One unique collection!
Honda’s history has foundations laid on the more humble, smaller-capacity machine. terry Brown has a few of them.
By 1977 the Isle of Man tt had been stripped of its world championship status but it didn’t deter the thousands of road race fans who made their annual pilgrimage to the hallowed Island venue that year. among them was Terry Brown; a young man who had ridden his TL 125 Honda over 200 miles from his home in south Wales to spectate at his first TT. a smallcapacity off-roader would not be everyone’s choice of machine for a long motorway trip but Terry was not fazed by the ordeal of huge trucks bearing down on him and the TL would be wheeled out again when he repeated the journey in both 1978 and 1979. amazingly not only did he survive but four decades on he still owns and rides the same little four-stroke; a bike which now shares garage space with an eclectic collection of seven other Honda lightweights from the 1960s and 1970s. “When I was a lad there seemed to be bikes everywhere in my home town,” says Terry. “When I was 16 I got myself a 125cc Bsa Bantam that I passed my test on and this was quickly followed by a 150cc version from which I learned a lot about the mechanics of motorcycles as it was forever breaking down. “I would soon be the proud owner of a shiny black C200 Honda: the asking price was £25 but after a bit of negotiation it was mine for £18 and 10 shillings and it didn’t take me very long to find out that compared to
the Bantam the little Honda was like something off another planet. “Despite only having a 90cc engine it had a decent turn of speed but the most important difference was that whatever the weather it always started first kick, the engine was bulletproof and the only time I had to get the tools out was to treat it to a regular change of oil every 1000 miles. I used the C200 for many years as my ‘ride to work’ machine, it never let me down and I think it was one of my biggest mistakes when I finally decided to sell it. “When my father died in 1976 he left me two Lambretta scooters but as I had no interest in them I decided to sell them and bought a brand new TL 125 which I rode to the Isle of Man the following year. With a top speed of around 55mph it was slow going on the motorway to Liverpool and because of its limited range I had to carry some extra fuel in an old Castrol R bottle but once on the Island it was the perfect bike to get to some of the out-of-the-way vantage points around the TT course via the green lanes and tracks. “The local farmers were quite happy for us to go anywhere as long as we shut the gates behind us but a policeman in Douglas wasn’t so keen when he spotted me doing a wheelie along the beach one evening and was heard to say ‘when we catch him he’ll be on the next boat back to the mainland’.” Terry escaped the long arm of the law and rode the TL to the island again in both 1978 – to witness Mike Hailwood’s amazing winning comeback – and also the following year but it would be the last long trip on the little Honda. We now fast forward 32 years where he takes up the story again... “In the summer of 2010 I was at a show with one of my pals and as we looked at the stunning line-up of
bikes I casually mentioned to him that it was about time I got an old bike to restore; I was thinking primarily of a British single or twin but he immediately replied ‘you’ve already got one with that old TL’. “That set the whole restoration ball rolling and over the next three years my collection of 1960s and 1970s Honda’s has gone from one to eight and now includes a second TL 125, three C200s, a CD 175 and a couple of step-thrus. Some of these have come via ebay while others have come through friends and adverts in various classic bike magazines.” Now retired Terry – who describes himself as a ‘Jack of all trades’ – admits that since he caught the restoration bug it’s ‘become an addiction and worse than giving up smoking’ and there is barely a day when he can’t be found on another project in his self-built workshop. He’s carried out all of the restoration tasks – from engine rebuilds, to painting and plating – himself and as we viewed his impressive line-up of lightweights he told me a little about how some of them came his way. “Shortly after I’d finished the first TL I saw another one advertised in Glasgow; a one-owner bike with the original frame, engine and wheels but missing the carburettor, petrol tank and seat unit. Fortunately some years earlier I’d bought a cache of TL spares which included a tank and seat and after fitting it with a spare carb from a CG 125 it fired up first kick and despite not being used for many years the engine ran like a watch. “It came with the standard exhaust and silencer but like the original carb these are now quite difficult to get hold of so I replaced it with one of Sammy Miller’s units, which let the engine breathe better than the slightly restrictive factory one. From the days I had my first
