The first day of March dawned with clear skies as I left the south coast aiming to beat the inevitable traffic chaos that central London would bring. Destination, Kensington to meet fellow biker and thoroughly good egg Howard; plus one, semi-complete Honda PF50 Novio with several large boxes of ‘rusty gold’ from the 70s. A frame from an Amigo moped, spare engine plus a plethora of parts that had all met with an angle grinder or mig welder in a distant past. Anyway, I spent most of my time admiring Howard’s eighties CB900 Custom, especially the open-ended pipes that the nation’s capital appreciated when he fired her up for my pleasure. The story behind all these items (that I would pay far too much for) revolved around a unique hybrid.
Long before Piaggio offered their MP3 or Honda produced the PCX, Howard’s son began to construct a duel powered moped. The standard 50cc engine was upgraded to 12 volts powering a large hub motor in the front wheel. In theory, a brilliant idea; certainly, a fair amount of trial and error plus some extreme modifications resulted in boxes of broken bits. With the project shelved back in 2010 the parts endured a decade within Howard’s lockup before I arrived full of enthusiasm and an empty truck; not looking to continue the project, just aiming to salvage an original machine from the carnage.
The 1963 IOM TT saw the first and only overall win by a Japanese rider/bike combination when Mitsuo Itoh aboard a 50cc Suzuki averaged 78.81. In the same race Bill Ivy rode the ‘Sheene Special’ which was designed and constructed the previous winter by Frank Sheene, a lifelong road racer who regularly competed across the country accompanied by his young son Barry. The Sheene Special finished an excellent 7th overall at an average of 61.12mph and powered by a Spanish Ducson that offered 9bhp at 11,000rpm; the bike tipped the scales at just 38.5kg.
Returning home, my haul was scattered around the shed. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that my initial plan to restore to original was unlikely, but luckily, I already possessed a running PC50 engine that could do a job. Of the two engines collected, one turned over with minimal enthusiasm whilst the 12-volt modified unit appeared to offer little piston movement. Two frames, visually similar and both solid, the first a Novio with V5 and the other an Amigo-R without paperwork. The remaining parts included two fuel tanks, handlebars, levers and mudguards etc. The PF range of Honda mopeds (Novio, Amigo & Graduate) were constructed in Belgium; unlike the Japanese produced PC50’s, the European version travelled on 17in rims. A pressed steel frame and 19inch wheels used on the PC are two of many differences but they both share the bullet proof (if rather slow) OHV engine. The promise of 2bhp doesn’t inspire many thoughts of performance but my PC motor, a most lively example with slightly higher compression, can guarantee an eye watering 28mph. Within days the Covid19 situation had worsened, no longer just an overseas issue, with warnings to stay at home increasing. Anticipating the travel ban could eventually involve deliveries, getting my hubs to Suffolk and into the hands of ‘wheel-builder’ Neil at Walton Works became a priority.
With Mopedland supplying spokes and Takasago rims, it was one critical job to remove from my ‘to do’ list. As the country’s self-imposed quarantine came into effect, most of my days were spent contemplating the Amigo frame; developing an idea to create a sixties ‘clubman’s display’ machine, utilising or funded by everything collected on my day out in the smoke. Evidently, we were at war with this virus and at times like this a ‘make do and mend’ mentality is prudent. With new parts limited and most businesses closed, a wander round the ‘scrappy’ was most definitely out, plus spending on bike bits would be frowned upon by ‘she who must be obeyed’ and for once I couldn’t argue. In recognition of the effect Coronavirus was having on our everyday lives, this very individual bike build would enjoy the title GoPed19. Having survived a heart bypass last November, the previous winter was a time of (boredom) recuperation, unable to enjoy even the shortest ride out; then, just as normality returned, months of more cooking programmes and Murder She Wrote were sure to send me over the edge. Could this creation retain my sanity, provide freedom from mundane chores on her list and be completed for under £600? That was the plan. So, with just the radio for company and little fear of being caught talking to myself, the first job involved some ‘back to bare’ treatment for the old frame.
The first woman solo to compete on the IOM was Beryl Swain aboard an Italian Itom 50 at the first running of the ultra-light weight class in 1962. Crossing the line in 22nd position was a great achievement especially after loosing top gear on lap two.
