By the 1970s, two strokes reigned as the kings of motocross racing, and Honda wanted the crown.
But the company had built its reputation in America on four-stroke street bikes. So it didn’t have anything that could compete against the light and powerful oil-burners of its competitors.
So Honda built a two-stroke, breaking with 14 years of U.S. four-stroke tradition to produce the now-legendary Elsinore motocross bike. The bike that put the Elsinore on the motocross map is the 1973 RC250 racer pictured above, ridden by AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Gary Jones.
Here’s a look at eight things that made the racer, and the production CR250M Elsinore, special.
- Honda hired defending 250cc Champion Gary Jones away from Yamaha to pursue the MX title in 1973. By the third race of the season, in Hialeah, Fla., Jones had figured out the new machine, finishing first. He went on to win five more races, including the last three of the season, to collect Honda’s first-ever MX championship.
- Besides the state-of-the-art, 249cc two-stroke motor that delivered the explosive power that motocross demanded, the RC250 was loaded with "unobtainium" parts, including magnesium hubs, electronic ignition and reed-valve induction.
- While Jones’ competition bike was pretty trick, there was only one, so his practice bike, and the practice bikes of the rest for the Honda team, were standard production Elsinores.
- During the 1973 motocross season, the trick bits on Jones’ works bike couldn’t handle the stress of all-out racing. So Jones, working with his father and tuner, Don, wound up putting more and more production parts into the works bike to make it more reliable.
- Honda winning the championship did much to cement the image of the Elsinore as a thoroughbred, helping to sell countless versions of the production bike to amateur racers and jump-starting the brand’s motocross racing career.
- So famous did the Elsinore name become, that it continued through 1982.
- The Elsinore was named after California’s famed Elsinore Grand Prix.
- The production 1973 Honda CR250M Elsinore was ready to win MX battles right out of the crate. It featured a 247.8cc two-stroke piston port engine, a Keihin carb, five-speed transmission, seven inches of travel up front and four in the back, a 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear, a 56.5-inch wheelbase and a dry weight of 213 pounds.