Honda hated two-strokes and publicly said that his company would never build one. But the engineers knew that
the two-stroke motor was the way of the future and set
about building one secretly. To this day, it’s not known
how much Mr. Honda
himself knew about the
In August 1971, the
team took the prototype
to a National race in
Mine, Yamaguchi, hoping
not to attract much attention. Unfortunately, the
bike was photographed
by the Japanese press,
and soon Honda’s two-stroke was out of the
bag. Soichiro begrudgingly gave the go-ahead
to make the machine an
official Honda project,
which, at first, was called
the 335A. Two years later,
the Honda CR250M
arrived in dealers’ showrooms, and Honda won
its first U.S. National Championship with Gary Jones. That
first year, the Honda 250 two-stroke was a complete game
changer, and it set off a frenzied era of hyper evolution in
the MX world.
MAJOR MODEL CHANGES
Early ’70s: Unfortunately, the CR250M didn’t keep pace
through the early ’70s. It was offered almost unchanged in
1974 and 1975, and then received a conservative
makeover in 1976. That allowed Yamaha, Suzuki and
European makers to regain the high ground. In the meantime, Honda’s factory racing team was riding something
1978: Honda released a stunning new 250cc two-stroke,
After a few years of falling behind, Honda unleashed the 1978
CR250R. It was a great machine and was unchanged in 1979.
In 1980 Honda started changing the CR radically every single
year. The 1980 model was a bit of an oddball with its plastic
tank, double-downtube frame and center-port exhaust.
renaming it the CR250R. It had a Euro-style engine with
the output shaft on the right and a reed valve intake.
Probably the most memorable aspect of the bike was its
striking appearance. Everything, even the motor, was fire-engine red. Honda leapfrogged back to the front of the
field in magazine shootouts and sales.
1980: This was an oddball year. Honda completely
redesigned the bike with a center exhaust port and a dou-
ble-downtube frame. Then the bike was completely ash-
canned a year later,
despite good reviews.
In 1980, plastic gas
tanks were ushered in
to the delight of riders. In retrospect, it
was a sad day; another era had passed.
1981: Honda predicted the coming of
liquid-cooling and single-shock suspension
and rushed to meet
the call. The 1981
Honda CR250R leaped
years ahead; in fact, it
was too advanced. It
had reliability problems, and the new
Pro-Link rear suspension didn’t work well.
Once again, Honda
lost its edge in the 250 class. Over the next two years, the
bike received back-to-back changes on a fairly large scale,
and most of the problems were sorted out, making ’ 83 a
very good year to ride a CR.
1984: Another massive year for redesign, this is when the
Honda CR250R settled down into a familiar form that it
would maintain for many years. The motor was turned
around with the countershaft returning to the left. The bike
received the ATAC exhaust valve and a hydraulic front disc
brake, which is a watermark in the vintage-racing world
For the next six years, Honda made one or two significant changes every season. In 1986, it was a cartridge
The first Honda Powersports product produced in the Marysville, Ohio,
plant was the 1980 Honda CR250R. Later, the CR production was moved
back to Japan.