In the Frame
Unwanted brackets and fittings were chopped away in a minor effort to save weight, this was to counteract a top tube to be installed later and with few ‘horses’ every ounce counted. Old head race bearings littered the work bench as they had long since collapsed and grasped their opportunity for freedom when the forks came away. Before selling off the family silver on a well-known auction site I took stock of parts from my Kensington stash, separating items that maybe useful later; initially, just a few irrelevant bits went up for sale. Measuring up the rear panel proved positive, as a café racer style seat which appealed and enjoyed a similar size was available at UK based Alchemy Parts on-line. Modifications involved cutting away the original seat tube plus two sections either side of the rear rack, reducing the width; then the seat would secure from beneath: good value at £30. Moped centre stands are universally knackered and potentially lethal, mainly due to decades of rotund chaps peddling their way to groin strain and this frame was one of the worst. Elongated 10mm holes plus a worn pin results in an accident waiting to happen.
To counter-act this, at some point in the past a lump of steel was welded to the stand, this wedged against the engine for support; a thoughtful bodge. My easy fix included one 11mm steel bar (£8 on-line) cut to size; a multitool disc sliced a channel at one end to accommodate an ‘E’ clip whilst the other end took the lives of four new 2mm drill bits providing a hole for the split pin. Both frame and stand holes were drilled out to 11.5mm before a small 3mm plate was secured onto the rear of the stand, this contacts with the frame base offering stable peddling even with my 16 stone aboard. Inch and a half mild steel tubing was chosen from ‘Tubeworld’ and arrived at a cost of £9; this became the support for a conventional fuel tank. Most Honda mopeds of this vintage either placed the tanks behind the rider or on the down tube. For the top tube to fit exactly the first Sunday of ‘lockdown’ was dedicated entirely to measuring and cutting, slowly achieving a snug fit before tacking into place. My welding has historically been a slow process with much grinding required due to over enthusiasm and normally my mate Alan is on hand to save the day.
In 1961 the FIM ran an eight-race series for 50cc machines called the Coupe d’ Europe, this was won by German Ernst Degner and would be recognised as a new World Championship for the following season. The fastest machines in this period were achieving 85mph from 9bhp. Swiss rider Stefan Dorflinger took the final 50cc World Championship in 1983 (replaced by 80cc in 1984) by which time his Krauser offered 21bhp and exceeded 125mph.
Thanks to the virus, this time welding became a solo effort and therefore a new mask was sought (the old one was rather burnt) so I chose a ‘self-darkening’ visor in the hope I could at least start the process in the correct position. It was only a few quid more to purchase the version with a ‘bikini clad-fire breathing’ witch on either side, but not convinced that would aid my ability to attach two bits of steel, a plain red option was selected. Unfortunately, the solitary nature of this build had to be broken at some stage, as a lack of practice meant my ‘selfies’ are rubbish. Her indoors volunteered, mainly to poke fun at my welding attire and trying to secure the top tube whilst someone screams ‘what a feelin’ takes all the fun out of one task I was trying to master. By this time warnings of shortages were upon us with deliveries becoming restricted to essentials but luckily, beer and brandy were still available, but toilet paper and rubber gloves had become treasured; each to their own. Having trawled the www for a fuel tank, a lack of options proved rather limiting, certainly there was no chance of getting one made to spec, either in time or budget. The nearest size option appeared to be the Honda CD 50 Benly units, slightly shorter and taller than I desired but needs must, and they were available.
Loads for sale across Asia, but again the delivery time couldn’t be guaranteed, so a company in Glasgow supplied one, it needed some mods plus a replacement tap but would do the job and could be replaced at a later date. Now at least the fittings for the tank could be welded into place which moved the project another step closer to paint. Week two of ‘lock down’ concluded, evidently the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were now considered essential worker’s, but I was more concerned if parts would arrive before the summers end. Luckily, half a litre of black 2-pack paint remained in the shed from a previous project which was enough to complete the frame, and several months had passed since a pair of new sports biased Champion tyres came my way, they were cheap and I knew would come in handy for something.
