• Honda Super Cub, Tokyo Motor Show 2013 source: Creative Commons, licensed by CC0
  • 1958 Honda Super Cub Author: Mj-bird, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  • 2019 Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • 1958 Honda Super Cub Author: Mj-bird, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • Honda Super Cub source: Global Honda
  • 1966 Honda Super Cub instruments Author: Audin Malmin, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Little has changed in the last 60 years

Every once in a while a machine transcends the constraints of time and taste to become a modern-day legend, and Honda’s Super Cub is just such a machine. From its humble beginnings back in 1958, the Super Cub (aka Honda 50 or Honda C100) has, according to sales numbers, grown into the most popular motorcycle. Ever. Back in 2018, the line passed the 100-million-unit mark, and I am old enough to remember when McDonald’s had served fewer burgers than that according to their sign out front, so that is a lot of units around the world.

  • 1958 Honda Super Cub
  • Year:
    1958
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    49 cc
  • Top Speed:
    43 mph (Est.)

1958 Honda Super Cub Design

  • Chromed exhaust system
  • Two-tone colorway
  • Center stand
  • Rear luggage rack
  • Solo seat
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886472
Honda Super Cub, Tokyo Motor Show 2013
source: Creative Commons, licensed by CC0
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886471
1966 Honda Super Cub instruments
Author: Audin Malmin, licensed under CC BY 2.0
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886474
Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda

The company was about a decade old when it struck gold with the Super Cub. Like so many other marques, Honda was able to capitalize on the needs of people living in a war-torn infrastructure and arguably helped the island nation recover from the lingering aftermath. Part of the charm is the fact that its almost completely enclosed, similar to a scooter, but was, in fact, a motorcycle proper. The design team set about the business of building a bike with enough bodywork to hide all the unsightly innards and underpinnings while making it easy to mount and ride.

Leading-link front suspension uses non-telescopic forks to mount the front wheel with a high-mount, full-size front fender that rocks high sides to leave the front wheel mostly exposed in profile. Up top, a cyclops headlight lights the way with bar-mount blinkers and tall mirror stems, but all the rider protection comes from the scooter-like legguard that keeps the spray off the rider’s lower legs.

In another scooter-tastic move, the fuel tank area gives way to cutout step-through area that makes for easy mounting and dismounting. A stock solo seat and luggage rack finish out the flyline, though back in the day the accessory catalog offered options for riders who prefer to share the fun with a friend.

In the looks department, it’s really kind of amazing how faithful the newly-released Super Cub looks like the original. Side-by-side, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the old and the new at a glance, and not only is that a testament to the original design, it shows an unshakeable confidence on the part of Honda in its own work. I love classic-looking machines, and the fidelity I see here is remarkable.

1958 Honda Super Cub Chassis

  • Laced wheels
  • Drum brakes
  • Leading link front fork
  • Dual shock absorbers
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886470
1958 Honda Super Cub
Author: Mj-bird, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886476
Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886477
Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda

In spite of its status as a proper motorcycle, the Super Cub runs with a rather compact wheelbase at only 46.3-inches long. It’s built around a proper underframe, even though you can see neither hide nor hair of the structure, and a stamped and welded sheet-metal swingarm finishes out the standing structure with dual shocks to support the rear end. The suspension is non-adjustable, but the shocks come with a color-matched shroud that keeps it looking as dressed and finished as the rest of the machine.

It was the 1950’s, so the drum brakes should come as no surprise, but what is surprising is the fact that the 2019/2020 release still uses a drum out back. No doubt this was done for aesthetics, and while I’d normally rag on antique tech like that, I admit that the 240-pound curb weight on the new bike is well within the means of the old shoe-type brake. The new version rocks a disc up front and comes complete with ABS, something that had yet to be even dreamt of back in the day.

Frame: Pressed Steel
Front Suspension: Leading Link
Rear Suspension: Dual Shocks
Front Brake: Drum
Rear Brake: Drum
Front Tire: 2.25 x 17
Rear Tire: 2.25 x 17

1958 Honda Super Cub Drivetrain

  • four-stroke, air-cooled, 49cc, single cylinder
  • 5 horsepower
  • 3 Nm of torque
  • three-speed semi-automatic transmission
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886473
Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886481
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886475

The early engine in the Super Cub was another ambitious project for the fledgling factory. It was a 49 cc four-stroke built for a market that was dominated by two-cycle mills, and it put out a modest four horsepower at 7,000 rpm with three pounds o’ grunt at 4,500 rpm. Compare that to the new C125 that generates 9.7/8.04, respectively. Bore and stroke mike out at 39 mm and 41.4 mm respectively, and the engine relies on air-cooling to carry away the waste heat. That is still true on the latest versions of the engine, and it definitely contributes to the old-school chops the C125 brings to the table.

