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The Honda Super Cub debuted in 1958, 10 years after the establishment of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. The name 'Cub' is said by some to be an acronym of Cheap Urban Bike because the development of this model was aimed to provide a kind of cheap urban transportation in busy cities, but there is no evidence to prove this.. The name more likely refers to other products such as the earlier Piper Cub, an affordable and extremely popular light aircraft from the 1930s possessing many of the same mechanical qualities of the Honda bike (note that improved versions of the Piper Cub were also called Super Cubs).
Honda had discovered how to increase the power and efficiency of 4-stroke engines by increasing engine speed (RPM), and the company set about breaking into a market sector totally dominated by the 2-stroke models of other manufacturers. So successful were they that the Honda Cub became the most successful motorcycle model in history, and made huge contributions to Honda's sales and profit. Honda used the slogan You meet the nicest people on a Honda as they broke into the English speaking world, until then dominated by British motorcycles.
In 1967, after 9 years of production, the whole motorcycle was uprated, the engine going from pushrod 4.5bhp to SOHC 4.9bhp. Though the basic design of Cub remained unchanged, slightly new styling features and improvements were integrated along with larger displacement (70 cc and 90 cc models) versions. In the 1980s, Honda fitted a new capacitor discharge ignition system (CDI) to replace the earlier contact points ignition, thereby helping to meet increasingly strict emission standards in markets such as the US. However, many experts on the Cub testify to the fact that Honda used the CDI system for better reliability and fuel efficiency, with the emissions improvements being an appealing by-product of these goals.
In the 1980s, a larger 100 cc GN-5 engine model was introduced especially for Asian markets. The newer 100 cc model branched off from the Honda Cub model design, with new features such as a telescopic front suspension to replace the older leading link suspension, and a more efficient 4-speed transmission to replace the older 3-speed transmission used in Honda Cubs. These changes were not incorporated into the Honda Cub line-up, not interfering with the timeless and dependable design of the Cub, but rather, were integrated into new models such as Honda Dream in Thailand and Honda EX5 in Malaysia. These bikes were never intended to compete or replace the Cub in the very strong Japanese domestic market, but were more suited for the lucrative Asian export market.
In the late 1990s, Honda introduced their newer NF series motorcycles, known as Honda Wave series which use steel tube frames, front disk brake and plastic cover sets in various displacement options: 100 cc, 110 cc and 125 cc. Though not Cubs, these bikes sold consistently well particularly in European countries, where the production of Honda Cub models had been previously discontinued. However, the production of Honda Cubs in Asia, Africa and South America still continues today even though the newer Honda Wave Series and other designs have been introduced alongside the Cub.
Not only are they continuing, but sales for Super Cubs have increased in Japan with new upgrades on the engine, making it even more powerful, more economical and cleaner than ever before. With all due respect to the newer, plastic body designs, and offshoots, such as Wave, etc, the original Cub model is as popular and as stylish as ever. That's not including the delivery service market, which is what the Cub was originally intended for, unlike in the U.S. or Europe, where the bike was mainly used for leisure. The plastic-bodied Wave was not designed for delivery or utility, but rather for leisure. Hence the interest in exporting the bike, while keeping the Super Cub design alive and well in Japan. (Yamaha has taken a cue from Honda and revamped their Mate series, which is a direct copy of the Honda Super Cub except it sports a 2 cycle engine. As has Suzuki with their own version of the Super Cub, the Birdie.)
In Vietnam, the Super Cub used to be so popular that people still call every kind of motorcycle "xe Honda" (meaning: Honda motorcycle). In Malaysia, the word kapchai (a Chinese-Malaysian word from the Cantonese and Hokkien term "Cub仔", which means "little Cub", which is in turn a derivation from the agglutination of the words "Honda Cub" and the Chinese "仔" [pinyin: zai]) is used to refer to all underbone motorcycles.
In 2006, in a show on the Discovery Channel, "The Greatest Ever", a fast-wheeling documentary on motorcycles, rating the best in a top-ten system, deemed the Honda Super Cub "Number One", declaring it "the greatest ever motorcycle".
Honda released a television commercial advertisement featuring the Andy Williams' hit recording "Impossible Dream". The choice of music, from a musical version of Don Quixote, was not random since Soichiro's hard-won journey from humble beginnings to one of the world's most famous names was, some would have warned, impossible. The ad cleverly displays Honda's milestone products in chronological order from the early Super Cub 50 all the way up to a stunning finale involving a hot air balloon and a waterfall. If the commercial were made today, Honda would be able to proudly add their newest product, a jet to the lineup.
Reasons for success of Honda Cub series
The Discovery Channel ranked the Honda Super Cub as the greatest motorbikes of all time
Loh Boon Siew (Mr Honda, Malaysia)
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