6 Honda minibikes storming Monaco with Monkey business


Bonhams’ upcoming “Les Grandes Marques à Monaco” auction on April 23 will see rare Ferraris, Bugattis, and Aston Martins notch up six-figure sales. However, it’s the most affordable machines we’ll be watching most closely—specifically a collection of six Honda Z50 “Monkey” bikes going under the gavel.

Honda’s first Monkey was introduced in 1961, making its debut at the company’s Tarma Tech amusement park where young riders were encouraged to take to two wheels. In 1963 Honda realized that there was a market for these minibikes in the outside world and launched the CZ100. Three years later came the Z50, which would continue in production for a remarkable 50 years.

The tiny two-wheeler’s recipe remained largely unchanged: a 49 cc four-stroke engine providing around 4.5 hp and driving the rear wheel through either a centrifugal clutch and a three-speed transmission, or a manual clutch with a three- or four-speed gearbox.  Initially the Monkey had no suspension, but telescopic front forks were soon added, and in 1974 the rear end was also suspended. The Z50 had a fold-down seat for easy storage and later would receive a removable front-end making it even easier to fit into the trunk of a car.

1997 Honda Z50J Plaid Seat

The Z-series landed in the U.S. in 1968 where it was known as the Mini Trail and wasn’t road legal. Nonetheless, the bike was embraced by the YMCA, which embarked on a program to keep kids out of trouble by teaching them to ride. American Honda donated 10,000 Mini Bikes to the cause.

The Monkey would receive regular updates during its five decades. There were custom versions with teardrop tanks and ape-hanger bars, racy R derivatives, Baja-inspired iterations, and a final 50th anniversary edition. Now if you want a Monkey you have options: you can go to your dealer and pickup its larger $3999 125cc Grom-based successor or bid on one of these originals at Bonhams.

All hailing from the garage of a Belgian collector, even the priciest Monkey is only expected to reach $12,000 and all are under offer with no reserve, so each is tempting in its own way.

1967 Z50M


The oldest Monkey for sale is this 1967 version which has been subject to a full A+ restoration using new original Honda parts.

1997 Z50J 30th Anniversary


Three decades from its debut Honda released this Japan-only special edition. This bike is completely as-new with the odometer reading zero.

2000 Z50J Millennium


Just 3000 of these Millennium edition Monkeys were made in the year 2000. The bike is bug-free, in unrestored original condition and has covered 2447 miles.

2001 Z50J Baby Tracker


Here’s another quirky short-run special. The Baby Tracker features black wheels and a cool tank paint job in American Honda’s red-white-blue with a gold wing. There are 1293 miles on the clock and is described as being in very good condition.

2003 Z50J CBX


This 2003 limited edition was inspired by the CBX 1000-cc naked sportster. Clearly a favorite of the Belgian Monkey man it has been ridden for 3825 miles but is still said to be in tip-top shape.

2004 Z50J Freddie Spencer


Built as a tribute to three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer in 2004 only 2500 of these silver tank specials were built. Judging from the immaculate presentation this Monkey has been ridden rather more sedately than its namesake.

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