The SE50 was a fitting conclusion to the amazing scooter years in the 80’s, with it’s peppy 2-stroke engine, quirky style, and superb reliability.
Sporty graphics (Canada)
Poor storage capacity
HONDA ELITE S / R (SE50)
The story with Honda’s 50cc Elite scooters may be a bit confusing as Honda sold several different versions, generations and even entire scooters. This page deals with the SE50 scooter and its restricted counterpart: the SE50P. This scooter was sold only in 1987 in the USA, while in Canada it was sold from 1986 until 1991. This scooter was normally badged as the Elite S in the USA and Elite R in Canada, but restricted speed versions (SE50P) were called the ‘Elite’, ‘Elite 50’ or ‘Iowa Elite’.
In some literature, the Canadian Elite R’s were also referred to as the ‘Aero Sport RR’. The Aero name is fitting for this scooter, since Honda traditionally used it for their 2-stroke offerings (e.g. up until this scooter all their Elite models were 4-strokes while all Aero’s were 2-strokes). Perhaps name recognition was the reason why Honda used the Elite based name, but it could have also been because Honda continued to sell the Aero 50 alongside this Elite S / R for 1987.
Honda USA would go on to use the Elite name for other 50cc 2-strokes, as starting the next year Honda sold the Elite SR / LX (SA50) from ’88 – 2001 and the Elite E / ES (SB50) from 1988-1990, so check out those scooters if you aren’t sure which Elite you have. After 1987, Honda USA replaced this scooter in the USA market with the Elite SR / LX (SA50) while Canadians continued to receive this scooter until 1991, after which Honda Canada switched to the 50cc Dio (SK50).
When considering the regular, restricted and Canadian market models, in total four different versions of the SE50 were sold in North America:
Elite S – Unrestricted SE50 sold in the USA
Elite R / Aero Sport RR – Unrestricted with sporty graphics/rims (Canada only)
Elite / Elite 50 – Restricted SE50P (30mph) sold in most American States.
Iowa Elite – Heavily restricted (25mph) SE50P sold in Iowa and 6 other states.
Moped and Motorcycle laws vary considerably from state to state, which is why Honda offered the different versions. Many states have a moped class of vehicle that is limited to either 25mph or 30mph, and then vehicles capable of more than that are deemed as motorcycles. Often for insurance or licensing reasons, buyers will opt for the ‘moped’ compliant model, so Honda usually sold both the full speed SE50 and the appropriately restricted SE50P in each state. To learn about the restrictions between the SE50, SE50P and Iowa SE50P read here.
The main difference between the Canadian market Elite R (shown above) and the American market Elite S (left) is the sporty look of Canadian examples. Honda used red grips, red rims, large Honda logo’s on the sides of the floorboard and the large colorful decals to give the Canadian Elite R a sportier appearance. The Elite R did not have a higher performing parts, such as an expansion chamber exhaust found on some Asian market versions of the SE50 (ie. Honda DJ1).
When the SE50 was released, it used an all new frame and bodywork but utilized the same AF05E motor previously found in the ’85 – ’87 Aero 50 (NB50). After the SE50 was replaced in the US market, this AF05E motor lived on in the ’88 – ’93 Elite SR / LX (SA50) before that scooter switched to the Dio (AF16E) motor in 1994. So most 50cc Honda scooters from ’85 – ’93 use this motor. Honda made a few tweaks to this motor over the years, so parts may not be 100% compatible but most parts should be interchangeable between these scooters.
The full speed versions of the SE50 (Elite R and Elite S) were capable of about 40-43mph, while the restricted versions (SE50P) were capable of 25-30mph. The 30mph ‘Elite’ is mainly restricted by the variator/ramps, exhaust and smaller main jet, while the 25mph Iowa Elite goes a step further and uses a smaller airbox as well. Of lesser importance, the SE50P uses a different emulsion tube in the carb, and some models use different final drive gears which can have a significant effect on the top end. To derestrict an SE50P you’ll need a better exhaust (sourced from a regular SE50, ’88-’93 SA50/Elite LX/SR or ’85-’87 Aero 50/NB50), a larger main jet (85-88 normally) and the variator ramp plate from an unrestricted SE50 to start. You also may want to look into the final drive gears if the top end still isn’t what you are expecting.
A decent selection of aftermarket parts are still available for this motor. You can still get 63cc big bore kits, variators, clutch springs and CDI’s from places like ScooterSwapShop. The selection isn’t as awesome as it is for the ’94 – ’01 Elite and Dio but it’s not bad. Since these scooters share the same engine as the ’85 – ’87 Aero 50 and ’88 – 93 Elite LX / SR, you can use parts from that scooter but Honda did make a number of small changes to the intake manifold, oil pump and crankshaft (and perhaps more) so be careful when buying parts. Primarily you need to watch out for ’85 Aero 50 parts as that scooter has a difference intake manifold, crankshaft and oil pump.
Design & Amenities
One of the downsides to the SE50 is the lack of enclosed storage space. The SE50 used the same underseat gas tank as was found in the ’83 – ’84 Aero 50’s, which left no room for storage under the seat. Unlike the Aero 50, the SE50 did not have storage in the right side panel, nor did it have a proper glovebox. Instead the SE50 has a pair of cubby holes in the legshield which are barely useful.
Honda USA sold quite a few accessories for this scooter including a windscreen, front rack, front box, a sporty ‘under cowl’, seat cover, floor mat, rear ‘tote’ box, rear basket, a cover and decal and stripe kits. Check out this brochure from Honda to get more info and pictures of these parts. Here is a picture of an ’87 Elite 50 decked out with many of these options.
The Elite S / R is quite a rare scooter in the USA, having been sold there for just one year. It’s fortunate to have shared its motor with the early years of the Elite LX / SR because otherwise virtually no aftermarket scene would exist for this scooter and OEM engine parts would be harder to come by. As it is, the Elite S / R is well supported for a scooter of this scarcity.
The Elite S / R is a bit less practical than a lot of 50cc’s in the sense that it lacks storage space. The lack of any stow space under the seat combined with the barely useful cubby hole on the legshield mean that you won’t have too many good spots to store a spare spark plug and some 2-stroke oil. This is a really well built and reliable little Honda though. If you can find one that is well taken care of, it can still provide years of reliable use.
The 80’s vintage style is quite apparent with this Honda, and it’s arguably the last Honda scooter introduced to really embody the style of the 80’s, with the SA50 having more of a sleeker 90’s style. In that sense, the SE50 was a fitting conclusion to the amazing scooter years in the 80’s, with it’s peppy 2-stroke engine, quirky style, and superb reliability.