‘I paid £400 and my love affair with this little 400 began!’
‘I love the handling, paintscheme and the amazing noise it makes’ PETER FENWICK, MCN READER
Some bikes, like the Ducati 916, are born in a moment of design. Some are inspired by a different way of looking at things – like the original Fireblade, the first superbike to prioritise light weight over raw power. Others, however, come due to a quirk in motorcycle laws.
The popularity of 250s in Britain in the 1960s and 70s is a classic example. From 1960 to 1981 UK learners aged 17 and over were restricted to sub-250cc machines, leading to brilliant bikes such as the KH, GT and, RD250LC.
But in Japan there was an even bigger class which bureaucrats brought into being: 400cc exotica. 1975 regulations restricted Japanese riders to 400cc machines (an unlimited test was both expensive and difficult). This led to the creation of the 400cc supersports class, which, by the mid-1980s, was hugely competitive. V4-focused Honda produced its first VF400 in 1982 leading to the VFR400 (NC21) in 1986, a Pro-arm-ed NC24 in 1987 and the Rc30-alike NC30 in 1989.
Around the same time, due mostly to a buoyant home market that placed little value on used machines, ‘grey imports’, where UK dealers imported barely-used but bargain-priced bikes from Japan, began to flourish. The bulk were exotic 400s. The most popular of all was the NC30.
It’s not hard to see why. When Honda, briefly, officially imported the little V4 in 1990 it cost a whopping £5899 or the price of an average 750 or 1000. Considering the ‘mini RC30’ spec and fabulous detailing that wasn’t, really, a surprise. A grey import version, however, albeit with slightly different spec (Japanese lights, clocks, power restriction etc), could be less than half. No wonder then that, in the early-tomid-‘90s, NC30S became very popular. Its alloy twin beam frame, quality suspension, flexible V4 not to mention RC30 looks gave the Honda an allure some found irresistible.
MCN reader Ben Tilson was one: “I owned a 1991 NC30 when I was about 20-21. It was black with grey wheels and derestricted. The sound of the gear driven cams was so damn cool…”
Donovan Clayton was another: “My NC30 was an important step. It never missed a beat and could easily hold its own. I’ve since owned 1000cc superbikes but nothing comes close to the sheer enjoyment of the NC30.”
But the little Honda had a wider appeal with women sportsbike fans who appreciated its proportions.
Tahnee Attwood told us: “I was smitten with it. It handles immaculately and, at five-feet-four, I fit it perfectly!”
And while the NC’S original lustre began to fade in the late 90s, first because of the NC30’S replacement, in 1994, by the Rvf750-alike NC35, then, when Japanese law changes reduced the significance of the 400cc category, the appeal of the Honda remained, either as budget exotica or as a track machine with the growth in popularity of track days. It seems hard to imagine today but there was a time, in the early noughties, when a tatty example of this former £5k wonder could be had for well under £1000. Reader Steve White said: “I was looking for a project bike 10 years ago and saw a very sad looking NC30 in the back of a breakers yard,” he told MCN. “I paid £400 and my love affair for this little 400 began!”
Peter Fenwick is another “My NC30 is a ’92 model on which I’m completing a riding restoration. I love the handling, paintscheme and the amazing noise it makes. It’s a pleasure to ride and I’m not going to replace it any time soon!”
Today, however, the NC30 has come full circle. Appreciated once more as true exotica the little Honda