Owner: Kay Markey Etters, Pennsylvania
A performance machine it is not. The engine is a mere 98cc. It puts out all of three horsepower.
But the Dream Type D was the motorcycle that started it all for the Honda Motor Company.
After World War II ended, Soichiro Honda saw the need for reliable, basic transportation. Japans economy was limping back into shape, and the island nations transportation infrastructure, or what was left of it, was composed mainly of dirt roads.
Mr. Honda's company started by producing small engines that attached to bicycles. But by 1949, he was ready to build his first real motorcycle. With upright seating, a stamped-steel frame and a rear-mounted rack, the Dream Type D was designed above all for ease of use.
According to legend, the machines name, since associated with a variety of Honda products, was inspired by a comment made by one of Hondas employees during a company party. The workers had pushed aside the desks to toast their efforts with home-brewed sake. "It's like a dream," uttered one of the attendees. The name stuck.
This particular Dream, a 1951 model previously on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, is about as rare as they get, considering that Hondas weren't imported into the U.S. market until 1959.
The bike's unofficial early arrival on these shores was the result of a complex chain of events, according to the current owner, Kay Markey of Etters, Pennsylvania.
It seems that a U.S. Navy sailor, serving in the U.S. occupation forces in 1951, saw the Type D, liked it and purchased the bike in Guam while enjoying a little R&R. When the time came for him to return to the States, he shipped the bike home with his household goods. For a tune-up, he brought the bike to his local repair shop, where it was pointed out that without spare parts, it'd be difficult to fix. Perhaps, the dealer suggested, he'd be interested in trading it on a new BSA? A deal was struck.
"The dealer just pushed it downstairs in the basement workshop," Markey says. "It sat there from 1951 until we got it in 1970." It still has only 188 kilometers—about 115 miles—on the odometer, and it even bears the Japanese license plate that the sailor was issued in 1951.
Type D Dreams may not have been performers on the street, but considering all that has come after them, their place in motorcycle history is assured. And the Dream that appeared in the museum is believed to be the oldest Honda in the U.S. All thanks to the efforts of an anonymous sailor.