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The Unmistakable Charm of Early Honda Marketing

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Who doesn’t remember that “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”? That tag line helped Honda explode in popularity beginning in the 1960s. This came to mind when we saw that used Honda Super Cubs are now selling at a great premium in some markets.

The Super Cub is the greatest selling motorcycle in history (approaching 90 million sold worldwide). Honda is in the process of redesigning this icon, which will seemingly remain in production forever.

We also found this YouTube compilation of 1960’s Honda TV commercials, some featuring variants of the Super Cub. Even if you are too young for this to bring back fond memories, the style and pace of these advertisements is worth watching.

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Honda’s new Super Cub concept

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68 Comments

  1. paul246 says:

    I really hope that Honda does bring this back to our market, I will gladly buy one or two for our camping trips. Would be great if they could bring the Trail 90 back, too, for that matter, but the Cub would suffice.

  2. WSHart says:

    That was then, this is now. Honda doesn’t care much about the U.S. market or so it would appear. Examples? Here are two:

    Same GL1800 for 16 years now. I’d sooner own a new HD Road Glide Ultra over the recent ‘Wing. Why? Because I have a 10 year old GL1800 and its still pretty much the same bike. Why buy a new one? Why indeed…

    CB1100. Too little too late for too much money.

    In the ’60s and early 70’s it was about fun. Today it’s nothing but buttwipes on the roads acting like they own the tarmac. More often than not, you don’t want to meet anyone on a Honda. Or a Harley. Or for that matter, any make. Just watch your fellow motorcyclists in traffic on the freeway or around town.

    Self-centered buttwipes.

    Fire up the Flux Capacitor…

  3. Bob says:

    Our first Honda step through was a rotary shift. Imagine going from 4th gear and shifting once more and you’re in first.

    But it was the owners manual that took first prize. I quote it often.

    “If engine make funny noises, turn off quick…….engine not self healing!”

    • MGNorge says:

      I liked the warning stickers on the gas tanks. “Preserve nature, always wear a helmet.”

      I didn’t own a Honda with a rotary gear shift but I think Bridgestone and Kawasaki both had a model or two with them.

  4. Tank says:

    I think these scooters are going to be like the Honda Element. Originally designed for younger drivers, but older drivers ended up buying them for their ease of loading and unloading stuff (especially wheelchairs). A top speed of at least 45 mph would be nice.

  5. joe b says:

    I got my motorcycle learners permit when I was 14 years old, along with my SS card. NO insurance needed back then, working after school at Burger King. I bought a wrecked Honda C200 pushrod 90 for $25, sitting against a tree behind the Yamaha shop, and I cant count the bikes I have had since then. Life is good when you are at kid, and have a motorcycle.
    Some tell me I never grew up. Eventually I worked for American Honda, and its because of them, I could retire. Honda has been good to me.
    I found another C200 years ago, it sits, dusty, unridden, needing repair.
    My VFR1200DCT usually gets the call when I go riding, now-a-days.
    I don’t think the world is the same today as it was then, especially when growing up and having so many choices for a first motorcycle. It wasn’t that bad. Its all we knew.

  6. Sam says:

    I had a new 1962 Honda C110, when I got my learners permit at 15 1/2 years old. A sweet little 50cc, 4 speed with clutch and tank in between the legs like a ‘normal’ bike. A lot of my friends had them too and we put thousands of miles on them with no reliability problems. This bike gave me the incurable ‘Motorcycle Virus’ and 54 years later and 80 bikes so far, I’m still having fun!

  7. Kevin says:

    While I have 7 bikes in my little fleet, I still enjoy riding my ’65 Honda C102 Super Cub. Runs like new and still looks great. How many products are being made today that will be useful 50 years from now? Nice work, Honda.

  8. MGNorge says:

    For a trip back through those beloved years: http://marblesmotors.com/

  9. Brent says:

    ’64-’66 OHV release date 5/01/64, ’66-’68 and up OHC release date 4/01/66, so you could have a ’66 with either engine. ’69 dual range.

