The Honda Motor Company of Japan released the Honda Express (NC50) to the North American market in 1977. This new bike was designed to enter the large market for scooters that developed following the 1973 oil crisis. As such it came with a fuel-efficient single-cylinder two-stroke engine. It was also designed to be simple to operate, as many owners would be inexperienced with or intimidated by larger, more complex motorcycles. Honda accomplished this by using a fully automatic transmission and a small oil pump to self-mix the Express's oil and fuel, thus eliminating the need for premixing.
A 49 cc scooter which was manufactured from 1977 until 1983, it featured an air-cooled 2-stroke engine.
The versions from 1977 until 1980 had a manual choke, points ignition, and a spring starter. Versions from 1980 onwards included a kick start (also on 1978/79 models), capacitor discharge ignition, and automatic choke as well as an improved compression ratio. Most versions include an automatic one speed transmission with a centrifugal clutch, double suspension, and oil injection. Two speed automatic transmissions were introduced towards the end of their production run.
The NA50, or Express II, was released in 1979 and produced until 1981. Differences include a different frame, more "comfortable" seat, tree handle bars, and a slightly larger gas tank. The 1981 model only came with a 2speed automatic transmission. Top speed was the same as the NC50; 30 mph.
The NX50, or Honda Express SR, used a different engine from the NC50 and NA50. It came equipped with a belt driven, variable transmission, larger reed valve block, and slightly different intake manifold. Top speed is a claimed 30 mph, although most usually max out around 25-30 mph, just like the regular express.
The NU50 and NU50M, or Honda Urban Express, replaced the Express II model for 1982 and was only produced until 1983. It utilized a similar belt driven, variated engine as in the NX50, however the belt side of the cases is longer and top speed is slightly higher. Most bikes run about 30 mph. The NU50M comes with an electric start, in addition to the regular urban express standard features, including; oil injection, blinkers, 12v battery, cdi ignition, an alternator, oil tank indicator, and beefier shocks and larger wheels than the regular express. A unique restricted version was produced just for the lower speed requirements to be sold in Iowa; the Iowa models are limited to maximum 25mph.
1977 The Honda Express (NC50) is introduced.
1979 The Express II (NA50) is introduced alongside the Express. Both feature the same drivetrain, but the new model is built with a redesigned frame and larger seat.
1980 Turn signals and a larger battery to match are added.
1981 Both models see a series of improvements, including an automatic choke unit, a more rugged kick starter to replace the wind up starter, and a solid state Capacitor discharge ignition in place of the contact breaker based system. The Express II also receives an automatic two-speed transmission.
Also new in 1981 is the Express SR (NX50). This is a scooter variant of the Express with a somewhat modified engine. It is the first Express to feature an electric starter, 12v electrical system and a Honda V-Matic continuously variable transmission.
1982 The Express receives a new frame design and the two speed transmission seen the previous year on the NA50. The Express II model is dropped, and a new model called the Urban Express (NU50) takes its place. This model features a frame similar to the NA50, and a drivetrain identical to the Express SR's, outside of its transmission gearing and electric starter. The Urban Express Deluxe (NU50m) is the same as the standard model, but comes with an electric starter and larger battery to operate it.
1983 This is the final year of the Express series in North America. The NC50 remains unchanged from its previous year. The Express SR is no longer available.
1984 This is the final year of the Express series in the United Kingdom.