Honda Motorcycle Model Names, Model Numbers, Model Years and Product Codes
It is often very useful, in referring to specific Honda motorcycle models and parts, to understand the various systems and conventions Honda has historically used to refer to such things. There is clearly a rationale behind each official designation, although absent direct input from Honda, it is impossible to achieve an absolutely complete understanding. This page contains as much reliable information as was known and publicly available as of the date this page was written.
Note that certain sources (e.g. American Honda Motor Co. Inc. ) are apparently not very concerned with Honda practices outside of their particular region, so information attributable to them may relate only to their own practices, and not necessarily to those of Honda Motor Co.
Ltd. on a worldwide basis.
On this page (and throughout VSource.org), the terms Model Name, Model Number, Model Year and Product Code (or PCN) are used as defined below.
The Model Name is also known as the Model Designation; it is the official Honda name for a particular model. Model Names usually contain some reference to engine displacement, but not always (and not always an accurate one, e.g. . the VFR800Fi has always had a 781cc engine). Many of Honda’s early motorcycle Model Names began with CB, which has been theorised to refer to City Bike, and it is almost obvious that VF refers to Vee Four, but the fact is that Honda has generally never conistently explained the nomenclature it uses for its motorcycles.
Honda also generally includes Model Year codes (see below) when referring to particular motorcycle models by Model Name. This is also the standard way of referring to Model Years-outside of the USA, where people usually mention the calendar year corresponding to the Model Year, e.g. . 1990 VFR750F, as opposed to VFR750FL. Another American Honda anomaly is their way of referring to California-spec models. Even though there has always been a different PCN for the California models (as opposed to the 49-state models), they also add an L to the Model Name of the California-spec bikes, e.g. . VFR750RL becomes VFR750RLL. (This affectation is ignored in the table below.) An example of the standard Honda usage can be found on the front cover of the Honda Parts Catalogue for the 1992 NR (aka NR750):
In addition to the Model Name, some Honda motorcycles also have a trademarked name or marketing name, some examples of which being Interceptor®, Hurricane® and Gold Wing®. Model Names are generally consistent throughout the world, but marketing names do vary quite a bit between markets (or planets, in American Honda’s case. ), which means that the same motorcycle model sold in different markets will have a single Model Name, but can have more than one different marketing names (or none at all). For example, VFRs have also been known as Interceptors, but only in the USA, and not during all Model Years; VTR1000Fs are marketed as SuperHawks in the USA, but as FireStorms in Europe; and finally, the ST1300 has no separate marketing name in the USA, but is called the Pan-European in Europe.
Honda motorcycles also feature Model Numbers, which are essentially the VDS section of the VIN. less the last digit (which refers to the market for which a particular model was manufactured). Model Numbers generally coincide with major re-designs of motorcycle models, but more minor revisions tend to retain the same Model Number but get a new PCN (see below).
Accordingly, there can be more than one PCN associated with a particular Model Number, but not during the same Model Year, and the models with the different PCNs (but the same Model Number) will usually be noticeably different in appearance. A good example of how this works is provided by the quot:fifth-generation and sixth-generation VFR800 RC46: Both the Fi and the VTEC versions have the Model Number RC46, but the earlier version is associated with the MBG PCN and the later version is associated with a different one (MCW). In addition to the generation concept, which was developed by American VFR enthusuasts and is not an official Honda concept, another common but unofficial way to differentiate between two versions sharing the same Model Number is to call the first one, for example, RC36-I and the second one RC36-II. There is more about Honda motorcycle Model Numbers here .
According to the 1959-98 American Honda Motorcycle Identification Guide, effective September 1973, American Honda adopted an official model year policy, which means that, regardless of the actual date of manufacture, all 1974 and later models sold by American Honda are represented by specific model years. For 1974 and 1975 models, model designations continued to include model change numbers (e.g. K1, S2, M1, etc.).
All 1976 and later models included the year in the model designation, as well as ’19XX MODEL’ printed on the vehicle’s serial number plate, which is usually found on the steering head part of the motorcycle’s frame. Commencing with the 1979 model year, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (including its U.S. distributor, American Honda Motor Co. Inc.) adopted the U.S.
