The Honda Z50 isn’t just a motorcycle…it’s an institution. Its storied history began in the early 1960s, when Honda’s new Suzuka Circuit included an amusement ride called Motopia, which featured a tiny prototype motorcycle with 5-inch wheels and a 50cc Honda Cub pushrod engine. It quickly became the park’s most popular attraction, and Honda took notice, beginning development on what would become their Z series of minibikes — soon dubbed “Monkey” or “Gorilla” bikes.
Since then, more than a million of these minibikes have been sold. Says Motorcyclist:
“The Honda Z50 Mini Trail is probably responsible for more two-wheeled addictions than any other motorcycle on earth.”
Indeed, indeed. Few motorcycles have burned so feverishly in the minds of so many aspirant riders, both young and old. Popular models included the Z50A, Z50J, Z50M, Z50R, and more. They were far ahead of any other minibikes on the technology front, featuring 49cc four-stroke overhead cam engines, 3-speed semiautomatic transmissions, and often street-legal lighting.
Enter Colorado’s Joe Wagner, whose Yamaha XS650 street tracker remains one of our favorite bikes we’ve ever featured. Now Joe is back with this 1970 Honda Z50 he bought, disassembled, painstakingly restored…and nearly never saw again! Below, we get more of the story from Joe himself.
Honda Z50: In the Builder’s Words
Here are my Z50 pics. It seems like everyone in their 40s to 50s remembers these and wanted one of them as a child/adult.
I found this one on letgo and decided to purchase it. I got it home and disassembled it, straightened it up, repainted it, gathered OEM parts from all over the world, and reassembled it. I had the motor redone as well.
The day after I completed the build, I accidentally left the garage door open and someone checking car doors in the middle of the night decided to go in the garage and take it home with them.
After a few weeks I recovered it surprisingly only gently harmed. The little bike was a fun build and was given the name Ruby.