• Created at a staggering loss, the Rune was Honda flexing its creative muscle.
• Using the Valkyrie as its base, the Rune had a radical design and numerous custom chrome elements.
• This example has approximately 6000 miles.
Honda isn’t known for flights of fancy, but the motorcycle you see here is one instance where Honda went completely berserk. A single-minded pursuit of design above all else meant that the big H lost an eye-watering amount on the NRX1800 Rune. The development cost was rumored to be $225 million, and yet the production run was extremely limited.
This low-mileage 2004 Rune, resplendent in burgundy paint, is up for auction on Bring a Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is part of the Hearst Autos Group. It’s rolling sculpture, a concept bike brought to life, yet it’s also as tractable and easy to ride as any Honda product.
In 2000, Honda showed off a trio of concept bikes at the Cycle World show in Long Beach, California. One concept, the T2, got all the attention. Attending Honda employees were bowled over by the adoring crowds, but there was a rather large catch. T2 didn’t actually run, it was merely a design experiment.
Yet Honda decided to build a production version anyway. To illustrate just how difficult a task the engineers were given, the silencers are cast using a lost-wax method. The concept’s beautiful radiator slits were only theoretically capable of handling the cooling duties for a 20-30 hp engine, but the production Rune’s 1832cc flat-six makes 118 hp, so Honda had to use ultra-conductive alloy to make the radiator shed enough heat.
Factoring in profitability and performance, building the Rune was an impossibility. So, Honda simply threw those considerations away. As a halo bike, a production Rune would elevate both the related Gold Wing and Valkyrie motorcycles. It’s estimated that each Rune cost Honda in the neighborhood of $150,000 to build. When new each bike sold for $25,000.
This 2004 model represents an opportunity to own a truly cost-no-object machine, one with a wonderfully eye-catching design. With all that chrome and ultra-low ride height, the Rune looks like the hero vehicle from an action movie. It’s like a cross between Akira and Duke Nukem.
And, because it’s a Honda, it’s also very rideable, with a torque-rich powerband sufficiently grunty to pull away from a stop in top gear. The clutch is light, the trick trailing front suspension makes for a surprisingly small turning circle, and the low seat height makes it comfortable in traffic.
The Rune is madness to look at, but marvelous to experience—as the top bidder will discover. The auction runs through May 22.
Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British automobiles, came of age in the golden era of Japanese sport-compact performance, and began writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, whether it is the racing career of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to be perpetually buying Hot Wheels.