BMW Motorrad Spezial

ELF Honda

ELF Honda motorcycle
Between 1981 and 1983, Honda’s outlandish ELF prototypes competed in the World Endurance Championships, generating a slew of patents for Honda—including one for a single-sided rear swingarm. Fast but unreliable, the machines were created by Renault designer Andre de Cortanze, who was a keen endurance rider as well as an accomplished automobile designer. Known as the “ELFe”, the bikes raced at the Bol d’Or and Le Mans 24 Hours; this particular machine was rebuilt in 2008 by the French restoration experts Kerlo Classic, in collaboration with former racer Hubert Rigal. For more on the history of the ELF bikes, check out this retrospective on the excellent Motorsport Retro website. [Images by Bruno des Gayets.]

ELF Honda motorcycle
ELF Honda motorcycle
ELF Honda motorcycle

  • The Honda’s credo was “the power of nightmares” back in the 80’s, i guess… that’s what happens if you work with Renault designers :)
    But the technology put into this bike is quite interesting.

  • Nice and futuristic. That single forks…

  • Give us a close up of the single sided leading link front suspension, please!! What an exciting design considering it came out of the 80’s.

  • KIK

    I have no clue of what im looking at. …designed by lego?

  • Hiwatt Scott

    Wow! That’s what I like to see: neat little corners in the history of Motorcycles.

  • Skip W

    This bike represents a time in bike design which i’d rather forget. The early 80’s was the era when aerodynamics ruled – car and bike designers became slaves to the wind tunnel and, sadly, beautiful machines were clad in acres of plastic and glass-fibre. Who could forget the Ducati Paso, a futuristic bike that looks so ‘passe’ so quickly. I love the shot of it without the fairing, but having said that, without all that plastic, it would have been even less adept as an endurance racer.

  • Adam jenkins

    please post a picture of the other side of the bike with and without plastic! i want a good look at the front/rear suspension

  • Ddavis

    If I remember correctly, Tony Foale’s book has some good detail on the Elf hondas.

    If you’re honestly interested in real chassis science and some really good reference, it’s a good read. It’s been about 8 years since I read through it. It’s pretty danged cool.

  • I’ve uploaded an image of the bike showing the suspension. There’s a whole bank of shots on the Kerlo Classic web page:

  • mingh

    awesome. The engineering creativity and fairings are sign-of-the-times. That’s why we need Bike Exif, to show us the jewels of any era in motorbiking. More of this please Chris rather than yet another string of lukewarm customs made by anyone with half an idea and some welding skills.

  • It is interesting to note the amount of weight that is dropped from the chassis with many alt front-ends, meanwhile the actual unsprung weight on the front wheel is typically higher with many of these designs.

  • Duane

    I believe the patents are/were held by Elf. Honda uses the Pro-Arm (single-sided swingarm design) under licence from them. Guy Coulon invented it when he was crew chief for Elf’s endurance team. He’s now Colin Edwards crew chief on the Tech3 GP team.