Following Dave Arnold’s Friday-evening (10/15/21) induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, in a ceremony held near the American Motorcyclist Association’s Pickerington, Ohio, headquarters, American Honda congratulated the legendary motocross team manager on the warranted tribute. The award was presented by fellow Hall of Famer Roger De Coster.
Arnold was hired by American Honda as a shop mechanic in 1974, the same year that the AMA 125 Motocross Championship was launched. (The 250 and 500 series had started two years earlier.) Within months, he was working with riders and was soon paired with Marty Smith, who won the ’74 and ’75 125 titles, as well as the ’77 500 crown. After spending the 1980 season with De Coster in Europe, working with the newly formed Honda Racing Corporation on the Grand Prix project, Arnold returned home to manage the U.S. effort, with close assistance from De Coster.
This marked the beginning of a golden era for Honda in American motocross and supercross, as Arnold developed the legendary factory RC two-strokes and managed a string of heroic riders. At the end of his first season in the position, Arnold and De Coster organized an all-Honda effort comprising riders Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O’Mara and Chuck Sun and scored Team USA’s first win in the Motocross des Nations and Trophee des Nations.
After compiling a long list of motocross and supercross titles with riders including David Bailey, Rick Johnson, Ron Lechien, Jean-Michel Bayle, Jeff Stanton and Jeremy McGrath, Arnold left the team management position before the ’95 season and switched to production research and development. A 20-year stint in that realm saw Arnold work with all categories of powersports products and even automobiles, building prototypes and working with new technologies. Following his in-house career, he did consulting stints for Factory Connection, KTM, Husqvarna, Alta, Honda and KYB, and managed his late brother’s machine shop.
“I don’t know that I ever thought much about being nominated or inducted in the Hall of Fame, but I’m honored and proud to be a part of it,” Arnold said. “I owe American Honda as much as anybody, because everything worked out great with the timing. They hired me right out of trade school, and it was a great opportunity, getting to work with the smartest guys in the world, including De Coster and the top-shelf engineers that Mr. Honda had. I had the opportunity to do so many fun, challenging things. Receiving this honor has been humbling and overwhelming, and I admire the other people in this group.”
Other members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame’s 2021 class are motorcycling ambassador Nancy Davidson, ATV racer Gary Denton, dirt tracker Tommy Hays, country-music icon Loretta Lynn, off-road champion Scott Plessinger, dirt-track tuner Kenny Tolbert and motocross/supercross star Ryan Villopoto.
“Congratulations to Dave on this well-deserved accolade, and thanks to the American Motorcyclist Association for recognizing his contributions to motorcycling,” said Bill Savino, Senior Manager of Customer Engagement at American Honda. “As much as anyone, Dave is responsible for putting Honda at the top in motocross during the ’80s and ’90s – both on the track and in the showrooms. While he’s best known for his success in racing, Dave also made important contributions to Honda’s production models, and he serves as a model for our associates today. Everyone at Honda is pleased to see him receive this honor.”