Department of Transportation’s alpha designation system to indicate the model year of each vehicle. Beginning with the 1981 Model Year, the model year code also appears in the 10th position of each vehicle’s unique VIN. as well as on the vehicle’s paint code sticker (usually located under the seat).
What this means in practice is that (at least from 1979), by reference to a Honda motorcycle’s unique identification number, it is possible to determine with certainty each vehicle’s official Model Year, which associates each such vehicle with a specific set of specifications used during a particular model year-regardless of when that vehicle was actually manufactured, imported, first sold or first registered. Note that the DOT system is slightly different than the later VIN system, in that for 1979 the DOT system used Z as the year code, but the VIN system does not (presumably because of that letter’s similar appearance to the number 2).
(Under US law there is a statutory definition of model year in 15 U.S.C. Section 2001(12). The definition reads as follows: The term ‘model year’, with reference to any specific calendar year, means a manufacturer’s annual production period (as determined by the EPA Administrator) which includes January 1 of such calendar year. If a manufacturer has no annual production period, the term ‘model year’ means the calendar year.)
According to the 1959-98 American Honda Motorcycle Identification Guide, the Product Code Number (PCN) indicates the official product code for each specific model, originated by Honda Motor Co. Ltd. in Japan. Since 1966, with the introduction of the New Part Numbering System (NPS), PCNs (in that context referred to as Parts Classification Numbers) have also been used in the Honda Part Numbering system to indicate the vehicle for which specific parts were originally designed.
When used in this context, the PCN appears in the middle section of the Honda part number ( e.g. . in Honda part number 50100-MT7-600. the PCN is MT7 . which means this part number refers to a part originally designed for the 1992 NR750N).
Honda’s original Product Codes were completely numeric, but Honda began using alphanumeric PCNs in the early 1980s. These alphanumeric PCNs consisted of two letters and one number; later PCNs consist of three letters. All PCNs consist of a maximum of three characters.
There is no known pattern accounting for Honda’s choice of particular Product Code Numbers (though the 900-series do not appear to have been assigned to any street-type motorcycles).
The PCN generally remains the same throughout the same generation of Honda model, but there are exceptions. Most significant for viewers of this Web site is the case of the 1990-93 VFR750FL-P RC36, which (inexplicably) has one PCN for the 1990-92 FL-N models (MT4) and a separate PCN for the 1993 FP models (MY7), even though there were no significant generational changes made to the FP model.
When the next generation 1994 VFR750FR RC36 was released, the PCN changed again (to MZ7) and remained the same until the end of production. This, however, appears to be the exception that proves the rule.
It is important to understand that while the part numbers for a particular model will predominantly contain the PCN relating to that model, a significant number of its parts will contain PCNs from earlier models within the same product series—and sometimes from completely different models. Some relatively common parts (such as oil filters) are re-designed infrequently and are then used in every subsequent new model for many years.
The PCN is also present in the part numbers of Honda publications relating to particular models, e.g. . the Workshop Manual for the NC30 is part number 62MR801 ; the MR8 part is the PCN for the VFR400R (NC30). PCNs are vital to an understanding of Honda parts interchangeability (also discussed here ). If you’re searching through a long list of Honda part numbers, the only sure way to separate the parts originally designed for your model from the rest is to search using the PCN. Doing so will leave out the shared parts, but those are unlikely to be critical parts such as bodywork—and it’s still better than the alternative!
As you can see, there are several ways of referring to various Honda motorcycle models and parts. For general purposes, the Model Name is sufficient, but for other purposes, such as diagnosing problems, more particularity is required, so the Model Number may be more suitable. However, the most precise way of referring to individual motorbike models and their component parts is always by PCN.
The following table is a listing of most of the Honda motorcycle Model Names (nicknames), Model Numbers and Product Code Numbers (aka Parts Classification Numbers or PCNs) relating to powersports products manufactured by Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries worldwide, from approximately 1979 to the present day. (This page has taken many hours of research to compile, but is still incomplete#8212and certainly contains errors. Any clarifications or contributions to help complete this table would be welcome.)
(Click on the column headings to sort by Model Name, Model Number or PCN, respectively.)
Model Name (Nickname(s))
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