RIDER: Kaz Yoshima
THEN: Honda R&D janitor
NOW: Reclusive tuning genius
I didn’t go to college when I was young. I went to work at Honda instead—you could say I decided to take Honda College. My position? When I started, it was sweeping the floor.
“Honda’s little 50cc Grand Prix bikes were pretty cool. That was the reason I went to Honda. The frst time I saw one, I knew I wanted to work there. This was 1965, maybe ’66. The 50cc engine spins like 22,000 rpm. The valves were so tiny, like 6mm. The stems looked like toothpicks. I never had the bike, but I collected lots of parts. Honda used to throw away the factory racebikes, so I’d go through the trash and pick out pieces. I used to have some 50cc pistons—they were so tiny, 25mm diameter. One time I even found a six-cylinder head!
“I started off sweeping the foors, and they moved me around so I could learn. I wanted to work on GP bikes, but they stopped that program in ’67. I went into the car program, did a lot of engine prototyping and spent lots of time in dyno rooms. Old-fashioned, but that’s the way I learned the engine, in bits and pieces.
“I had a lot of fun, but wanted to do something different. That’s why I came to America. I know I have an expiration date on my ass, so I’m going to move around. Those parts? I give them away to people I used to work with, and people who race my bikes. As a reminder, in case I don’t come back.”