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Brochure of the Honda Z50

Always nice to see one drive by and I'm always quite jealous on the owners of this little bike.
I do have the paper original of this ad somewhere, so if you want a bigger version, donate and let me know ;)

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Hondells rode high with 'Little Honda'

Hondells rode high with 'Little Honda' by Jerry Osborne, Special to The Chicago Sun-Times

Q. In the 1960s or '70s, the Hondells had a song about a little Honda motorbike. They sang of taking a ride and "having more fun than a barrel of monkeys." I would like information on this record so when I play it for my granddaughter we can have more fun than a barrel of monkeys, too.
A. The title is easy -- "Little Honda," -- and it became a Top 10 hit in the summer of 1964.

Written the year before by Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mike Love, "Little Honda" first appeared on the LP, "The Beach Boys -- All Summer Long."

Sensing its hit potential, Capitol also wanted to issue "Little Honda" as a single, but Brian thought it was not as strong as some of the others in the can. Brian's rejection of it got the attention of Gary Usher, an occasional composition collaborator of Wilson's. Together they wrote "In My Room; " "Ten Little Indians; " "County Fair" and others. Gary knew "Little Honda" would be a huge hit, and he was absolutely right. For lead vocals, Usher recruited Chuck Girard of the Castells. He then added a talented group of studio musicians for the session. Among the players having more fun than a barrel of monkeys on "Little Honda" are Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine and Richie Allen. Keeping with the Honda theme, Usher named his assemblage the Hondells. Also recorded at that session was another tune co-written by Gary Usher titled "Hot Rod High," a terrific entry into the 1963-64 field of car songs.

Surprisingly, the first batch of promo copies (Mercury 72324) sent to radio stations clearly indicated "Hot Rod High" as the A-side. Since "Hot Rod High" was popular with disc jockeys and listeners alike, it would be couple of weeks before the B-side, "Little Honda," got discovered. Though both tunes received air play, "Little Honda" -- a dead-on copy of the Beach Boys' version -- soon dominated and roared right up the charts, peaking at No. 9. As for Brian Wilson's concern that their version of "Little Honda" wouldn't be strong enough, his fears were unfounded. Established stars that they were, the Beach Boys would likely have done even better with "Little Honda" than the newcomer Hondells. It probably would have ranked among the Top 5.

Meanwhile, the Beach Boys single on the charts at that time, "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)," also peaked at No. 9 -- exactly the same as "Little Honda" by the Hondells. One month later, Capitol shifted gears and issued a four-track extended play 45, "Four By the Beach Boys" (Capitol R-5267). The lead song on the EP is clearly "Wendy," but their energetic "Little Honda" also got played, exposing their original to Top 40 music lovers who didn't already own the album "All Summer Long." The other two tracks on the EP are "Don't Back Down" and "Hushabye." All four songs are from the "All Summer Long" LP (Capitol 2110), itself a Top 5 seller and one of that summer's best offerings.

Q. There is one line in "Little Honda" that has baffled me for over 40 years. With regard to the little Honda, it sounds to me like the words are "It climbs the hills like a mattress 'cause my Honda's built really light." A mattress may be good for some things, but climbing hills is probably not one of them.
A. Perhaps the Hondells' hit sounds a bit more like "mattress" than the Beach Boys, but both recordings state "It climbs the hills like a Matchless."

Matchless is one of Great Britain's first and most renowned motorcycles, with a line of commercial bikes that began more than 100 years ago. If you didn't know that brand name, even if you had figured out they were singing "matchless," you still would have been mystified as to its inclusion. IZ ZAT SO? On May 2, 1966, the Beach Boys were special guests on the Andy Williams TV show, where one segment called for them to sing "Little Honda," with Andy joining in on the chorus. Talk about a stray in the herd! But because this hit mentions Honda exactly 27 times, the Williams people thought the song might be regarded by some as a 2-minute commercial for Honda motorcycles, unfortunately not one of the show's sponsors.
So it came to pass that the audience that night heard a rare version with some unconvincing lyrics, such as "I'd better turn on the lights so we can ride my cycle tonight." Proving music's persuasive power, I'll now confess that my first bike was a Honda S-90 -- bought in the summer of '64 mainly because of the Hondells and Beach Boys.

Jerry Osborne is a syndicated columnist. Write to him c/o Chicago Sun-Times, Features Department, 350 N. Orleans, Chicago, IL 60654, visit his Web site, www.jerryosborne.com

Honda built transportation for the world - a tiny bike

The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

April 18, 1988
Section: BUSINESS
Edition: The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Page: C/1

Honda built transportation for the world - a tiny bike
DEANS, BOB Bob Deans Journal-Constitution Correspondent STAFF  

The Honda Super Cub, a model of clean and simplistic design fashioned around a gutsy little power plant that can carry its rider up to 430 miles on a gallon of gasoline has become the best-selling motorcycle in the world, and one of the hardest-working vehicles of all time. TOKYO - The story began with a bowl of hot noodles - and the need to shuttle them swiftly through the streets of Tokyo. Thirty years later, the machine that was built to handle that chore has become the best-selling motorcycle in the world, and one of the hardest-working vehicles of all time.

