In 1981 Honda had a big idea: take the typical subcompact city car platform, but put a tall, van-style body on it so the occupants would sit upright. Voilà, leg room. There were two problems with the Honda City: even a four-wheeler this small would still get stuck in traffic and launching a big idea in a crowded market required some extra je ne se quios to really capture the Japanese market's imagination and inspire buyers. The Honda Motocompo was the solution to both those problems. Specifically engineered to fit in the trunk of the City, the Motocompo's USP was pegs, a seat and handlebars that folded into the squared-off plastic body. This transformed scooter into friendly lifestyle accessory and gave Honda a single package that wasn't just unique, but the ultimate solution to city transportation.
The MotoCompo is actually a fairly basic, absolutely lilliputian 50cc
scooter that weighs only 92.5lbs (dry). That's probably a little too
heavy for most people to conveniently lift in and out of a trunk, but
would be easy for two. It's not really clear if the whole
fits-in-a-trunk thing was a marketing gimmick or a serious effort to
address the specific needs of urban transportation. If it was the
latter, then Honda must have envisioned people commuting to a city's
perimeter in the car, parking, then riding the rest of the way on the scooter.
The two-stroke engine develops 2.5bhp and returns way over 100mpg. The
'Compo is just under four feet long, under two feet wide and three feet
tall with the handlebars open.
The problem with the Motocompo was that the Japanese market perceived it
as a gimmick even though scooters and motorcycles are widely accepted
as practical transportation there. Honda planned to sell 8,000 Citys and
10,000 Motocompos a month (it was also available as a standalone bike),
but while the City proved a huge sales success, actual sales of the
MotoCompo never topped 3,000 units a month.
It wasn't a lack of promotion that sunk the MotoCompo, Honda paid
Madness to write a song and star in ads promoting both products.
The ability to fold increased its price and actually reduced its ability
over comparable 50cc competition. Even at 92.5lbs, it was too heavy for
most people to carry up steps or achieve any additional benefit from
its folding form. Production ended in 1983.
That unique form and the friendly looks have won the 'Compo a huge
following post production though. There's a thriving fan club in Japan,
which uses these "Motocompo In Car" bumper stickers in place of "My
other car is..." or "Baby on Board." It's also found a home in popular
culture, Natsumi Tsujimoto famously rode one in hit anime You're Under Arrest.
Motocompos occasionally come available on eBay or other channels, keep
an eye out and you might find one, just don't expect a bargain.