Honda's RC166 Had More than Met the Eye
Perfection, one hundred percent, ten out of ten—that’s what utter domination looks like, and it also happens to be Honda’s 1966 250cc motorcycle World Championship Series record. With GP racing great Mike Hailwood in the saddle of the incredible RC166, Honda easily secured that year’s rider’s and constructor’s titles, an accomplishment he repeated in 1967. The RC166 would still be a legend today if its only accolades were for competition success and sheer physical beauty, but there’s much, much more to it than that—beneath its delicately shaped fairing and iconic livery there’s a hidden universe of miniature mechanical magic.
In only 250cc Honda managed to squeeze in six tiny cylinders, four cams, and 24 valves the size of pencil erasers. Fed by six diminutive carburetors, it revved to nearly 20,000 RPM and made 65 HP—extrapolated over two liters, that makes for a 48 cylinder, 192 valve, 32 cam, 520 HP motor. In conjunction with a seven speed gearbox, it propelled the RC166’s tiny frame to a top speed of well over 150 MPH. The quality of construction and engineering needed to achieve such amazing complexity and miniaturization is simply mind-boggling, especially considering it came from an age when designers relied on slide rules and drafting tables—the age of computer-aided design was still well over a decade away.