Why did American Honda restore a 1961 Chevrolet pickup truck?

Why did American Honda restore a 1961 Chevrolet pickup truck?

Chevy Apache replicates an example of a small fleet used to haul motorcycles to Southern California dealerships

Period photo showing a Chevy pickup in front of the American Honda headquarters
Restored 1961 Chevy pickup posed in front of American Honda’s current U.S. offices

As part of its 60th anniversary celebration, American Honda Motor Co. has restored a 1961 Chevrolet Apache 10 pickup truck. Wait! What? Why?

It’s because not long after Honda opened shop in the United States in 1959, it purchased a small fleet of Chevy pickups that were used to deliver Honda motorcycles to dealerships in Southern California. One of those trucks is shown in a now iconic period photo, parked in front of America Honda Motor’s original office, located at 4077 Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles.

“Underscoring their importance during those early days, American Honda restored a truck to authentically match the one in the old photo, helping celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary,” the company said in revealing the restored truck.

“Tapping its U.S. archives and memories of retired Honda associates for details, a 1961 Chevy half-ton pickup was found and carefully renovated, replicating the original paint scheme as used by company salesmen delivering motorcycles to dealers to sell on a consignment basis,” the news release continued.

“These trucks helped American Honda quickly establish a U.S. market foothold, starting in Southern California. By 1965, Honda was the best-selling motorcycle brand in America with a market share of almost 72 percent.”

Vintage Honda motorcycles are carried in the bed of the ’61 Chevy pickup

The restored truck is complete with hand-painted graphics like those done in 1961 and carries in its bed vintage Honda 50 and CB160 motorcycles.

The truck and bikes are on display in the American Honda headquarters building in Torrance, California, but will be going to several car shows, including the 2019 SEMA Show this fall in Las Vegas, and to other events around the country.

“Ultimately, the truck will make its way to the American Honda Collection Hall in Torrance, where it will be staged in front of a replica of the company’s original Los Angeles office,” the company said.

The restored truck has a half-ton chassis, 8-foot bed, 283cid V8 engine and 3-speed manual transmission.

In its bed are a red 1965 Honda 50, known in other global markets as the Super Cub, and a Honda CB150.

The Honda 50, nicknamed the “Nifty Thrifty Honda 50,” was “the first big success among the Honda motorcycles sold in the U.S.,” American Honda noted.

“Easy to ride for almost anyone, the Honda 50 became a surprise hit – immortalized in the ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ marketing campaign’.”

The bike has a 49cc single-cylinder engine and 3-speed semi-automatic transmission.

The 1965 Honda CB6160 was one of Honda’s early small-displacement sport bikes.

Cycle World magazine dubbed the new bike a ‘baby Super Hawk’ at the time. It was popular with young riders moving up from the Honda 50 or 90 who wanted something that looked like a true motorcycle.”

The bike has a 161cc single-overhead-cam vertical twin engine, 4-speed manual transmission and electric starter.

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4 Comments

  • Jimmy Abbots
    June 19, 2019, 4:15 PM

    Larry,
    You need to hire a proof reader (or use spell check) to check your spelling.
    Too many mistakes under the second picture in this article.

    REPLY
  • Ryan Corman
    June 19, 2019, 6:45 PM

    Honda has always shown so much love for American consumers… I don’t think it’s always financial; they look at us with an outside lens, then build what we didn’t know we wanted. Sorry to the Harley contingent, I have always been a Triumph/BSA/Norton guy, and cycle through (see what I did there?) those as my tolerance for nonsense allows. However, I ride a 1978 Honda CB750F, last of the single overhead cam motors, carbs off a 900F, a Jardine oval can 4into1 exhaust. It was the very first thing I bought when completing basic training in 1978, the first new vehicle I’ve ever owned. And I had 120,xxx on the original motor in ’84, when I was doing an huge smoky burnout, and the chain broke and wadded up in the engine case, and, well.
    The second motor is a SOHC version of the 900F, with a whole lot of modernity concealed in the factory cases, and some rippin’ flat slides, and still the bike’s a wide, top heavy beefalo. But, with all the mods, yon Honda can be started by hand- it came with kick and electric start- simply by leaning over the seat and punching the kickstart by hand. No "choke", no "enrichener", just stroke and laugh. Often- a lie, ALWAYS- my Triumphs take multiple kicks, while priming the Amals, left and right, and salted with questionable language. And I use Joe Hunt magnetos… (sigh).
    Honda deserves credit for the American obsession with motorcycles. Really- "nicest people" versus "Harley ridin’ Billy Badass"? Who went bankrupt, and who sells bikes, cars, generators…? And unless you have a V-Rod, don’t try, I’ll humiliate you at 2grand less than redline. Bring the money, Billy. You know you want it… Loud does NOT equal fast.
    I like the truck. Sweet nostalgia.

    REPLY
  • Infumo Nagasaki
    June 20, 2019, 4:00 AM

    I’ll always remember Steve Aufderheidi riding his Honda Fifty down the street in the snow past our house in Kettering, Ohio circa 1965/1966.

    I rode the 50…but my introduction was one year (?) later on a Suzuki 80…and I was smitten. It was Japanese, English, Swedish (Husqvarna) and BMW (opposed cylinder) bikes from then on. Harley’s? Dayton Outlaws Hells Angels and Shriner’s and dressed out faggots rode them. I would not consider one today either. They were always behind in everything they tried and the "potato – potato- potato – potato" idle reminded me that an early 20th century year 1907 engine engineering and sound must appeal to someone…..but not me. They are relatively ugly overpriced under engineered overweight high spare/replacement part cost units of American pre-stressed garbage. This will get a hilarious response from all underachievers, who, if they own Harley’s……are mental, physical, economic, career, social and clothes style……….underachievers.

    REPLY

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