It would be a four-cylinder bike to evoke Honda’s Grand Prix racing heritage (and one-up the English.) Finally, it would produce at least 67 horsepower, since the most powerful Harleys made 66!

The design was a breakthrough, but so was the design process. Harada’s team was able to prototype the bike in record time and ensure an efficient manufacturing process by making revolutionary use of computer-assisted-design and computer-assisted-manufacturing. The end result established Honda once and for all as the world’s pre-eminent motorcycle manufacturer.

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