Saturday, September 24

The Honda SS50E - an introduction and short history

SS50E Brochure, image via Steve's Homepage

The Honda SS50E was a sports moped constructed by Honda from approximately 1967[1] to 1971[2]. It succeeded the S50, which was manufactured in the early to mid 60s.
Honda S50, image via cmsnl.com
By appearance, the SS50E retained the brightly coloured, chrome-heavy styling that was common for that era, but as the decade came to a close, the design was starting to modernise slightly with more sporty, serious, and you could say, blander looks.

SS50E, S50, Cub 50.
Note the Cub 50-esque front end of the S50, including the forks, and the more flared mudguards.
The SS50E does away with this for a bare chested look - more visible front shocks and less flamboyance in the mudguards and bodywork.
images via flickr, classic-motorbikes.net, motorbikespecs.net


The SS50E took many design cues from more powerful early-to-mid 1960s Honda Tourers and Sport models, such as the 305CC "Super Hawk" CB77 ('61-'67) and the CA77 ('63-'69)

'67 CB77. image via wikipedia
By nature, being 50CC, the SS50E was intended as an entry level motorcycle, targeted at the young enthusiast who would have been attracted to its stronger looks. In essence, it was the male to the female of the ubiquitous Cub 50 - perhaps THE geared moped - replacing plastic for chrome, baskets for pillion-size seats.
Honda Cub 50 versus Honda S50.
Bonnet versus Coca-Cola.
This clever advert defines the philosophy of the moped and the sports moped.
image via Steve's Homepage


Although the Cub 50 eventually conquered all (and still does), the SS50E enjoyed healthy competition from elsewhere in Japan, with contemporaries such as the Suzuki AS50 "Maverick" (possibly '68-'70) and the later, creatively named, Yamaha SS50 ('71-'72).
Suzuki AS50, image via taberd75.com (vietnamese)
Ultimately, the SS50E was short lived. In 1971, the "Sixteener"[3] legislation in Britain raised motorcycle minimum age to seventeen and left mopeds accessible at 16[4]. Honda was already on the case in 1970 with the SS50, probably the replacement for the SS50E (which may have ended production in 1970). Yamaha followed by updating it's SS50 to the FS1E "Fizzy", and Suzuki trundled in later on with the AP50.

SS50, FS1E, AP50. Coming to a Seventies schoolyard near you.
images via classic-motorbikes.net
The three bikes, which spawned many other competitors, seemed to compete throughout the 70s as the premier mopeds of the age for the younger generation. By colloquial consensus, the FS1E seemed to be the most popular and widely spread, the SS50 was the more reliable, and the AP50 the faster.

Not if you're wearing that.
image via planet.nl
While the "Moped Wars" of the 1970s can be considered an important part of social riding history and motorbike influence for many generations, where does this leave our subject, the SS50E?
Arguably it was a cornerstone bike, shorter lived and less popular than its predecessors and successors, but undoubtedly contributed to the rise of the sports moped.

In modern times the SS50E is an elusive creature. While popular in Asia as the "Honda 67"[5] (as many low capacity bikes are), in Europe the SS50E is rarely sighted. Information, Parts and Advice is scarce, and while the bike shares a lot with other 50cc platforms of that era, one is always cautious of assuming compatibility.

The ravages of time: an SS50E in the present day, sporting some questionable shoes.
image via caferacer.net
Nonetheless, despite the scarcity of the model, the aim of this site is to collect, produce and provide information on the SS50E in the hopes that more will come out of the woodwork (or garages) across the globe. A cornerstone it may have been, but in its own right a respectable motorbike worthy of interest.

Honda SS50E '67
My mother's 1969 SS50E, upon emergence from the garage three years ago.
The start of a bolt-shearing, finger-cutting, wire-wool-splintering relationship.
image via my flickr stream




Notes:
[1] All signs I can find point to 1967 as the earliest date for manufacture.
[2] http://www.bikepics.com/honda/ss50/71/pics.asp
[3] http://motorbike-search-engine.co.uk/classic_bikes/yamaha-ss50.php
[4] http://thames-valley-region.mag-uk.org/Pages/legisla_chronology_of_motorcycles.htm
[5] http://www.honda67vn.com/forum/forum.php, http://honda-67.com/ (rarely works)


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1 comment:

  1. Hey there! I love what your doing with this blog! Its so useful! I own an SS50e in HCMC, Vietnam.

    ReplyDelete