The bike is the Honda Super Cub, a model of clean and simplistic design fashioned around a gutsy little power plant that can carry its rider up to 430 miles on a gallon of gasoline. In developing countries worldwide, the mighty Cub has become the little bike that could, hauling light cargo of all descriptions and providing the low-cost transport link vital to economic growth among people of limited resources. The Cub is to utility what the Italian Vespa scooter is to romance, and therein lies the soul of the machine.

Every day, Cubs by the thousands jam the streets of Taipei, toting cartons of sweaters, soft drinks or produce. They chug up the hills of Seoul laden with propane tanks, magazines or toys. In Delhi and Bombay, entire families pile onto a single Cub to travel between market and home. In industrialized nations, the Cub has gained popularity simply because riding one is great fun. By late last year, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and its global affiliates had produced 17.3 million Cubs.

Apart from Honda itself, the entire motorcycle industry owes a rather large debt to the humble Cub. In the early 1960s, when motorcycle sales were lumbering under a roughneck image, Honda scored one of advertising's greatest coups with its clean-cut theme, "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda." The bike that Honda was promoting was, of course, the Cub, whose bright colors, step-through frame and plastic leg guard managed to convince a generation of wary parents that Honda's product was somehow less threatening than a real motorcycle.

There's no deep secret to the Cub's success. The bike simply does many things well without costing much money. That is precisely what its creators had in mind. Soichiro Honda hated noise. So much, in fact, that he once had his wife buy out a street vendor's inventory to silence the bellowing peddler's sales chants. In post-war Japan, Honda's company was instrumental in providing motorized bicycles to a population sorely in need of budget transportation. But most of the bikes were noisy, temperamental affairs, and in 1954 Soichiro Honda began trying to develop a quiet, reliable motorbike. He had one other important design criterion: A rider must be able to control the bike with one hand, so that the other hand could be used to balance bowls of hot noodles being delivered through the packed streets of Tokyo.

Honda's breakthrough came with the development of the Cub 50-cc engine, which got 4.5 horsepower out of an engine with a piston half the size of a small juice glass. In 1958 Honda began producing the Super Cub motorbike, with a price tag of 55,000 yen - equal to about $150 at the time. The next year Honda began exporting the Cub to the United States, where it sold for $245. Cub sales took off immediately, and by the end of its third year of production 1 million had been sold. The bike's design turned out to be classic: Outside of some engine modifications, little has changed on the Cub over the past three decades.

Its price has moved slowly as well. The Cub 50 starts at 135,000 yen - about $1,080 in today's dollars - and models are available with 50-, 70-and 90-cc engines. Then there is that gas mileage. Japanese enthusiasts have made a sport of seeing how far they can stretch a liter of gas with a Cub. The record? A startling 684 miles on a liter of gasoline in a pencil-shaped vehicle powered by a Cub engine. But engineering being a science of compromise, the Cub, alas, was not built for speed. It tops out at about 45 mph. Sheer devotion, however, has led some Japanese to improve upon even that aspect of the Cub, which is raced in modified form at speeds approaching 80 mph.

In downtown Tokyo it is the bike's nimbleness that is valued by jockeys delivering everything from groceries to hot lunches in traffic that stays gridlocked through much of the day. The Cub's automatic clutch makes one-handed operation possible, though rarely does a rider have to resort to hand-carrying his parcels. Defying basic laws of physics, even eggs travel safely when suspended by a special set of braces, springs and straps mounted on the back fender of Cubs. Honda stopped shipping Cubs to the United States several years ago, citing a shift in consumer preference toward small-wheel scooters instead of small bikes like the Cub. Elsewhere in the world, however, Cub sales continue to grow.

Outside of Japan, Honda-affiliated plants build Cubs in Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea. Honda ships Cub parts for assembly elsewhere, including Nigeria. The Cub's price has been important in keeping the bike within reach of consumers, particularly throughout the Third World, said Zenjiro Sakurai, Honda's assistant manager for motorcycle product planning. In such nations, the Cub has contributed mightily to something of a transportation revolution. "Fifty miles in a developing countryside might as well be 400 if there's no motorized transport. That's much too long to carry a major load by hand or by hand cart and it's pretty inefficient by animal," said Dwight H. Perkins, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development. "So motorized transport is important," he added. "Bicycles are a step up and motorcycles are a step up beyond that."

Production cycle
Milestones in Honda's manufacture of the Super Cub

August 1958 - production begins.
April 1967 - 5 millionth scooter.
July 1972 - 10 millionth scooter.
January 1983 - 15 millionth scooter.
November 1987 - production reaches 17.3 million.

Source: Honda Motor Co. Ltd.
Photo: Honda scooters, shown by Richard Adcox at Honda of Atlanta, have followed the success of the Cub motorbike / Billy Downs / staff Photo: Kenichi Tsuchiya uses a Honda Cub scooter with a special carrier on the back to deliver noodles in Tokyo / Bob Deans / staff

Copyright 1988 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution