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Minibikes in the 60's

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  • Minibikes in the 60's

    In contrary to getting fame with their fast racing bikes, Honda also invested money in creating little motorbikes for their own park. It was back in 1961 that a curious mini-motorcycle was seen "putting" around Honda's "Tama Tech" amusement park in Japan and as the vehicle for leisure at the Suzuka circuit.

    One of the most popular rides in the park was the Z100, a cute little minibike which was loved by many kids. The Z100 sported a red frame under a white gas tank, tiny 5-inch tires and a peppy 50cc engine. Riders were said to appear, of all things, simian, and henceforth the motorcycle came to be known as the Honda Monkey. Looking more like a toy than a motorcycle, the compactness and fresh appearance of the Monkey scored high with fans of all ages.

    Due to its succes, Honda revamped the Z100 park version for use on public roads, and brought out the CZ100 model, which began to be exported, just in small series, in 1963. The engine was from the SuperCub C100, the tank and the seat were taken from the sport Cub C111.

    Until 1966 there were just some minor modifications to this bike. In 1967 the CZ100 got a mayor change. Later that year its name changed into Honda Z50M. The Z50M was the first model to be marketed in Japan. the Monkey could be easily stowed on a car, truck or mobile home, or even aboard a boat. Complete portability and attractive finish came with the Monkey Z50M, which featured fold-down handlebars and a retracting seat. This version was also the first one equipped with the newer Cub engine with the camshaft placed in the cilinderhead instead of beneath the crankshaft.

    Later on in 1969 Honda launched the Honda Z50Z, the Japanese version of the common A series, which were sold to the US and Europe. This Z version was only sold in Japan, had a removable frontfork for easier transportation and lighting for street use.

    The A series also launched in 1969 was called "Mini Trail" in the US and "Monkey" in the rest of the world. The first US serie, also calles K0, was produced for the off-road market only. It was therefore not equipped with a lighting system. There were some slight differences between the up following series between the Us and European versions like a bigger headlight and turn signal indicators on the "Monkey" version. Every changed version was marked with a K. they did this almost every year with the monkey and mini trail. The K0 was followed up by the K1, K2, K3 etc.

    In the US they kept on calling the minitrail the Z50A and build this version until the K6, while the monkey was changed from Z50A K3 into Z50J in 1973.
    Almost every year Honda launched a new series of the Z50J with 3 different models, mostly different in colour scheme and decals. Besides the Monkey versions Z50J-I and Z50J-II, Honda also launched the Z50J-III with a larger fuel tank and 4 speed manual clutch, also called the Gorilla. Honda produced the monkey with minor modifications untill 1999 in large numbers and at this moment the Monkey is still produced every year in small numbers for special editions to keep up tradition for collectors and monkey maniacs.

    Because the Z50A series for the US market in 1970 were street legal, Honda also produced the QA50. This lightbuild model was specially designed for off-road use because of the lack of lighting. The QA50 was only build for 5 years untill the K3 version in 1975.

    The birth of the Dax

    In 1968 Honda also started to work on a prototype of a bigger version of the Monkey minibike so it could transport 2 persons instead of one. The engine changed into a 70cc version to forfill the consumers demand for more power in rough terrains and speed for longer distances.

    The first prototype is very similar to the official first series produced later in 1969. Differences between those two were a smaller headlight, like used on the US "Z50A minitrail" versions, with a small round speedometer. The seat, clearly designed for an extra passenger was slightly bigger and had a upstanding tail, it carried a upswept exhaust but the holes in the heatshield were of a horizontal striped pattern. The frontfender was placed directly to the frontfork like later done with the CT70 models. The side emblems were missing and the main decals between the frontfork and the seat were the aluminium pressed "Honda" sign, screwed onto the frame. The carburetor was of a bigger size and the inlet manifold had a straight 90 degree angle. The prototype had no turn signal indicators.

    Like the Monkey Z50Z, Honda launched its first model in 1969 with a detachable frontfork named the "Dax" ST70Z General Export. The name Dax is related to the dachshounds, the long streched shape of these dogs was typical for the steel pressed T shaped framed used for the ST70.

    The ST70Z model was equiped with a 70cc semiautomatic 3 speed engine and a sportive camshaft. It came in two versions, Type one, a classic and Type Two, which was more sportive. Type one had a downswept muffler like the CF50 Chaly and the metal frame decals like the prototype. It was also equiped with bigger "ducktail" fenders painted in silver to give a more classy look. It was issued in three colors: candy ruby red, candy sapphire blue and candy Gold. The second type had smaller chrome fenders and a sportive upswept muffler. The decals were adhesives with a sportive black-white striping pattern. This model came in the colors: candy ruby red, candy sapphire blue and candy special yellow. Both models had, in contrary to the prototype, bigger headlights with triangle shaped speedometer and small chrome turn signal indicators.

    Specially for the US market Honda launched in the same year a second model, based on the ST70 called the "Trail CT70". This model was specially made for the off road purpose which is common for the American coutryside. It had no detachable frontfork and no turn signal indicators. The front fender was placed directly onto the frontfork wich placed it much higher than the Japanese version which had a chrome mounting bracket, this was probably done to prevent mud sticking under the front fender too much. The CT70 was also equipped with a engine guard to prevent rocks hitting the engine while riding in rough terrain. Honda Launced two versions of the CT70 K0 In 1969, the regular CT70 with a 3 speed semiautomatic gearbox and the CT70H with a 4 speed manual gearbox.

    The first series came in 6 colors;
    For the CT70K0 Candy Ruby Red, Candy Saphire Blue, Candy Gold.
    For the CT70HK0 Candy Topaz Orange, Candy Emerald Green and Candy Blue Green.

    Meanwhile Honda also produced the Dax for the european market. This took a little longer because Europe consist of different countries with different laws and regulations for road vehicles. The First european daxes were sold in 1970 and carried the name K1. First of all was the dax in europe sold in two versions. Besides the ST70, there was also a less powerfull version called the ST50 with a 50cc engine. This was because in many european countries there is a difference in lisences and registration between those two versions, the ST50 is a moped and the ST70 a motorcycle. For the last one you'll need a drivers license and need to be 18 years old to legally ride it. Like I told before many different countries also gives many small optical differences between the dax. Taillights, turn signal lights, headlight, mirrors etc are mostly common, but you can see the biggest differences in the german types ST50 and ST70. The german type was equiped with the type one "ducktail" fenders but in combination with a upswept muffler and a bigger headlight with a square shaped speedometer. The turnsignal lights on the ST70 version were placed further away from the body and it was equipped with a chrome luggage rack. The taillight was roundshaped and colored half orange(brakelight)- half red. The special 50cc version was marked as ST50G (germany)

    Besides the regular type of the ST70, Honda also produced a special edition called the Whitedax. Also known as ladydax. It was painted in ceramic white and had white/black/green decals and a special seat with green top with printed flower pattern. A rare item to find in complete original condition nowadays.

    In 1972 Honda stopped selling the Type One and only sold daxes with an upswept muffler and chrome fenders except for germany where they kept the "ducktails". In the same year The K2 was issued. Due to new regulations, this version was limited to a speed of 45km/h it had a limited flywheel, smaller carburetor and a ciliniderhead with smaller inlet and regular camshaft.

    A small role on stage in 1972 was for the ST90, the big brother of the dax which was also called "mighty dax" The ST90 was equiped with a strong 90cc engine also called "fat harry" and a bigger and stronger frame than the dax. It had 14" wheels and was only sold in the US. Unfortunately It didn't last long and after 3 years Honda stopped the production of the ST90.

    In 1978 Honda came with a redesign and named it the K3. The biggest difference with the previous versions are the colors and newly styled decals.
    It came in 4 versions : candy ruby red with white/blue/black "flame" striped decals, candy riviere blue with yellow/white/black "flame" striped decals, mighty green with yellow/black/white" flame striped decals or shiny orange with yellow/black/white "flame" striped decals. In this year Honda stopped selling the ST70 to germany.
    In the United Kingdom they continued selling the ST70 and Honda produced also a candy smoke brown version with yellow/black/white "flame" striped decals.
    The last ST50 and ST70 for europe were produced somewhere in 1979/1980, followed up by the CY50 "nauty dax" or "R&P". Another concept bike with upstanding cilinder engine, plastic fenders, thicker tires more designed for beach use (salt water conditions).

    During this time Honda kept producing CT70's for the US which had already stopped calling their versions with a K. The CT70 evoluated on its own track and was already equipped with a hydraulic frontfork from version K1 in 1972, small differences came every year like a stand alone speedometer, different headlight, plastic fenders, different decals, black muffler , other heatshield (round holes instead of striped). Since The CT70 K2 in 1973 Honda discontinued the H series with manual clutch and 4 speed gearbox, but keeps on producing the 3 speed semi automatic Cub engine for the CT70.
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    Parts to Suit: Honda Z50A, Z50J1, Z50JZ, Z50R, Z50JDM, Z50M, QA50, QR50, MR50, XR50, CRF50, ATC70, CT70, CZ100, MSX125 (Grom), ST70, SL70, XL70, TRX70, XR75, XR80, TRX90, Kawasaki KLX110 and Z125 models to name a few.