Honda Super Cub
The idea for a new 50-cubic-centimetre (3.1 cu in) motorcycle was conceived in 1956, when Honda Motor's Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa toured Germany and witnessed the popularity of mopeds and lightweight motorcycles. Soichiro Honda was primarily the engineering and production leader of the company, always with an eye towards winning on the racetrack, while his close partner Fujisawa was the man of finance and business, heading up sales and formulating strategies intended to dominate markets and utterly destroy Honda Motor's competitors. Fujisawa had been thinking about a long term expansion strategy, and unlike other Japanese companies did not want to simply boost production to cash in on the recent economic boom in Japan. A small, high performance motorcycle was central to his plans. Upwardly mobile consumers in postwar Europe typically went from a bicycle to a clip on engine, then bought ascooter, then a bubble car, and then a small car and onwards; Fujisawa saw that a motorcycle did not fit in this pattern for the average person, and he saw an opportunity to change that. Soichiro Honda was at the time tired of listening to Fujisawa talk about his new motorcycle idea; Honda came to Europe to win the Isle of Man TT race and wanted to think about little else.
Fujisawa and Honda visited Kreidler and Lambretta showrooms, as well as others, researching the kind of motorcycle Fujisawa had in mind. Fujisawa said the designs had "no future" and would not sell well. His concept was a two wheeler for everyman, one that would appeal to both developed and developing countries, urban and rural. The new motorcycle needed to be technologically simple to survive in places without up to date know how and access to advanced tools or reliable spare parts supplies. The common consumer complaints of noise, poor reliability, especially in the electrics, and general difficulty of use would have to be addressed. Because Honda was a large company growing larger, it need a mass appeal product that could be produced on an enormous scale. The design had to be sorted out before production began, because it would be too costly to fix problems in the vast numbers that were to be manufactured. The scooter type nearly fit the bill, but was too complex for developing countries to maintain, and the small wheels did poorly on badly maintained or nonexistent roads. Another of Fujusawa's requirements was that it could be ridden with one hand while carrying a tray of soba noodles, saying to Honda, "If you can design a small motorcycle, say 50 cc with a cover to hide the engine and hoses and wires inside, I can sell it. I don't know how many soba noodle shops there are in Japan, but I bet you that every shop will want one for deliveries.
Once interested, Soichiro Honda began developing the Super Cub on his return to Japan. The following year Honda displayed a mockup to Fujisawa that finally matched what he had in mind, Fujisawa declaring the annual sales would be 30,000 per month, half again as many as the entire monthly two-wheeler market in Japan. His goal was export on a scale yet unseen in the economic disorder of postwar Japan, when most companies' halting trade efforts were handled through foreign trading companies. Honda would have to establish its own overseas subsidiary to provide the necessary service and spare parts distribution in a large country like the United States. To this end American Honda Motor Company was founded in 1959. In 1961 a sales network was established in Germany, then in Belgium and the UK in 1962, and then France in 1964.
When Super Cub was originally launched, the 2-stroke engine was the mainstream power plant for motorcycles. However, the first generation Honda Super Cub C100 was equipped with an innovative and high-performance 50cc 4-stroke engine which was highly economical and durable. Super Cub C100 also achieved creative and unique designs including the low-floor backbone frame which enhanced the ease of getting on and off, a centrifugal clutch system which required no clutch operations, and the installation of a large plastic leg shield which reduced the amount of dirt splatter and wind experienced by the rider. Since the introduction of the first generation model, the basic design and concept have remained virtually unchanged, and the unique style has been passed on even to current models.
Exports of Super Cub began in 1959 with the first destination being the U.S., and production in regions outside of Japan began in 1961 in Taiwan, with production based on component parts sets. Since that time, based on Honda’s long-standing commitment to “build products close to the customer,” local production began in many other countries. The Honda Cub series is currently being produced in 15 countries around the world.
TOKYO, Japan, May 21, 2008–Cumulative worldwide production of Honda Cub series motorcycles*1 reached the 60 million-unit milestone at the end of April 2008. Honda Super Cub C100, first introduced in Japan in 1958, has gained worldwide acceptance both as a business-use motorcycle and for daily transportation, and has been being enjoyed by customers in more than 160 countries around the world. This August will mark the 50th anniversary of launching of Honda Cub series.
See why Discovery Channel said the Honda Cub is the “Greatest Motorcyle in the world” Watch this video:
Produced from 1961 onwards, the Honda 50 Sport (type C110 and C111) variant of the Super Cub, laid out the basics of all future models: It had a pressed steel frame, hydralic front/rear forks, a 49 cc four-stroke engine, single overhead camshaft and a kickstart. The cylinder was laid horizontally to optimise cooling. The final drive was chain running in an enclosed chain case. The S50 had a twin seat.
As a moped, to comply with the legal requirements in the United Kingdom and some other European countries, the S50 had a pair of bicycle-like pedals. The special pedal cranks allowed both pedals to be rotated forward, so that the pedals would form motorcycle-style footrests in normal operation.
The later S50 had a type code C114.
The SS50 replaced the S50, with the SS standing for "Super Sports". Basically with the same form as the S50, it had a few upgrades: It had 6-volt battery, so full ignition and real horn, but frame modified to house battery box, and a neutral indicator.
The first SS50s were delivered with a rat grey pressed-steel frame, red, blue or yellow 7 litres (1.5 imp gal; 1.8 US gal) petrol tank including reserve, twin drum brakes and chromed mudguards. Introduced with a four-speed gearbox, the handlebar controls and switches corresponded to the high level of other Honda motorcycle models, made from cast aluminum, and a standard rear-view mirror. All three of these bikes came complete with a chromed high level exhaust and heat shield.
The later five speed SS50 had an extra gear and the engine was also tuned up making it faster and more competitive in the UK market. The frames of all the 5 speed models were black differing to the rat grey of the four speed. There were two models available as a five speed, one which had drum brakes all round. The other had a front disk brake which was cable operated.