The world's most loved bike didn't come from Soichiro.
When most of us think of a person associated with Honda, it’s likely the man whose name the company still bears to this day. Soichiro Honda was, without a doubt, the primary driving force behind all the many successes Honda has achieved over time. He’s not the only one, however.
You may not be as readily familiar with the name Takeo Fujisawa, but as Honda’s vice president, he had both unique access and input into Soichiro’s everyday vehicular strategizing. In 1956, when Honda first fell in love with the Isle of Man TT and wanted to compete, Fujisawa was busy soaking up every aspect of European moto culture in earnest.
Scooters were great, affordable, everyday-people kind of bikes. Fujisawa was incredibly inspired by this, but quickly realized that tiny scooter wheels wouldn’t suit rough rural roads back home. Being VP meant you could bake bigger wheels into the design mix from the start, so that’s exactly what Fujisawa did.
Thus, the Super Cub was born. Just as Vespas evolved from a need for inexpensive transport for Italian riders following a war, this Japanese icon sprang out of a need for inexpensive transport for Japanese riders following a war. Also, just as Vespas eventually swarmed around the globe in popularity, so too did the Super Cub.
Amazingly, both of these relatively inexpensive, simple forms of everyday transport have evolved and changed through the decades, and both are still going strong today. Their pressed steel frames, seen as eminently practical for the ease of mass production, are equally seen as parts of both the Vespa’s and the Super Cub’s charm.
It’s difficult not to be won over by the pure, unadulterated hope these vehicles represented. Certainly, Fujisawa and Honda wanted to see the Super Cub succeed, and undoubtedly worked very hard to give it every possible chance. Still, no one could have predicted that it would become the most beloved motorbike in the world, nor that its popularity and generational production would go on to outlive both men.
It’s a good reminder that even in the most difficult times, unexpected and enduring greatness can occur. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) it might even go along with meeting the nicest people on a Honda.