With Japan’s tighter licensing rules, there was a 400cc cap on displacement for the general motorcycle streetbike licensing. With the licensing cap, Formula-III became a popular class of motorcycle racing in Japan. Many of the manufacturers were supplying racing-oriented bikes and special parts to make the racing scene very competitive.
In 1989, Honda released their 750cc limited-edition race bike, the RC-30. This motorcycle was designed specifically for racing, with added turn signals and headlights to make the bike street legal. It was much smaller, with more aggressive handling than any other 750cc motorcycle of the time. The RC-30 sported many special features straight from the factory race bikes of recent years past. It was a work of art. A dream bike for many.
Near the same time, Honda also released a smaller version of this motorcycle for the Asian market, the NC-30. This bike was a near-identical replica that looked like it just had a shrink-ray-gun aimed at it during production. Well, some features didn’t carry over, like the Titanium connecting rods and $16,000.00 price tag.
The motorcycle was a 90 degreeV-4, 400cc design with a 360 degree crankshaft. This meant all the crankpins (the journals the connecting rods clamp around) were all in a line. The firing order was much different to that of the streetbike based motorcycles with their 180 degree design. Now, we refer to this as a “Big-Bang” firing pulse (more on this later).
Like it’s older brother, the NC-30 was clearly designed as a racebike first, with lights and signals added for street use. The bike is very compact with a low center of gravity. The handling on this motorcycle is razor sharp, and just simply amazing to ride. The power of this bike was more than that of the other brand offerings of the era, and in fact was very close to the 600cc bikes of the same era. Where the NC-30 made some 58hp at the rear wheel, the CBR600F-1 “Hurricane” made about 63hp.
From the first version of the NC-30 in 1989 to the last version of the “–30” designation in 1993, there were very few changes; mostly subtle changes to the forks, clutch, brakes and charging system. Otherwise, these motorcycles stayed very much the same. At the same time, Honda had given the 750cc racebike a complete work-over re-designating it the RC-45. For the 400cc version, however, the changes were not as major.
In 1994, the 400cc bike was re-designated the NC-35 with a cosmetic makeover to look like the 750cc RC-45. The chassis was only slightly changed in geometry, and motor placement for better Center of Gravity. It also received up-side-down forks, new brakes, a 17” rear wheel and adjustable ride height at the rear shock. Although based on the same cases, the engine received minor changes that all added up to about 5hp gain. These changes were mostly in lighter engine parts, revised ports, cams, and valves. Externally to the motor, the NC-35 also received modern flat-slide style CV carburetors, and a digital ignition. Besides these changes, the NC-30 and NC-35 were very similar motorcycles.