Pushrod valve actuation was the order of the day on the original mill, and that remained true for about half-a-decade, at which point Honda switched to the over-head cam that is still used to this day. Naturally, this reduces the reciprocating mass in the top end for safer operation at high revolutions.

Power flowed through a three-speed transmission and chain-type final drive to turn in a top speed in the mid forties, and the new C125 bumps that up to something in the fifties, depending on load and conditions.

Engine: air-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder, OHC
Displacement: 49 cc
Bore x Stroke: 1.6 in x 1.5 in (41 mm)
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Horsepower: 4 hp ( 3.7 kW) @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 2.41 lb-ft (3.2 Nm) @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel System: Carburetor
Ignition: Flywheel Magneto
Gearbox: 3-Speed, Semi-Automatic
Clutch: Wet, Semi-Automatic
Primary Drive: -
Final: Drive Chain

1958 Honda Super Cub Pricing

1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 783545
2019 Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda
1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 880541
1958 Honda Super Cub
Author: Mj-bird, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Given its historical status, you can expect to pay through the nose for one of the originals, especially if it’s in good shape, but the 2020 C125 model rolls for an affordable $3,649.

1958 Honda Super Cub Competitors

1958 Honda Super Cub
- image 886482
Honda Super Cub
source: Global Honda
1955 - 1958 Yamaha YA-1
- image 886484
Yamaha YA-1, Yamaha Communication Plaza
Author: PekePon, licensed under CC BY-SA3.0

Post-War Japan had a shattered infrastructure and economy, so there was a near-insatiable demand for affordable and reliable transportation that could navigate the new reality for the island nation. This gave rise to one of Honda’s fiercest competitors – the Yamaha Motor Company – and its first motorcycle model, the YA-1.

Yamaha YA-1

1955 - 1958 Yamaha YA-1
- image 886485
Yamaha YA-1, 2005 Tokyo Motor Show
Author: Derek A., licensed under CC BY 2.0

Where Honda’s Super Cub had some definite scooter DNA in evidence, the YA-1 “Red Dragonfly” more closely followed the industry standard of an open construction with all the innards in plain sight. Telescopic and inverted, the coil-spring-supported front forks float the front end on the YA-1 against the link-type forks on the Honda. A single, round headlight provided the visibility at night, but behind the headlight can there’s really nothing to afford the rider any protection, but that also leaves the side-valve thumper in the open where it can catch plenty of cooling air.

The Yamaha mill was a bit larger at 123 cc, and it was a 2-cycle so it’s no surprise that the YA-1 leaves the Super Cub sucking hind tit with 5.5 horsepower and 6.9 pound-feet of torque against 4.0/3.0 from the Honda. Additionally, the four-speed transmission provided the pilot with another gear to help keep the engine in its usable powerband against three-speeds on the Super Cub.

Read our review of the Yamaha YA-1.

He Said

“It is said that necessity is the mother of all invention, and the original Super Cub bears that out. The needs of a recovering nation gave rise to a number of iconic machines that carved out their own place in history, many of which elevated their respective manufacturers to prominence and are still in business today. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Honda re-released it in 2019 with much the same aesthetics, and I think it’s absolutely adorable.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I mean, seriously, you can’t talk about significant motorcycles in the industry’s history without mentioning the Honda Super Cub. You might argue that it’s competition would be the Yamaha MF1, but I’d say the Super Cub, being a proper motorcycle shared the road with scooters, but wasn’t one of them.”

”Honda wanted a reliable, unintimidating machine that was easy to ride and by golly, they hit the nail on the head with the Super Cub.”

1958 Honda Super Cub Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: air-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder, OHC
Displacement: 49 cc
Bore x Stroke: 1.6 in x 1.5 in (41 mm)
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Horsepower: 4 hp ( 3.7 kW) @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 2.41 lb-ft (3.2 Nm) @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel System: Carburetor
Ignition: Flywheel Magneto
Gearbox: 3-Speed, Semi-Automatic
Clutch: Wet, Semi-Automatic
Primary Drive: -
Final: Drive Chain
Chassis:
Frame: Pressed Steel
Front Suspension: Leading Link
Rear Suspension: Dual Shocks
Front Brake: Drum
Rear Brake: Drum
Front Tire: 2.25 x 17
Rear Tire: 2.25 x 17
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 70.1 in (1,781 mm)
Overall Width: 22.4 in (569 mm)
Seat Height: -
Wheelbase: 46.5 in (1,181 mm)
Ground Clearance: -
Weight: 143 lbs (65 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 0.8 gallons (3.0 l)
Top Speed: 43 mph

Further Reading

Honda

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
- image 794666

Read more Honda news.

TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
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