From a young age, Honda's founder, Soichiro Honda (本田 宗一郎, Honda Sōichirō) had a great interest in automobiles. He worked as a mechanic at a Japanese tuning shop, Art Shokai, where he tuned cars and entered them in races. A self-taught engineer, he later worked on a piston design which he hoped to sell to Toyota. The first drafts of his design were rejected, and Soichiro worked painstakingly to perfect the design, even going back to school and pawning his wife's jewelry for collateral. Eventually, he won a contract with Toyota and built a factory to construct pistons for them, which was destroyed in an earthquake. Due to a gasoline shortage during World War II, Honda was unable to use his car, and his novel idea of attaching a small engine to his bicycle attracted much curiosity. He then established the Honda Technical Research Institute in Hamamatsu, Japan, to develop and produce small 2-cycle motorbike engines. Calling upon 18,000 bicycle shop owners across Japan to take part in revitalizing a nation torn apart by war, Soichiro received enough capital to engineer his first motorcycle, the Honda Cub. This marked the beginning of Honda Motor Company, which would grow a short time later to be the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964.
The first production automobile from Honda was the T360 mini pick-up truck, which went on sale in August 1963. Powered by a small 356 cc straight-4 gasoline engine, it was classified under the cheaper Kei car tax bracket. The first production car from Honda was the S500 sports car, which followed the T360 into production in October 1963. Its chain driven rear wheels point to Honda's motorcycle origins.