Fabricating continued as Easter arrived, the world was getting more bizarre by the day. Classic shows across the nation were cancelled, Boris was in hospital whilst folk were being fined for having barbeques on Brighton beach. Meanwhile, my ability to cut my own ‘Barnet’ proved sketchy. A pair of thin steel plates now braced the front bars, they attached with ease, mainly due to my slowing the speed the wire comes from the welding torch. A small mount tube was tacked beneath the top bar and for the first time an overall impression was possible; to be honest, I was not impressed, as the tank complete with multicoloured stripes and badges looked too much. The graphics were lacquered over, so a repaint (which wasn’t in the plan) seemed the only option.
In 1977 a 50cc Kreidler powered streamliner named Black Arrowed was piloted by ex-World Champion Henk Van Kessel to an average of 134mph over a flying kilometre.
For the 1967 season Suzuki had high hopes for their RK67 50-2, a parallel twin 50 that revved to 17,500 rpm topping out at 105mph: all via a ten-speed gearbox. Three machines entered the championship which they finished first, second and third.
The chosen engine was removed from a PC50 field bike around a year ago, purchased with a Puch Maxi, both appeared to have spent the years following the millennium attached to Bognor pier. The underside of the frame had corroded away but the motor fired up with little coaxing and once I checked over mechanically, a swift clean followed before going into storage. Smoothing out both inlet and exhaust ports plus all-new ignition are some of the few options to aid performance. Visuals followed, with the barrel enjoying fresh black gloss whilst the mostly alloy construction lent itself to the polishing mop; resulting in two (most pleasant) days spent up to my ears in Autosol, crooning along with Smooth FM. Without a kill switch or keys, once running the only way to bring the piston to a halt was via the decompressor, but rather than wire in a new handlebar cable, a modified rubber handle attached to the engine lever was sufficient. The chain had deposited ancient grease in most orifices and would be replaced , fortunately the rear sprocket wasn’t suffering from ‘curly-teeth’ as they are only found in Belgium and are not cheap.
Good Friday arrived bright and warm and for some reason around mid-afternoon my brave pills kicked in and the urge to paint was overwhelming. Many coats of primer had been applied over the previous week and ‘flatted’ smooth to the touch whilst suffering no adverse reaction to the flexible seam sealer. With thoughts of having nothing to do over Easter plus the stars aligned with a ‘pink moon’, my gander was truly up as a 2/3 paint 1/3 hardener combination was concocted using the re-cycled deep gloss black. For future reference, the total mix of 450mls was sufficient for three substantial coats to a PF50 frame, swing arm and forks: but annoyingly not enough to include a centre stand. In the real world, a chap called Ben has worn out his stair carpet by climbing the equivalent of Everest in full mountain gear. In the shed a further test fit for the seat and tank confirmed my creation had not fallen too far from the ugly tree but would appear more interesting once the engine and forks were secured into place.
Brimming with success another litre of colour was ordered and as the fourth week of ‘stay at home’ began, a message from Neil at Walton Works lifted my spirits; in just 24 hours he had constructed both wheels and they were ready to return. Other parts though failed to arrive, the handlebars from Basildon ended up coming via China so in the current climate I cancelled those; a smart decision when my seat provider Alchemy came up with some bespoke adjustable bars which were sent out ‘tout sweet’. In the days that followed, nothing worth watching on TV apart from re-runs of ‘Carry on Screaming’ which confirmed everyone’s current hairstyle should be called the ‘Oddbod’. Meanwhile, some chap on the radio had taken to removing his own teeth because the dentists are closed. Amongst my stash of biking ‘must haves’ a bag of fresh caged bearings for the headstock (no idea where they came from), but this allowed the forks to be re-installed with freshly greased springs.
The tank again proved an issue, as by filling both sides where the ‘Honda’ badge attached, getting the perfect shape proved elusive; chasing perfection often made the situation worse and several dozen skims later, well it was almost there. A month post-lockdown was marked with a delivery bonanza, not just the rather clever handlebars from Alchemy but also the rebuilt wheels via Walton Works and Mopedland. Now, that to-do list doubled in one moment, and the first job required old-style wheel bearings, packed in grease with a ‘take your time’ philosophy. Following the parts book diagram axel spacers, washers and nuts were fitted in the correct order and the front wheel with fresh rubber was ready to install within the hour; the rear was a different story. Not for the first time, I managed to catch the inner tube whilst fitting the new tyre and was later forced to call upon the Park Tool Super Patch Kit. How things have changed since the days of Chopper Bikes and crap fashion; just sandpaper the tube, peel a patch and attach. With the front wheel in, my able assistant was forced to briefly lift the rear of the frame so the centre stand could be attached and the Goped stood tall, although it still will not win any beauty contests.
