The United States and much of the Western world experienced an oil crisis in 1973, resulting in long lines at gas stations and fuel rationing. American drivers became more fuel efficiency minded. To take advantage of the growing market for gas-miserly vehicles, many motorcycle manufacturers began developing mopeds. Honda entered the moped market in 1977 with its NC50 Express. The Express was technically a "noped" since it didn't have pedals.
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Honda engineers realised that the growing demand for fuel efficient mopeds was driven largely by consumers who were unfamiliar with operating two-wheeled powered vehicles. The aim was to keep the Express easy to operate, fuel efficient and dependable. The Express was powered by a 49cc single-cylinder, two-stroke engine. Honda equipped the Express with an oil pump that combined the oil and gasoline internally, eliminating the need for the consumer to mix gas and oil on their own. The Express delivered on its goal of fuel efficiency, getting a reported 85 to 100mpg. To increase its ease of use even further, Honda gave the Express an automatic transmission.
The Honda NC50 Express
Honda introduced the base model NC50 Express in 1977. It had an air-cooled, 49cc single cylinder, two-stroke engine and automatic transmission. It had a points ignition, spring starter and manual choke. The NC50 was offered in the U.S. through 1983 and in the United Kingdom through 1984.
The Honda NA50 Express II
Honda added the Express II to the line-up in 1979. It shared the engine and transmission of the base model Express. The Express II had a new frame and larger seat. Honda stopped production on the Express II after the 1981 model year.
The Honda NX50 Express SR
The Express SR, introduced in 1981, was a scooter-styled version of the Express. The Express SR was the first model in the line-up to get an electric starter along with a 12 volt electrical system to power it. Honda produced the Express SR through 1982.
The Honda NU50 Urban Express
The Urban Express replaced the Express II in 1982. The Urban Express combined the frame of the Express II and the drivetrain of the Express SR. Honda also offered the NU50m Urban Express Deluxe in 1982. The Deluxe had an electric starter and larger battery than the base model Urban. Both models were offered through 1983 in the U.S. and through 1984 in the U.K.
Improvements To The Express
Though Honda only manufactured the Express line for eight years -- 1977 through 1984 -- it did make a number of improvements to the line through those years. In 1980, the Express models got indicators and a larger battery. Honda gave the Express an automatic choke, kick starter and solid state ignition in 1981. That same year, an automatic two-speed transmission was added to the Express II. The Express got the two-speed transmission in 1982, the year the Express II was dropped and the Urban Express models were introduced.
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