Frankly, I don’t know what it all means, but it seemed newsworthy when I posted the news this morning. One hundred million mass-produced anything seems like a lot. That’s not quite enough for every third American to own one now, but in 1958 when Honda started stamping Super Cubs out, it would’ve been enough for there to be one for every 1.8 Americans. Since the U.S. model included room for a passenger, that meant every man, woman and child could’ve been in transit simultaneously on a Super Cub, with room for a picnic basket.

Lately we seem to be missing out on the fun, since American Honda hasn’t imported a Super Cub since sometime in the `80s – which was called a Passport here to avoid potential legal havoc with Piper Aircraft. Millions of us tail-end Boomers caught a whiff of the Super Cub in the 50cc lay-down Single that also powered the Z50 minibike (there were 50, 70, 90 and 100cc Cubs).

Be still my heaving 12-year old bosom…

How ironic, then, that it was that original C100 which led to the formation of The American Honda Motor Company in 1959 as official U.S. importer, inspired “You meet the Nicest People on a Honda” ad campaign, and basically made Honda the manufacturing juggernaut it is today. Maybe we “advanced” countries just outgrew the C100; Honda had bigger plans for us over the next few decades.

This Super Cub 50 lives in the museum at American Honda in Torrance, California – the first product it sold. Putting the engine in the middle gave it much better handling, 17-inch wheels meant it could go anywhere, the plastic bodywork kept things clean and made you want one because it was dead sexy.

The story, according to Wikipedia and others, is that Soichiro Honda was in Europe on a single-minded mission to win the Isle of Man, but he was there with his more business-minded partner Takeo Fujisawa. They toured the Kreidler plant in Germany, the Lambretta scooter factory… none of these are any good for the common man, Fujisawa thought, who just wants cheap, easy, reliable transportation – on wheels big enough to deal with unpaved roads. Fujisawa reportedly told Honda, “If you can design a small motorcycle, say 50cc 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.”

From the start, Honda planned to harness great economy of scale to make the Super Cub a success. A new 10-billion yen factory in Suzuka was the biggest motorcycle plant in the world in 1960. Based on VW Beetle assembly-line principles, it was able to knock out 50,000 units per month with two shifts working. Triumph’s Edward Turner predicted trouble, since he said the U.S. market was already saturated. Later in 1965, when it turned out it wasn’t, he said Honda’s success would be great for the British bike industry, since it was bringing in new riders who’d graduate to bigger machines. He was right for a while, about another four years.

I’ve never been on a sex tour of Asia, but Editorial Director Sean assures me that as soon as one alights from the airplane in Vietnam, Thailand, India, China or any of those places I’ve managed to avoid, the Super Cub remains the vehicle of choice for 80% of the mobile population – and a further 18% of conveyances are propelled by engines that are knock-offs of the Cub’s indestructible air-cooled Single. The remaining 2% are in some sort of shiny, high-heeled slingback pump or platform wedgie…

The 2017 Super Cub 50 sports LED lighting and powerful dual drum brakes. It sells for 232,200 yen in Japan – $2,063 today.

Not that the Super Cub doesn’t have its share of fans outside of Asia. Starmag posted one installment of a series of videos made by an Englishman who’s attempting to make his life’s work avoiding a life of work, touring the world on a Super Cub instead. And he’s not the first.

 

What does it all mean? Beats me, but it’s nice to remember a time when we all aspired to “nice.” It’s reassuring to remember from what humble beginnings something like the most mass-produced vehicle of all time could sprout, given not much more nourishment than the tenacity of Soichiro Honda and his pal Mr. Fujisawa. It’s good to recount how repeatedly wrong the expert naysayers can be, it’s just plain fun how attached people can become to what’s really, let’s face it, a pretty mundane transportation unit. I kind of want one.

Here’s to 100,000,000 more. Set your timers, that should happen about 2037.

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  • FoolMotard

    Where’s the bike? All I see is two red hoops and an exhaust.

  • HazardtoMyself

    Well, not a huge fan of the paint but hey for a free R1 (plus tax) I won’t complain all that much.

    Yamaha page says contest runs 10/13/16 – 7/10/17. By the time the drawing happens I will have probably forgot about it.

    I can see it now, get a call from some dude claiming to be from Yamaha offering me a free R1. Hang up thinking its a scam. Light bulb goes off 5 mins later remembering contest. Proceeds to kick self in ass.

  • JMDGT

    The Super Cub has to be the first Honda I remember seeing. Someone in the neighborhood had one. I watched them ride up and down our street. I wanted one of course. It had to be around 1963 or 1964. I wouldn’t get a mini trail until 1970. I’d buy one if they were sold here.

  • Yak Yak Yak

    Oh, great! They’re not available in the US but I gotta have one.

