By the 1970s, two-strokes reigned as the kings of motocross racing. And Honda wanted the crown.
Trouble was, the company, which had built its U.S. reputation on four-stroke streetbikes, didn’t have anything to compete against the light and powerful oil-burners of its competitors.
So Honda built a two-stroke, breaking with 14 years of U.S. four-stroke tradition to produce the now-legendary Elsinore motocross bike. And aimed right at the heart of the AMA National Motocross Championship was the trickest one of them all, this works RC250 racer, now on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
Besides the state-of-the-art, 249cc two-stroke motor that delivered the explosive power that motocross demanded, the bike was loaded with unobtainium parts, including magnesium hubs, electronic ignition and reed-valve induction.
The only thing missing was the rider, so Honda hired defending AMA 250cc Champion Gary Jones away from Yamaha and headed to the track. By the third race of the season, in Florida, Jones had won on the new machine. He went on to win five more races, including the last three of the season, to collect Honda’s first-ever MX championship.
Still, riding such a new machine did have its challenges.
The main one was all those trick factory race bits. When the ’73 motocross season began, Jones’ works bike was full of them. But as the season wore on, many of those parts couldn’t handle the strain. So Jones, working with his father and tuner, Don, wound up putting more and more production parts into the works bike to make it more reliable.
But the result was clear: Honda won the championship. And that did much to cement the image of the Elsinore as a thoroughbred, helping to sell countless versions of the production bike to amateur racers—and jump-starting the brand’s motocross racing reputation.
© 2009, Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum