Surveillance En Route: Chicara Nagata’s 1966 Honda P25 Security Camera Motorcycle

When it comes to artistic inspiration, there’s the muse or there’s the contract. The first is responsible for producing some of the most inspired cultural pieces the world has witnessed, in a lineage that can be traced from The Odyssey, to the Mona Lisa, even to 25Hours’ redesign of Berlin’s 1950s Bikini House.  The latter inspirational energizer, the more infamous and definitely more notorious contract (and all that it subsumes), is yet responsible for creating such masterpieces as The Aeneid, the Sistine Chapel, and even modern popular music. Into this latter category can be placed the 1966 Honda P25 recently produced by motorcycle design-guru Chicara Nagata, who was contracted by Japanese Security System Co. to produce a security camera, which of course deviates from his traditional artistic output of custom bikes. 

Toying with ideas and concepts for how to turn out a camera for the Japanese company culminated in Nagata’s reconciliation between notions of what constitutes a “security camera,” and notions of the extent to which custom motorcycle engineering can be driven.  The result, just in time for Japan’s renowned security and safety exposition “SECURITY SHOW,” is a redesigned fully-drivable 1966 Honda P25 that boasts a high-definition autofocus 1920x1080 pixel camera.

Minimalism is the name of the game for the reworked lens-equipped Honda P25 in a design that sacrifices bulk for sleekness and style. The frame is sparse yet functional, black with red accessories like coils and “Honda” imprinted hubs.  The sheen on the frame is noticeable and magnificent, and it turns locating the bike’s seat into a humorously difficult job, for most of the components of the bike tend to blend in to the gloss.  Observers might also get a laugh from the difficulty of locating the steering mechanism: the “handlebars” are in fact a single 130 degree-curved black bar affixed to the frame via a fastening apparatus as well as welded to the chassis.  The lustrous, unified gloss characterizing the upper structure of the bike extends into its lower extremities, where the majority of the P25 is occupied by the two sets of 23” classic rims and tires that scream custom, vintage, retro-modern, and eye-catcher all in the same breath.

“Eye-catching” is in fact a appropriately pertinent pun on the security function of Nagata’s P25. The HD autofocus camera is state-of-the-art, featuring Sony 1/2.8” 2 megapixel CMOS for greater video resolution, a 3.5-16mm lens, and a viewing angle that is 20.8-75.4 horizontal, 15.7-54.9 vertical. The camera’s dimensions essentially allow it to function as the structural skeleton of the bike, the handlebar and seat being affixed to its exterior frame.  With a maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour, the P25 isn’t the fasted in Nagata’s collection, and yet, riders will be just as comfortable cruising urban streets as they will be filming their excursion.

Uniting the standard requisites of the job contracted to him by Japanese Security System Co. with his passion for unique, custom motorcycle engineering has led Nagata to manufacture a bike that is equally at home in a museum, a store shop, a busy roadway, or a kitsch hotel; and all while fulfilling the security and safety purposes originally intended by the project.  The 1966 Honda P25 is a prime indicator that the exalted muse, in all of its raw creative energy, can be more than matched by the somewhat modern motivational surge that is generated by augmenting artistry with a goal, a strategy, even a restriction. Nagata is first and foremost an artist, and the contract that incited him to install a security camera into a motorcycle was a challenge to his artistic talent that catapulted the fruits of his labor into the spotlight of cutting-edge innovation and engineering virtuosity.