  • Kenneth

    Peter Egan wrote an amusing story in one of his “Leanings” books of taking a trip on a Super Cub, along with a buddy riding a 10-speed bicycle; over all, they were pretty evenly matched.

    • Starmag

      riding a ’64 Honda C100 from Madison, WI to Pikes Peak State Park, IA and back. In his book Leanings,
      Egan said of the 1978 303-mile trip, “In 15 years of riding and touring
      on all kinds of bikes, this was my favorite trip. It was a microcosm
      tour, measured in time rather than distance.”

    • Starmag

      For the Eco-minded, Egan also claimed he got 165+MPG(!) in a very hilly part of Wisconsin. “Charging” took 5mins. His bicycle mounted riding partner said, “you can’t make a gas tank LEAK that slow!” If you can take the 35-40MPH top speed, you can ride one around the world like Ed March. Me, I’d take a CB125 which isn’t quite as good on gas (100MPG), for which there are parts available everywhere in the world also, but doesn’t look as girly.

  • Barry_Allen

    For comparison, second place belongs to the original Volkswagen Beetle.
    In 65 years of production it managed 21,529,464 units. About 1/5 as many.

    • Campisi

      Our new point of comparison is the Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycle, which apparently crested 500 million units built as of 2007.

      • Jon Jones

        Wow. Had to check it out. Good call.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    About 1 million were probably sold in Afghanistan.

  • Steve C

    Beach Boys Little Honda….
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZOGlgVldAs

    • Kenneth

      ‘Very nice! Thanks. At age 16, when my best friend bought a sleek S90, I was over-the-top jealous.

  • Campisi

    Toss in a front disk and the Grom’s engine and I’m sold.

  • rick

    I would buy one today if it was sold here in the US.

  • Joe Moody

    I had one in 1965 for about 6 months. Got behind a tractor trailer going out of town that wouldn’t let go. Rung off the speedometer cable and burnt a hole in the piston. Honda repaired it under warrenty and I traded up to a 160. I have a Ruckus, a VF500F, and a VTX1800T now.

    • Dave Brumley

      Nice spread!

  • toomanycrayons

    “What does it all mean?”

    It means the chubby Boomer down the street always riding his GIANT YELLOW Gold Wing alone is trying way too hard to have fun.

  • symun buuntw

    Think back was away.honda50cc was 1st bike having me a licence2ride.its too slow like a snail..damncunt .cbt1000rr & zx10r way2go as long you know whn2use it..away got power.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      JB, can you translate this for us?

      • john burns

        he digs it a lot.

  • Pip Bip

    good ‘ol postie bike

  • John A. Stockman

    I got my first bike, a 1968 Z50. It was one of the first ones, with only front suspension and a rigid rear-end, 6 volt system, head/tail light and no speedometer or odometer. So I have no idea how many miles or hours are on it. But I still have it and it’s in great condition. My grandfather made some brackets to raise the seat up, since I was starting to have issues with my immune system destroying my joint cartilage and my knees couldn’t bend all the way back like with a normal range of motion. It did give me another year or so riding it, but my hips were fusing and soon I couldn’t even get my legs apart enough to straddle the seat. Still, it allowed me a couple more years of physical freedom before my joints fused up and I had to give up riding all together and get around on crutches. I eventually, 12 years later, went through many surgeries and years of physical therapy so I could ride a motorcycle again, but it all started with that Honda Mini Trail! Here it is with the carb off because I was putting in new gaskets, float valve and a slide spring. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/61adcc0483163d80ec569fe69df5eb5400ce9b6400b5ee3c938e09daa341f5db.jpg

  • Jens Vik

    What does it mean? Mr Burns knows that a new cub will arrive at Eicma…

  • Douglas D

    I owned one . Bought it in 1962. The damned little thing was amazing. Rode it everywhere including across the Coast Range from Beaverton to Tillamook, and across the Cascade Range from Beaverton to Bend. There was no stopping it. To a 16 year old kid it spelled freedom!

  • symun buuntw

    It is probably means fockoff pis of japshit

  • James Stewart

    Burns – the Motorhead in me wants to know how many Honda (and Honda copies) of that lay-down single have been made in 50cc, 70cc, and 90cc flavors – it might be 200 million as the Chinese have copied the crap out of it. All I can say is my Dad’s 1971 Honda SL70 was waaaay better than my Briggs powered minibike – and I think it would maybe do 60mph downhill with one of my friends on the back… But I don’t want a Super Cub – I want the latest and greatest lay-down single Chinese Pit Bike – I think they are up to 140cc or so now..

  • Crookster

    This was the first “motorcycle” I ever owned. Looked identical to the red one pictured. I won it on a Los Angeles radio contest, KRLA I think, when I was 15 in 1965. Rode that thing all over Southern California and had a blast!