C200 I’d longed for another but as they were only made for four years they are now quite rare in the UK. “However in 2012 I was lucky enough to pick one up from an old friend down in Cornwall; a bike that had originally been supplied by David Paul’s motorcycles in Truro in 1967: it still had the dealer’s sticker on the side panel and had spent its entire life running around the Cornish lanes. The funny thing was that after searching for one for ages within a few months I’d added a second and then a third C200 to my collection. “Number two came up on ebay and although it was a bit rough with paint that looked like it had been applied by someone sticking a hedgehog in a tin of black enamel, at least it was basically complete and ripe for restoration. Number three came via an advert in a magazine and was a real wreck as it had been used as a field bike but came with loads of NOS spares, manuals and gaskets and, as I later discovered, was a real find. “First registered in late 1963 it was the ex-honda UK test machine that the press had raved over when the C200 was released to the public the following year. It required a total nut-and-bolt restoration but the engines on the little 90cc single are virtually bulletproof and despite the harsh treatment it had received screaming around the fields the motor was in remarkably good condition. “The engines are easy to work on – I can now probably strip one in around half an hour – and any spares I needed came from either the ever-helpful David Silver or Chris Bancroft in Stockport. However, silencers are now like hen’s teeth and after a lengthy search I eventually managed to locate an NOS item at a Honda dealers in Belgium. From picking it up as a wreck in London to having the bike running again and back on the road took me around three or four months to complete. “The CD175 was another bike that came from my old friend Alex Hambury in Cornwall and, although at the time, I wasn’t looking for another bike to restore it had already been treated to new wheel rims and made for the perfect workhorse so it was an offer I just couldn’t refuse!” The last two machines in the Brown collection are a pair of the ubiquitous step-thrus; a 1967 C50 which was discovered minus its back wheel in a tumble down shed and has since been stunningly restored; and yet another ‘barn find’ in the form of 1974 Honda 90. These two are a fitting reminder that back in the late 1950s it was the humble little step-thru which launched the name of the Big H on to the world’s motorcycling stage. At the time few could have envisaged the huge impact that the Super Cub was to have. Launched in Japan in August 1958 as the C100 the well thought-out step-thru was
absolutely right from the word go but those wanting to get their hands on one in the UK had to wait until 1962. The newly formed British concessionaires were quick to see the importance of bringing the name of Honda to the masses with some newsworthy publicity, and to illustrate the bike’s frugal use of fuel there was a widely publicised London to Blackpool outing on a C100. This was done at an estimated cost of less than 10 shillings (50 pence) and keen to headline the little bike’s amazing reliability in October the Japanese newcomers decided to make an attempt on the prestigious Maudes Trophy. For seven days and nights from October 23 two 50cc step-thrus and a 50cc motorcycle were run continuously around the Goodwood race circuit in a strenuous test of speed, endurance and petrol consumption by a 20strong team of Honda riders including two females in the form of Olga Kevelos and Beryl Swain; the latter distinguished as at that time being the only woman ever to take part in the TT races. Norton had been the first manufacturer to win the Maudes Trophy in 1923 and from the outset it carried huge kudos and sales potential, as unlike many contemporary competitions based on speed the emphasis was on the reliability and stamina of a standard road-legal machine. Devised for Honda UK by Bob Webb – who was looking after its publicity – it was no cake walk for the riders or their machines as there was rain every day and icy morning starts. The riders’ orders were to try to maintain average speeds of around 30mph on the two step-thrus with leg shields and about 35mph for the 50cc motorcycle and as they came into the pits to change shifts all of the refuelling was carried out with the engines running under the watchful eyes of the team of official ACU observers. The seven-day test was an unqualified success and as they passed the chequered flag line abreast in glorious sunshine the little bikes had covered an amazing total of 15,855 miles with the CD110D model amassing 5897 miles in that time without a break. For its achievement Honda was awarded the Maudes Trophy and although it was estimated that the stunt cost £5000 it was a good investment as it put the Japanese company on the map in the UK. Sales of the C50 would reach phenomenal numbers and the bike would become an icon of the 20th century.
Terry Brown and his collection.
c100 1958-1967 c102 1960-1965 c200 1964-1967 c100ex 1986-on c50 1966-1986 c70 1969-1986 c90 1966-1986 Tl 125 1973-1978 cd 175 1969-1979
Super cub 50 2007-on Super cub 110 2009-on Dream 110i 110 2011-on Not much is cooler than a Cub or two.
The classic lines of the C200.
Honda quality shines through. CD was a bike Terry couldn’t refuse.
Engine and exhaust as art.