  10. Tank says:

    The time is right for that new Super Cub. It will appeal to old and young riders.

  11. paul246 says:

    I recently sold my ’64 Honda C200 ( cast iron 89cc pushrod ). That bike still ran like a top, transmission was 1 up and 3 down with a proper clutch. Great little bike, lots of torque for its size.

    Now, aside from my 2003 VFR, I ride an equally brilliant Honda, a 2008 Honda CBR125R. I feel just like those people in the commercials when I ride it, everything is right in the world. 🙂

  12. Bob says:

    Some of these little Hondas had some really elegant designs. But what struck me most in these commercials are all the pretty girls.

  13. Lynchenstein says:

    “You meet the whitest people on a Honda”

    • MGNorge says:

      Curious, why would you make such a comment?

      • mickey says:

        Just met an African-American fellow the other day up at the credit union riding an F6B. He seemed nice. I was on my ST 1300 and we chatted bikes for awhile. He loved his F6B.

      • Curly says:

        He has a correct observation. I never saw persons of color in any of the 60’s motorcycle ads for any manufacturer. They are somewhat more inclusive now but only somewhat.

        • TexinOhio says:

          Does that really matter Curly (not so much Curly) or Lynchenstein? I’m Hispanic, and not seeing someone of my “race” in an advertisement never stopped me from buying a product if I liked it.

          Stop all this race stuff. If you like a product buy it, if not just move on…

          • Curly says:

            Gee Tex I was thinking more about the marketing which for the time was brilliant and aimed directly at the burgeoning white middle class with all that sweet disposable income. Now they have they spread their aim a bit if they want to capture new buyers and turn them into enthusiasts the way they did in ’62.

            I was all set to buy a C110 like a friend’s big brother had but a buddy of mine down the street got a YG1 Yamaha that would leave the Sports 50 for dead in it’s smokey wake. That made me bike crazy for a lifetime. I studied to be a demographer but hit the early 70’s recession out of college and became a motorcycle mechanic and stayed in the industry for a long and happy career. With some luck I’ll retire next spring to a garage full of “projects’ that I’ll finally have time for.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Because only the truth is funny?

      • Lynchenstein says:

        It was meant to be a joke – they look so stereotypically “white” to me. Which I suppose they’re meant to? I regret my attempt at humor.

        • MGNorge says:

          That’s why I asked, but you are right. Most ads of almost any kind depicted America as middle class white. The middle class was huge then, were becoming more prosperous and were being targeted by all ad agencies. Minorities were truly minorities in the country at that time so unless a product was specifically targeted to them you got what you see here.
          (Always hard to make light of this kind of thing today because of the charged atmosphere we have)

        • TexinOhio says:

          My apologies to you and Curly too Lynchenstein. It’s just in this day and age everything seems to have a racial component to it.

          Let’s forget all the race crap and just have a good time riding.

          Peace.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          For what it is worth, I though it was funny it was funny as hell.

    • Tom R says:

      Hey Lynchenstein,

      Do you work at the LA Times?

  14. WJF says:

    Is that Dirck in the blue pants?

  15. oldjohn1951 says:

    If you are a regular attendee at today’s motorcycle shows, then it’s obvious by the age of the people at those shows, that those ads really worked and continue to do so. Damn shame the same thing can’t be done for the teens and young adults of today.

  16. Sneed Hurn says:

    I learned on a Cub 50. My neighbor owned it and he let me drive it. I wasn’t old enough to ride on the road so he put a larger rear sprocket on it and I drove it through the fields. Every time I see one of these it puts a smile on my face.
    When I was old enough to get my license I purchased a CB160. Road it every where. The got a Honda 305 Super Hawk and on and on. Great memories.
    Must say I would love to have one of those Cubs today.

  17. Jeremy in TX says:

    I really love those of Honda motorcycles. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I see one even though they are all well before my time. I find it amazing that they had so many models with such small steps up in displacement. Was there really a viable niche for each displacement, or was this Honda’s way of doing market research, trying to find the sweet spots for engine size that people gravitated to?

