Soichiro Honda’s 60-year legacy

Motorcyclist - - Front Page - —Ken Lee

QUITE FIT­TINGLY, it was Honda’s first ma­jor project, the 49cc 1958 Su­per Cub, that would prove to be the com­pany’s big­gest hit over an in­cred­i­ble life span: 60 years and 100 mil­lion units—the most-pro­duced mo­tor ve­hi­cle in his­tory. The diminu­tive ma­chine was es­sen­tial in Soichiro Honda es­tab­lish­ing his name­sake com­pany into a world­wide force. When work be­gan on the Su­per Cub in 1956, Honda’s then-cur­rent 50cc two-stroke Cub F en­gine put out 1 hp. The new en­gine was de­signed to quadru­ple that out­put, and it did: The in­no­va­tive over­head cam four-stroke pumped out 4.5 hp at 9,500 rpm—an as­tound­ingly high en­gine speed and out­put for the time.

The Su­per Cub ar­rived in the US in 1959, and its en­gine went on to power vari­ants such as the Trail 50 for dual-sport use, the cute and beloved Z50 “mon­key bike,” and count­less off-road XR/CRF50 mod­els. It’s a legacy of dura­bil­ity, longevity, and, more than any­thing, ac­ces­si­bil­ity. I started my rid­ing ca­reer on a Honda 50; and with 100 mil­lion Honda 50s built, odds are good that you may have as well.

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