1964 Honda RC164,
Lot 636
The ex-Jim Redman, works ,1964 Honda RC164 250cc Racing Motorcycle
£380,000 - 420,000
US$ 650,000 - 720,000
amended
Lot Details
The ex-Jim Redman, works
1964 Honda RC164 250cc Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. RC164-103
Engine no. RC164-103
Without question the single most important motorcycle of any kind to appear on the open market in recent years, this Honda RC164 is offered for sale by multiple World Championship winner Jim Redman, to whom it was given by a grateful factory at the end of the 1964 Grand Prix season.

‘Also-rans’ in the late 1950s, Japanese manufacturers came to dominate Grand Prix racing’s 1960s ‘Golden Age’, none more so than Honda, whose jewel-like, small-capacity lightweights represented the pinnacle of motorcycle engineering in their day. Built for and run by the works team, with occasional loans to selected privateers, these hand-crafted masterpieces are extremely rare in private hands and only infrequently come to market.

One of only three complete four-cylinder machines of this particular type made by Honda, this example still has matching frame and engine numbers: ‘RC164-103’. It is believed to be the only original example of its kind still in existence – Jim remembers one being crashed and the engine of the other being removed to be put in another machine.

British by birth, Jim Redman emigrated to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in his teens. He started motorcycle racing on a Triumph twin before going on to win the South African Championship on an AJS 7R and setting sail for Europe. His big break came in 1960 when he stood in for injured Honda works rider Tom Phillis and was offered a contract for the following season. By the time he retired from racing at the end of 1966, Jim had amassed no fewer than 45 Grand Prix victories and six World Championships for Honda: two in the 250cc class and four in the 350cc category.

In an interview published in Octane magazine (October 2006 issue) Jim recalled: ‘Most of the time I never really knew the exact details of the bikes I rode, because we would mix frames, engines and other parts from different machines until we had a combination that worked – but in 1964 things were a little different.

‘The 250cc RC164 was really only intended as a temporary measure, a stand-in until the six-cylinder bike was ready, but I ended up using it for most of the season and only changed to the six in time for Monza. As a result, the 250 four remained pretty much unaltered and, at Assen in 1964, it gave me what I can only describe as the ride of my life.’

‘RC164-103’ was ridden by Jim Redman for almost the entire 1964 season before he switched to the new six-cylinder version for the final two races. Jim finished second to Phil Read (Yamaha) that year in one of the most hotly contested championships in history. Riding ‘RC164-103’, he finished first in the Isle of Man TT and in the Dutch TT at Assen, on the latter occasion becoming the first man ever to win three Grand Prix classes in the same day. A further five second places, plus another win and a third place on the ‘six’ saw Jim finish with 58 points to Read’s 50, the latter taking the title by 46 points to 42 under the ‘best six results only’ system operating that year.

Recalling that epic ride at Assen for Octane, Jim observed: ‘At the time, Honda had the edge in terms of reliability but Phil Read’s two-stroke Yamaha was clocked down the straight at a good 15km/h faster, so the only way to beat him was in the corners. In the end it was the last two corners that did it. When I pulled in after winning I told the mechanics that the engine was probably finished, because in order to cross the line in front of Phil I couldn’t afford to change gear. The red line was at 13,700rpm but I took the chequered flag with the needle on the stop at 18,000, which meant it was probably touching 20,000 – if I’d have changed up, I’d have lost. The engine was subsequently stripped back in Japan, where everything was tested and checked in minute detail – and it was found to be perfect.’

After that record-breaking Assen meeting, during which he also won the 125cc and 350cc races, Jim told Honda’s Team Manager, ‘I’m taking that bike home because it’s the one I rode my best race on,’ and at the season’s end ‘RC164-103’ was indeed given to Jim by Mr Takahashi of Honda. Jim transported the machine to South Africa where it remained in its shipping crate until 1998 when prominent private collector Luke Lawlor, of Dublin, persuaded him to bring it to Europe to display and run at various revival events. The machine has since undergone a sympathetic cosmetic restoration, while the engine has received a full rebuild.

‘The bike has not been run since,’ Jim revealed to Octane, ‘and if whoever buys it strips it down they’ll see that the crankshaft and pistons are all new. If it is only used for parade laps it should not need rebuilding for some time but if it’s raced in historic events it will have to be fully maintained.’

‘RC164-103’ comes with a signed letter from the engine builder, Leo O’Reilly of Dublin, stating that the strip-down revealed a big end seizure caused by silicone sealant blocking the oil feeds. After examining various options Mr O’Reilly engaged the services of Arrow Precision in England to manufacture four new con-rods, while the two inner crank pins required machining in order to repair the damage caused by the seizure and to fit loose cage roller bearings. All four big-end bearings were replaced, and the inner webs and timing gear machined and keyed to prevent the crankshaft twisting. New pistons were cast by F J Engineering of Lymington, Hampshire and all new original Honda piston rings, gudgeon pins and circlips were used. As the general condition of the cylinder head was very good the only work required there was grinding in the valves. F J Engineering also cast new carburettor float bowls, and new floats were fitted. However, due to corrosion, the magnesium carburettor bodies are no longer serviceable and it is advised that the engine should not be run until these have been replaced. A photographic record of the engine work at all relevant stages of the rebuild is included, and Mr O’Reilly may be contacted for further information.

Presented in its original Honda factory colour scheme, so redolent of Grand Prix racing’s halcyon days, this unique machine represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for serious collectors to acquire a genuine, 1960s Grand Prix-winning, works Honda racing motorcycle, fully rebuilt and possessing impeccable provenance.

Saleroom notices

  • Since going to press we have received a copy of a fax sent from Honda Motor Co, Ltd International GP Race Team (dated October 16th 1964) and addressed to Jim Redman concerning the gift of RC164-103. The wording of the fax, which is available for inspection, is as follows: ‘Dear Sir, ‘I confirm that Mr Sekiguchi, Poppa San, received permission from Tokyo Head Office at the Monza Grand Prix that Mr Sekiguchi could give the machine, RC 164 103 to you to come back to your home. ‘Please accept this machine as a present with our grateful thanks for your effort to try to win the 1964 World Championship on your Honda. ‘With reference to the parts if you were to order them to our Co Company, you will not obtain them.’ The fax is signed by M Maekawa, Manager of Racing Dept.
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