I recently came across a 1966 TV ad for Honda that was from their famous campaign: “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” In an era of Hollywood-inspired bad boy motorcyclists like Marlon Brando and James Dean, Honda needed to combat negative perceptions of motorcycling as much as impressions of poor Japanese quality. So they hired Grey Advertising to create the famous campaign which had a 12 year run—longer than almost all television series. The one and a half minute commercialwas shot in San Francisco and is notable for a few things:
Actor Vito Scotti
Veteran character actor Vito Scotti plays a crab-monger on Fisherman’s Wharf. IMDB lists 221 acting appearances including The Godfather, Get Shorty and just about every television show from my youth.
Lombard Street: the crookedest street in the world
The Super Cub rider in the commercial (whom I could not identify) takes a leisurely trip down San Francisco’s most famous boulevard, Lombard Street—known as the crookedest street in the world. I, too, thought this would be a fun jaunt when I got my first bike, a 1972 Honda CL350 scrambler. It was anything but. The steep grade—27% without the eight switchbacks—and red brick pavement combined to make this a harrowing ride. More survival than ride as I remember. I made it to the bottom—barely—to the amazement of the tourists snapping photos of the gardens and this crazy motorcyclist with his feet down trying to keep from falling over. When I related this story recently to a friend’s six year old, he said, “Well, that was stupid.” He was right.
The Honda Super Cub motorcycle
Produced continuously since 1958, the Honda Super Cub in its various models is the most produced motor vehicle in history—including automobiles—with 60 million having been manufactured in 2008. This bike is the real star of the show.
Other San Francisco Landmarks
Besides a brief glimpse of Fisherman’s Wharf and the top of Lombard Street, you can see Coit Tower in the background, a little bit of Chinatown, the famous, but now closed Enricos restaurant on Broadway St., and mansions on what appears to be Pacific Heights. Here is the full commercial:
All About The Honda Super Cub and Ad Series
Wikipedia has a tremendous article about the Honda Super Cub with information about the “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” ad campaign if you want to know more: link to article.