    And if they do offer up that new Super Cub, I, er I mean, my wife is getting one for Christmas.

    • Tom K. says:

      The advertising evolved with displacement as well: “Even the Ninja fears the Hurricane” was probably from the late 80’s or early 90’s. Loved that ad.

    • mickey says:

      you missed a great time to be a motorcycle nut young pup.

      Like I said they provided stepping stones to more displacement, and more power. Guys who had 50’s wanted 65s or 90s. Guys who had 90’s wanted 125’s or 160s and guys who had 160’s moved up to 175s, 200s, 305’s or 350’s. Smart move on Honda’s part. keep moving the carrot a little at a time and keep riders in the fold.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        It seems odd considering the street market I grew up in. Few kids were ever allowed to own street bikes where I grew up, myself among those poor souls, though plenty of us lusted after them. In a high school of over 4000 students, I knew three people that rode street bikes, and only two of which were actually allowed to ride them to school. Two of the guys both started on 600 sport bikes, one of whom would graduate to and suffer a very serious crash on a CBR900RR during our senior year. The other guy rode a 750 Honda Shadow.

        None of us ever wanted a 125 or 250 or 400. You started out on something like a 600 super sport or maybe something milder like a Nighthawk 750 or Seca II 650 if you didn’t have the budget for a super sport. You only rode small displacement bikes if you couldn’t afford anything bigger. That was the mindset. Still is maybe? What a shame.

        Oddly, the stepping stone concept wasn’t so alien in the dirt world – maybe because so many more kids of vary ages and sizes were actually allowed to ride dirt bikes than street bikes. I rode trail bikes as a teen, and I remember going from (all two-strokes) a 110 to a 180 to a 250. The displacement gaps weren’t that big, but the performance gap between each was substantial. That 180 was an absolute beast compared to the 110, and the 250 was in another world compared to the 180. Frankly, that 250 made most of the street bikes I would later ride feel slow. In retrospect, another step in between even each of those displacements would have done me well – very well indeed.

        In stark contrast to the street bike world, there was never any pressure for a guy to just hop on a fire-breathing 250 smoker as a first bike. In fact, it was actively discouraged by everyone. The culture around dirt bikes was that you had to “earn” your way to a 250 by mastering (or at least proving oneself capable on) the less potent machines. (I wonder if it is still like this or if every kid these days MUST jump onto a 60hp MX bike right away?) Why none of us ever questioned the stark contrast between the two cultures is beyond me.

        • mickey says:

          In my high school (1965-1968)as a freshman I rode a 50cc Aermacchi 2 stroke, my buddy Bill rode a Honda C110(50cc sport) another kid rode a Honda S-65, another a Honda S-90 and another a Sears 106. by the time we were seniors Bill and I were both riding CB 160’s. After graduation I moved up to a 305 Scrambler, and Bill to a 59 Sportster.

          I caught up with Bill 2 years ago living in Tennessee after not seeing him for 46 years and he’s still riding too, still on a Harley. Don’t know about the other guys.

      • MGNorge says:

        A school chum of mine had a rather tattered up Honda Sport 50 I wanted in the worst way. He wanted I think 75 bucks for it and I thought it was the most beautiful thing. It purred like a kitten, had 4 speeds, count ’em and real suspension…well, better than the simple springs found on most minibikes! My buddy was buying his brother’s Trail 90 and he in turn had bought a CL350, complete with sissy bar and a Stars and Stripes motif half helmet (remember those?).
        But my dad had another plan, he secretly had bought a two year old Trail 90 for me for Christmas that year and there it was, under the tree, well, in front of is more like it. I could have died!
        The hook had been set a couple years earlier when I first rode a Yamaha 80 while on family vacation. This new Trail 90 was like handing me the whole tackle box! I rode the wheels off that thing! Top speed in high gearing was just north of 55mph and in low, about 30. Here’s a trip back through time, dig those prices! http://marblesmotors.com/

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Cool link. Did you know that Suzuki still makes the TS185 for some developing markets? You can buy new parts for one at you Suzuki dealer.