Considered the greatest 50cc pilot of all time the diminutive Spaniard Angel Nieto won the first of his 13 world titles aboard a Derbi in 1969. Weighing in at just 88lbs the liquid cooled, two stroke offered 11bhp at 12,000rpm via a five speed gearbox.
Boris returned to number 10 along with talk of motorsport recommencing minus the crowds, meanwhile my interest in Candy Crush or decade old episodes of Emmerdale remained negligible but confidence was boosted when the handlebars bolted into place with the original grips, levers and cables before all their functions were confirmed. Studying images of vintage clubman’s racers, I noted they regularly featured an oval number board on the front, most striking included Harvey Williams with his BSA Bantam airborne during the 1952 TT complete with fag clamped between his lips. The board was topped with a small Perspex screen that offered zero protection and I concluded my creation needed such a thing. An old garage sign offered potential but being square required altering and to gain that oval appearance, the answer lay in the kitchen. Maybe it was the quarantine situation that made her use such strong language, but I can’t see anything wrong with cutting round the slow cooker lid to gain the perfect number board; topped with a 3mm Perspex A4 sheet acquired via the internet. The tank finally enjoyed the correct shape, so a rich and plentiful covering of gloss black was applied.
As pointed out by pro-painter Neil at Walton Works, having reduced the pressure in the gun I still managed to overcook it; the next day was spent flatting out a curtain size run. The exhaust is very ‘home-brew’ having been fabricated from a couple of old PC50 downpipes cut off where they widen, just prior to the silencer and offers a ‘fruity’ tone for no outlay. By now isolation was the norm and whilst this project prevented thoughts of digging up the patio, it remained pointless sharing bike related ideas with my other half. One thought I didn’t argue with myself about was the need to hide the fuel line and to achieve this I first required a can-do attitude and mini hacksaw. Where the tank (now polished) secures the on/off tap its threaded section was far too long meaning the braided fuel line must travel uphill to the frame. By halving the threaded section, the line sat against the underside of the tank and entered the frame just below the seat.
An 11mm drill bit allowed for a grommet to stop any chaffing and the line follows the frame tube to an exit hole drilled on the right of the carb; to my delight it worked with no leaks. Week five began with the pleasant realisation my redneck mullet was now obscuring a bald patch. I cared ‘not a jot’ as fresh oil went in, all 700 mls to splash lubricate the little four strokes internals, then with swing arm attached some adjustable aftermarket shocks that came with the original stash were easily secured with new dome bolts.
Having been built up with freshly packed bearings the rear wheel was secured before a 415H chain I purchased from Mopedland got the snip; offering around 15 links more than required. With all adjustments made, a quick spanner check of anything likely to cause carnage before a substantial push on one pedal to just turn the engine over a few times. I knew there was a healthy spark, so it was no surprise that once fuel reached the motor she fired up; a touch more volume than anticipated, no doubt sweet music to the neighbours. As with most aspects of this build, everything was reduced in size, including the Honda wing decals; supplied by ‘chunkymonkey’ on-line for just a few quid.
Finally, at ground level it became apparent just how petite this project had turned out, forcing the decision to find a test rider who was gullible enough to be first aboard, also light enough to allow for the performance potential to be exploited. After much persuasion, my youngest daughter was roped in, this also allowed for social distancing rules to apply. Our empty road was bathed in early morning sunlight, the dawn chorus supplied by the open exhaust and having never ridden a motorised bike our brave pilot wobbled off into the distance.
Complete with 50s TT rider Beryl Swain cork helmet and woolly jumper I must confess to being impressed at my offspring’s ability to ride incredibly slowly without falling off. Whilst the Goped 19 will win few plaudits for beauty or in fact performance, this Honda has offered a focus during six dark weeks, forcing some ‘outside the box’ thinking and came in just over budget. Up with the lark every day the shed became the centre of my universe, a project confirming that well-used adage ‘size doesn’t matter’. Well not to me anyway, my biggest dilemma, what am I going to do tomorrow?
Grant Ford for classic-motorbikes.net