Most race replica motorcycles are shells of the original—typically including production bikes repainted with race liveries. However, ground-up replicas like Honda’s RC213V-S emissions still have to abide by modern emissions standards and reduce power as a result. Classic motorcycle specialist George Beale didn’t want to make any of those concessions when he set out to reproduce Mike Hailwood’s Honda RC174 Grand Prix motorcycle.
Many consider the RC174 one of the greatest race machines of all time. The 297cc, six-cylinder engine was a modern marvel of its time, especially when most manufacturers were still clinging to the simplicity of single-cylinder layouts. The novelty paid off for Honda, however, with the four-stroke powerplant boasting a 17,000-rpm redline and 66 horsepower. That’s 223 horsepower per liter, rivaling numerous MotoGP mills of today. On his way to capturing the rider title in 1967, Mike Hailwood won seven (of eight) Grand Prix races aboard the RC174.
Once Beale sourced one of the two RC174s in existence, he pulled the entire motorcycle apart. With the bike in pieces, Beale could replicate the exact layout and dimensions of every component. Unsatisfied with his thorough dissection, Beale eventually collected 508 original engine drawings as well. Armed with the information and know-how, Beale still didn’t have the legal right to replicate Honda’s designs. That is until he was paid a visit by one of Honda’s top brass.
“Mr Satoh, from the Honda Museum, did annual European tours,” Beale told UK GQ. “In 1998 he came to see me. I was building a Benelli 500-4 engine at the time. Mr Satoh, as he was leaving, asked had I ever thought of building a Honda 6. I told him I’d thought about it, but had not had permission from Honda. ‘You have my permission,’ said Mr Satoh.”
The written confirmation followed a day later and Beale embarked on a quest to replicate Mike the Bike’s warhorse. Of course, the rebuilder/restorer couldn’t haphazardly assemble the replica, he knew he had to do the RC174 justice.
“We put cameras into the fuel tank to see how it had been welded together,” admitted Beale. “We had the frame tubing made because standard tubing was 0.5mm too wide and on the original some was tapered.”
“I had to involve Formula One motor engineers and titanium specialists. I spent £55,000 chasing down engine progress and running round after the titanium casting people during production of the first RC174.”
That undying dedication to accuracy is on display with Beale’s Honda RC174 Replica. The classic motorcycle specialist built 10 examples of the six-cylinder race bike, and unlike modern recreations, the RC174 Replica is a fitting tribute to the original.