At first glance it is hard to believe that the Honda C100 Super Cub would be the greatest bike of all time, because in 1958 almost nobody outside Japan knew the Honda C100 existed. It was simply a domestic market motorcycle. In fact, if you look through the motorcycle press of 1958 and 1959 you will not find a single instance of the name Honda, let alone any mention of a C100 Super Cub.
Instead, in the early years of motorcycling the Brits were the leaders in motorcycle technology, there were features extolling the might of the British industry: 'The new BSA 250 Star' – thoroughly well made, robust and inexpensive.' Motorcycle shows concentrated on Norton, Triumph, Royal Enfield and the rest, as well as a swarm of obscure European manufacturers. Little did they all know a tsunami was on the way.
Honda entered the TT in 1959, winning the Manufacturer's Award after taking sixth, seventh and eleventh. In 1961 Hondas took the top five places in the Lightweight 125 TT, with Mike Hailwood providing their first win. At the same time, a few Honda C100 Super Cub step-thrus began trickling into the US market with returning GIs, who were struck by the brilliance of the design. Unlike Italian scooters, with their complex metal bodywork, wobbly wheels and noisy engines, the Honda Cub was queit, simple and bicycle-like. More importantly its step-thru design meant it could be ridden anywhere in the world – even in places where trousers didn't exist. The big wheels were stable, and the laid-down pushrod engine was fuel efficient like no other…
The design cam from a European tour by Soichiro Honda and his co-founder Takeo Fujisawa. Honda-san was infuriated by the morning papers being delivered to his hotel on noisy two-strokes, and resolved to make a motorcycle whose exhaust note didn't grate. Honda set up a English importer in 1962, by which time there was an electric start Super Cub, the C102. But it was the 1966-on variants (known as the C50, C70 and C90 in Europe) that spearheaded Honda's rise to world number one. Honda established its first Thai manufacturing plant in 1965, and started the production of the Honda C70 Super Cub a year later from the factory in Samut Prakarn province.
The C series kept the Super Cub's leading link fork, semi-automatic clutch and gearbox, underseat fuel tank, plastic leg-shields and enclosed chain, but used a proper oil pump and an overhead cam to render the engine bulletproof.