Honda in the early ‘90s was so successful building engines for Formula One, it encouraged its engineers to construct an entire F1 car in their spare time. They never even intended to race it. They were just like ‘hey why don’t we build an F1 car for shits and giggles.’ And they did.
It was, of course, gorgeous.
This is the Honda RC100 project. Specifically, this is the Honda RC101, or the RC-F1.5x in later nomenclature. There were three different versions of this thing, but this second RC101 is my favorite. I’ll give an abridged background on the car, but you can go to the wonderfully rigorous 8W for more information.
The reason why this car never raced, though it was track tested, crash tested, and FIA-approved for racing, was that Honda had done too well in F1. Their turbo V6 and naturally aspirated V12 were so utterly dominant that by the end of 1992, Honda decided that the most technologically cutting edge motorsport in the world wasn’t a challenge anymore. Honda announced it would ditch F1 and take on ChampCar here in the United States. Honda would go on to win six driver’s titles in ChampCar from ‘96 through ‘01.
But after Honda axed its official F1 program supplying engines to other teams, it approved the RC100 project to construct an entire car chassis and all. As far as I can tell, this project was carried out only because it was difficult and Honda wanted its engineers to do difficult things for difficulty’s sake.
Since Honda was no longer actively pursuing F1 wins, the project was done in engineer’s personal time, all after-hours stuff.
The resulting car was pretty traditional, not having any of the wild active suspension that other teams were working with, but it did have a semi-automatic transmission and the company’s screaming 15,000 RPM RA122E/B V12, good for something above 850 horsepower from 3.5 liters. Listen to the thing:
How fast was the car? We don’t know! Again, Honda just built this car to build it. They could have taken on the rest of the F1 field with every indication that they’d be righteously good at it, but F1 offered them little they didn’t already have.
Honda did show the car to the media in early ‘93 and, as I said, did crash test it. The car was completely ready to race. Honda just wasn’t interested. They had conquered F1 already.
I won’t go into all the intricate details of Honda’s early ‘90s glory, designing everything from Civics to supercars that are still desirable today.
But I think designing and building a complete F1 car just for fun gives you a good idea of what kind of headspace the company was in at the time, back when they budgeted for lunacy and had racers for CEOs.