  18. todd says:

    I just realized the Sym “Symba” has been discontinued in the US. I wonder if it’s because Honda wants to bring the Cub back themselves.
    http://www.alliancepowersports.com/mobile/symba.html

    Me? I Started on a Yamaha HS1 two-stroke 90cc twin. I really wanted a Honda S90 like my friend but after his seized and I got my Yamaha up to 75mph I was hooked. I even rode it from near San Francisco to just outside of Tahoe once. The bike was such a hoot I still have it sitting under an inch of dust in my garage to this day.

    • mickey says:

      An S-90 seized? What did he do forget to put oil in it? I’m not even sure one would even seize then. Those Honda 4 stroke singles were nearly unbreakable no matter the abuse heaped upon them.

    • MGNorge says:

      Yes, an S90 seized? My first bike was a CT90 (Trail 90) with the OHV engine and giant overlay sprocket. I was terribly ignorant about proper maintenance but that little guy just ran and ran and ran. I always recall it as being as reliable as an anvil!
      Now, I do remember some neighbor kids and their pre-mix two-strokes that would seize and one holed a piston on a short jaunt up the freeway.
      I remember some spark plug cleaners that really got a workout!
      Fun times and what a learning experience!

      • mickey says:

        I got a used Z-50 for my son when he was 5 for like $150. He rode it until he was 13 and way too big for it. The kid rode it every day after school and all summer, most of the time wide open. I think I replaced 1 spark plug and changed the oil a couple of times in 8 or 9 years. Don’t even remember adjusting the valves.Indestructible is a term I would use for it. He’s 37 and rides an FJ-09 now lol.

        • Fivespeed302 says:

          I grew up with a rusted and dented up Z50. My brother and I rode the living hell out of it. The only maintenance we did was to fill the tank up with gas. Handlebars all crooked, smashed front light, ripped seat, it was the most beautiful thing ever to my 8 yr old eyes.

      • Provologna says:

        Yamaha RD350 owners (and its pre-post derivatives) would not be caught dead riding without a spare set of spark plugs, to replace fouled plugs. If it was a long ride, you better bring two sets…

        The CB305cc Super Hawk was almost as iconic as the CB750K model, and just as beautiful if not more so. Among all street bikes, none may have had more cornering clearance than the CB400 Hawk when it arrived. IIRC, Daytona-winner Cook Nielsen and his fellow Cycle Magazine editors could not get any hard bit to contact pavement, no matter how hard they tried (admittedly, tire and suspension technology is several magnitudes better now). They marveled how strange was this performance attribute considering the bike looked so tame.

      • joe b says:

        High mileage S90, can produce the situation where, when the cam chain stretches so much, the adjuster hits the case, limiting its function. The chain then jumps the teeth, driving the oil pump. Often at rebuild, after a seizure, replacement of chain, gears, tensioner roller, and oil pump drive sprocket is needed, but shadetree mechanics pass this much needed repair to the original cause of failure. imho

  19. dino says:

    Centerstand… Check.
    No visible Tank Seams or BEAK… Check.
    That thing better have self cancelling turn signals!

    (Who knows, maybe the next Grom revolution!)

  20. patrick says:

    They sure liked to film commercials in San Francisco back then. Also, I think I counted 4 helmets out of all of the riders in those commercials.

    • KenHoward says:

      Back then, helmets were often called “crash helmets,” so maybe that wouldn’t be considered a very helpful marketing tool for attracting new riders?

  21. Doc says:

    Like the Porsche 911, the new Cub is the same but different. Never owned a Cub. Trail 70 was as close as I got. It was a new 1974 K3 model in Candy Riviera Blue. Try to have more fun on any other bike. Can’t be done. Its why the Grom and I suspect the Z125 is/are so popular. Minimum electronics, minimum power, but tons of fun! They’ll probably sell another 90 million.

  22. notarollingroadblock says:

    Hey! Isn’t that Norm G. and his sister in the top photo?

  23. atlantarandy says:

    These things get 150 mpg. I wouldn’t be able to put a pinhole in the gas tank SMALL enough to make it LEAK that slowly.

