In 1964 Yamaha’s RD56 disc-valve twin was beating Honda’s four in the 250 class. Honda’s response was to design one of the boldest gambles in the history of Grand Prix racing – a sixcylinder across-the-frame four-stroke. But Honda’s engineering genius made the six a winner. When factory rider Jim Redman went to Japan to test it in 1964, his reaction was: “‘How the f*** do you ride this thing?’ I jumped on it and went down the road; it was in a tiny frame barely bigger than the 125.”
Fourteen days later, the bike was on its way to the Italian Grand Prix. With no time to arrange conventional air freight, the team bought five seats on a passenger flight from Japan and carried the bike as hand luggage. Redman was eager to debut the bike in Italy, despite its unsorted handling. “There’s only five corners at Monza – I can do this,” he told Honda. “I’ll blast them so fast on the straights, and take it easy in the corners.” At Monza Honda removed the two outer megaphones and outer carbs, and kept the bike under wraps to keep the opposition guessing until the final seconds before practice. When the covers were removed and the engine fired up, the paddock was stunned.
Almost inevitably, given the lack of development time, the six ran into problems at Monza; it overheated and Redman finished third. He did, however, win the final GP of the year at Suzuka, and the sixes went on to win four world titles in 1966-67. Honda named the original 250 six an RC164 (the same code as the fourcylinder bike). But Redman didn’t like the handling of the original bike, so a modified chassis was fitted for Suzuka and the bike was renamed the RC165. Iannucci believes his bike (frame number 1005, engine number RC165 E102) is this original prototype.
Stuart Graham took over the bike in early 1966 until he was given an RC166 later in the season. The Honda museum in Japan has a display RC165 engine, but Iannucci believes ththiith l lf