Words and photographs Chris Swallow
Eagle-eyed observers visiting the Honda museum in Motegi, Japan, will notice soon after paying their yen there is a racing motorcycle devoid of the familiar winged Honda vector. The emblem is distinctly Italian and proudly informs that you are ogling over an ‘FB MÒNDIAL’: made 1957, Milan, by the Counts Boselli (‘FB’ being Fratelli Boselli or Boselli Brothers) and their firm Mondial.
The machine in question is a gear driven double overhead cam (DOHC) 125cc single cylinder Grand Prix motorcycle, bought by one Soichiro Honda, direct from Count Boselli shortly after it won the 1957 world title.
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1957 was the year the Italians (with the exception of MV Agusta) all pulled out of Grand Prix racing due to cost. Prior to this they had been leading exponents of high revs, high performance and high reliability – characteristics clearly endearing to Mr Honda and his fledgling motor company.
In 1958 Soichiro Honda visited the Isle of Man TT for the first time, then returned in 1959 with five riders and his first bikes: 125cc gear driven DOHC twins. They won the team prize, with a best result of sixth, came back in 1960 for a best result of fourth, then scored a double victory in 1961 before proceeding to rewrite the history books as to which manufacturer should win the most motorcycle races (and seeing off the antiquated British bike industry in the process….).
Read more in the Nov/Dec issue of Classic Racer