"Quality Products have no International Boundaries"(1956)

Advertisements made for the new Super Cub. The Super Cub was like an embodiment of the "Three Joys," and it became a favorite of customers around the world following its debut in 1958. (Advertisements provided by Tokyo Graphic Designers Incorporation)

<< 1. In 1956, Messrs. Honda and Fujisawa traveled to Europe together....
<< 2. Development of the clutch mechanism started at the same time as engine development,...
<< 3. Underlying the Super Cub's success was the choice of 17-inch tires....
<< 4. Fujisawa again skillfully resorted to the direct mail strategy on the Super Cub....

Development of the clutch mechanism started at the same time as engine development, Harada recalls:

"From the start, the Old Man was saying, 'I want to make it so the noodle shop delivery boy can balance his tray on one hand and operate the bike with the other.' In other words, a bike that would enable the rider to leave one hand free. That means the clutch wouldn't be operated by hand."

This was the second time Honda had taken up the challenge of a bike that anyone could ride without having the knack for using the clutch, following the Dream D-Type that had no clutch lever.

The Super Cub employed an automatic centrifugal clutch. What required the team to take repeated pains, in particular, was the clutch disengagement mechanism. Kawashima also cooperated on this. With Akira Akima in charge, as many as eight different methods were tested. Kawashima described this effort:

"For the clutch disengagement and the gear shifting, the foot-operated pedal such as we used on the Dream D-Type would be fine. This time, however, we absolutely could not afford to fail in the same way. That's why we took particular pains to get this part right, more than any other."

Development of the body began in February, as well. Harada handled the general supervision of everything from the engine to the styling. Motoo Nakajima was in charge of the front suspension team, and Futoshi Hasegawa's team worked on the rear end and brakes. Kichinosuke Ando, who joined the team in June, supervised the frame and body team.

"With Mr. Harada heading the group, everyone carried out their development work while coordinating and mixing the efforts of their teams in various ways," Nakajima recalled. "I was in charge of the front fork and the front wheel suspension, and also did the basic calculations for the rear suspension. Mr. Hasegawa took on the swinging arm, wheel, hub, and so on for the rear. Mr. Ando calculated the body's center of gravity, namely, the location of the seat and the distribution of the weight. In other words, this was team work. We discussed what we were doing with each other as we worked to complete the project. At times like this, the character of the person conducting the team efforts is especially important. Project leader isn't just an empty title. It requires skillful coordination of all the teams. With someone like Mr. Harada there to act as a buffer for the Old Man, everyone turned out good work."

The bottom-link front suspension that Nakajima had begun working on was designed to be smaller and sleeker than those fitted to similar Honda bikes before. However, it had the comfortable ride and toughness needed for travel on bad roads.

"It was important to give the Super Cub a friendly look, so we didn't want to make it seem too tough," Nakajima commented: "We had to consider production costs, too, and make the suspension function adequately, so I think this is where we had the most difficult time."

Ando remarks:

"I joined the company in June 1957, when the Super Cub development was already in progress. The basic frame structure had been determined, with 17-inch tires, and a clay model was being built. What amazed me," he said, laughing, "was that when the bike was completed, there weren't any properly written specifications. We didn't have blueprint drawings of the skeleton showing things like the length of the wheelbase, the caster angle, the trail, and so on. Ordinarily, you base fabrication on those specifications, but Honda did the opposite. We built the skeleton and then wrote the specifications. That was my job. Around then, the one thing the Old Man was most strictly demanding was weight reduction. We trimmed and trimmed and finally got it down to 55 kg. We had good timing, too. New materials like polyethylene were just coming out, and this was a time when manufacturing technologies were taking great leaps forward. Honda aggressively adopted methods suited to mass production, such as electric welding. On top of the brains that were in the group, I think this good timing was a major factor in the Super Cub's success."
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