Honda motorcycles has produced over 100 million of its tiny Cub and Super Cub machines – including the C50, C70, C90 and C100X variants – since its launch in 1958; a terrific 60-year record and one surely difficult to beat.
There are not that many of these diminutive four-stroke single-cylinders in either their classic or modern forms remaining in Europe anymore, but in the Far East they have simply been the only transport that many families could afford.
Another record for Honda – and perhaps one it would prefer not to publicise – is that the C50 remains the most stolen motorcycle in the world.
Sixty years ago, Honda imported thousands of Cubs – and 60 other models of motorcycle – into the UK; a stark wake-up call to the British manufacturers that the end was nigh.
Keep an eye on him, in case he tries to pinch it when our back’s turned
The flagship Fireblade range was also hugely popular with everyone, including thieves. Launched in 1992, it’s still going strong today, but held the most stolen superbike title throughout the ’90s and into the new millennium.
Thanks to a long life through many models, the Fireblade was the most stolen superbike
Prior to this – in the 1960s and ’70s – the record for the most stolen brand was held by Triumph, which not only had that distinction, but also that of ‘least recovered’, mainly due to the highly desirable twin engines that were favoured for use in racing and hybrid machines. Indeed, back in 1971 – when a seven-year total of 760,000 stolen motorcycles were recorded on the UK Police National Computer – over 50% were Triumph motorcycles, compared to just 1,500 Japanese bikes.
While currently around 20,005 bikes were stolen in the UK last year – down from 27,326 in 2018 but still way too many – you might be surprised to learn that nowhere in the world is fighting vehicle crime more effectively than the UK; our police forces are reducing bike thefts, but France is forecasting a loss of around 100,000 machines for 2019, Italy 56,000 and Spain 42,000.
Elsewhere in the world, the upward trend appears to be the same. Just one city in Pakistan lost 2,086 machines in one-month last year, while another in India reported that 45 Enfield Bullets were stolen every day.
Main towns and cities in Malaysia and Indonesia report an average of 86 motorcycles stolen every day, but mopeds are not always included in the totals offered by the police. One advantage of owning a small moped like the Cub is the cheap running costs and insurance, but in many parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, South America, India and Africa owners simply don’t bother with insurance. Nor do they report their loss to the police, believing their powered two wheelers will never be recovered anyway.
That’s 100 million sold, not stolen!
Police in those countries have found huge numbers of mopeds minus their engines and gearboxes, while at the same time, travellers to the remote regions – where there’s no access to electricity or water – appeared to have solved the conundrum of where the motors go…
In several of these sparsely-populated areas, small, economical engines – mainly from donated mopeds – had been adapted to run generators for electricity and mechanical pumps to draw well water to the surface.
Many of these small engines were, however, found to have been stolen at some time, which created a joint world-wide debate with the police, local authorities and insurance companies pondering the moral dilemma of recovering these stolen items.
They agreed that theft should be investigated, albeit they placed little monetary value on the long-lost engines. And tracing the thieves was nigh-on impossible. The question was whether everyone should turn a humanitarian blind eye to the obvious improvements in the living conditions of the inhabitants in hundreds of remote villages, all of whom clearly benefitted from the collection of basic water and power needed to survive. No further action was taken, much to the delight of the various village chiefs.
Several of the tiny 50cc Honda engines examined were found to have been built in the very early days of production 60 years ago and were still working well. A record that Honda can be proud of…