    • mickey says:

      Honda’s original D type or Dream D (1949-1951) was a 98cc 4 stoke single that got 212 mpg..can you imagine?

      then again it only produced 3 HP and topped out at 45 mph. Still….

  24. Bill says:

    My first bike ( and Bob Hannah’s ). I had a 67 red like the one in the photo. Everybody called these step through 50’s. Some called them toilet tankers because you sat on the gas tank. The little bike was bullet proof!!!

  25. Bob says:

    A new 1963 Honda 50 Cub was my first motorbike. It was two tone blue, just like the concept. At age 67, with 53 years of riding experience, and beginning to think about slowing down the pace, I just might be a candidate for another Cub. What goes around comes around.

  26. MGNorge says:

    Additionally, it may have been cool zipping around then on a 50, 90 or my god, a 160. Not to mention the gigantic 305 but that’s all small potatoes today, very small potatoes. No street cred, no image, at least not the image many want today.

    Ah, the simpler times! Loved growing up back then.

    • mickey says:

      It was indeed a great time to grow up with motorcycling and Honda provided us with the “steps” to move up. My first was an Aermachhi 50 2 stroke in 1965, but I moved up climbing the steps with Honda..160, 305, 350, 450, 750, 1100, 1300… with age and experience we grew together…and the bikes were so good that it has kept me in the fold, and actually transfered me as well to the car fold as I’ve had Civics, Accords,a CRV, an Odyssey and a Ridgeline. Love my Hondas.

      • MGNorge says:

        What, no lawnmowers? Generators? I’ve had two Honda lawnmowers, the first bought in 1978, which I gave to my brother just 5 years ago, still running on its original points!
        We too have Honda in our veins. Not exclusively but very much the most reliable, well built cars we’ve owned. Currently have an Accord Hybrid which delivered 53 mpg out to the coast and back and an Element which my wife loves for its utility. We’ve had Civics an an Accord years ago.

        • mickey says:

          I did have a Honda generator. Don’t even know where it is now as I never use it. A few years ago my brother asked if he could borrow it. I told him I hadn’t run it in 7 years but would check it out. Undid the gas cap and bone dry. Gulp… bet the carbs gummed up. Dumped fresh gas in it and pulled the cord. 3rd pull she started up and idled like a champ. Called my brother to come get it. Come to think of it I wonder if he still has it?

    • KenHoward says:

      I remember in 1965, at age 13, (The Beach Boys’ “I get around” or The Stones’ “Satisfaction” playing in my head) thinking a sporty S90 would be perfect for me – but how badass that big 305 Superhawk was (or was it still the CB250 then?). My family had moved to a house just blocks from a new Honda dealer, and I spent hours (after closing time, trying to look inconspicuous) staring into the store’s tightly-packed showroom, daydreaming about which bike I was going to buy after getting my driver’s license (and some money).

  27. MGNorge says:

    Confused, the Trail 90 ad showed the older OHV, all black cylinder and head, with a large overlay sprocket on the rear. Then they show the switchable dual-range transmission being switched. Am I crazy or were the two not the same? My recollection is that the dual-range tranny showed up with the OHC version of the engine which was all silver in color and had the one smaller sprocket at the rear.

    If Honda is to sell any step throughs in the country every again they’ll need to have a “Black Edition” with nary any bright work at all! 🙂

    • Curly says:

      Good eye! There was one clear shot of the old OHV motor but most were the OHC. Possibly a mix of old and new shots for the commercial. The dual range bike should be a ’68 because it still had the leading link fork.

      Those were great ads but I don’t remember seeing any of them back in my bike crazy teen years. Maybe they were all California market focused. I wonder if old Griswold’s kids still have the dealership?

    • todd says:

      Trail 90s are everywhere out here in California. I’ve had three myself, was even part of a Trail 90 club…

    • Boo says:

      The OHC 89cc CT90 replaced the OHV 87cc CT200 about 1966, but it took another year or so to replace the two sprockets with the dual-range transmission, so there is one year of OHC CT90 with the two sprockets.