‘I paid £400 and my love af­fair with this lit­tle 400 be­gan!’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

‘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

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