Return of the Honda Motocompo

It's back, after being first launched 30 years ago

THESE leaked photos show a prototype Honda scooter which looks like it's ready to be officially revealed any moment now. It seems to be a revival of one of the strangest machines the firm ever made, the Motocompo.

Launched 30 years ago in 1981, the original Motocompo was designed specifically to fit into the boot of Honda's then-new City, the smallest car in the firm's range. Its bars and seat folded away to leave a suitcase-sized rectangle on wheels which sat perfectly in the back of the car, and Honda imagined that it would be a must-have option for huge numbers of the cars, projecting that it would sell as many as 10,000 of them every month.

In reality, it never caught on. The City was a huge success, but most buyers decided they really didn't need a matching scooter and only 53,369 were made between 1981 and 1983 when it was quietly dropped from the range.

Honda has revisited the idea a couple of times since then with concepts for folding bikes, particularly the electric-powered e-Dax and e-NSR in 2001, but they haven't been put into production.

This machine looks rather more serious. Clearly bigger than the original Motocompo, it looks like it follows the folding theme – there's certainly a hinged centre section that the bars could fold down into, and a knurled knob at the base of the handlebars which looks like is should release them. The instruments are incorporated into an iPhone-style removable unit that clips onto the bars and the foot boards appear to be designed to fold up.

Powered by a normal petrol engine that's incorporated into the swingarm in conventional scooter style, while this might only be a concept it's clearly well within Honda's ability to put such a bike into production. Its size suggests a 125cc four-stroke engine where the original Motocompo used a 50cc two-stroke.

Since the original Motocompo was designed alongside the City car, and the two were launched simultaneously, it's quite possible that this new version will appear at a car show first. The biggest of the year – the Geneva Salon – opens its doors in early March. Alternatively, it could wait until the Tokyo Motor Show (featuring both cars and bikes) this October, which would also mark the 30th anniversary of the original Motocompo's launch.

The original was heavily advertised in Japan, complete with its own special songs, by Madness (see the period advert). I wonder if Suggs has been approached about the new one...

Original Madness ad:

Tokyo Show 2011: See the Honda Motor Compo electric concept