Steve & Tony Mawson are two brothers that have a passion for small Honda two strokes, especially the Honda MB5. Between them they own several examples in various stages of restoration.
The Honda MB5 pictured is a rather special bike for its owner Tony Mawson, for this is the very same bike that Tony purchased way back in the summer of 1980 from Lockside Motorcycles, Castleford. Back then after leaving school, Tony pestered his parents for a new moped to commute to his new job as an apprentice engineer. After seeing “Rocket Ron” Haslam perched on the seat of a black & gold Honda MB5, he knew this was the bike he wanted. Twelve months of blasting round the streets of Leeds and hanging round the local chip shop trying to impress the girls (the brochure of the time stated “look at the pulling power you can have at 16”) it was time to sell the MB5 and move onto something with a bit more go. It was retired to the garage but before being sold, Steve used it to gain his early bike riding skills. Steve had his eye on a Gilera Enduro at the local dealer and chose to purchase that bike instead of using the “hand me down” MB5, it was then sold to a friend soon after.
Fast forward to 2001 and the brothers were at the house of the friend that bought the MB5 back in the 80’s. In the back of his garage sat the Honda MB5, unused since the early 90’s. The friend gave ownership back to Tony as he knew that by handing it back to the original owner its future would be secured.
By 2006 Steve had caught the “MB5 bug” and purchased an original complete (although tatty) black & gold MB5 from ebay. Steve’s restoration took less than three months and he ended up with a very smart little bike for very little outlay.
This spurned Tony into doing a full nut & bolt restoration as Steve’s newly restored example shamed him when they were out riding together.
The Honda MB5 is a well-made bike with typical Honda “big bike” features like the switchgear and instrumentation. When the bike was fully stripped down there was no hidden “nasties” to speak of. A couple of areas that don’t take too kindly to old age are the tank and the wheels. The tank on a MB5 is quite unusual in that it extends under the seat and forms part of the rear mudguard. Unfortunately there is no plastic shroud that protects it and if the bike has been used all year round, road salt can start rotting the tank from the outside in. The wheels are blessed with typical Japanese 80’s chrome ie: very thin. This causes a bit of a problem as they are a composite design which makes them difficult to restore. Steve is currently experimenting with a pair that have had the rims re-chromed and the spokes and hubs powder coated. They just require re-riveting, which is the hard bit. If this can be achieved the wheels will no longer be a problem.
Another fairing was sourced from ebay Germany for €10, these are quite rare as it’s the first thing to break when the bike hits the deck. They are then normally thrown away and the bike is ridden without one.
The frame and swinging arm was sent of to the powder coaters and all the paintwork on the bike was carried out by Ray Hall a local Motor Technician friend, who now does all the brothers painting. Replica decals were not a problem as they are still readily available.
MB5 engines are generally very reliable although there have been reported big end failures this is normally down to lack of or poor quality oil. Once stripped down the engine only required a re-bore and once reassembled was treated to coat of “factory black”.
The bike was completed just in time for the VJMC Uttoxeter show in 2007 and from the interest shown in the bike it’s obvious that most people remember them, but very few have survived to date. One reason for this is that Honda UK only imported the bike for 2 years between 1980-82.
The brothers have their own web site www.mb5.co.uk which has allowed them to link up with other MB5 owners as far away as Japan, the USA and Europe. They will also be attending a number of shows this summer including: Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club events at Uttoxeter and Lotherton Hall (www.vjmc.com) and a sports moped show at Billing Auquadrome (www.sixteener-special.co.uk )
The brother’s web site
Dave Silver Spares (NOS Honda spares)
Jolly Moto (European Honda Parts Dealer)
Worlds end Motorcycles (for pattern parts)
Sixteener Special (Forum for sports mopeds)
Top Restoration Tips
- Don’t try and restore to a deadline, otherwise you are tempted to cut corners to save time. The longer you take the better the end result.
- for bikes that had a short life in the UK, like the Honda MB5, look to other countries that had a longer sales run. Spares are more plentiful and generally cheaper.
- Buy a complete as possible to standard bike. Most mopeds have been butchered by over enthusiastic teenagers, which can dent your budget when trying to return it to standard specification.
- Main bearings can be a weakness on the Honda MB5, remove the generator cover and check for any lateral / vertical movement of the flywheel. Any play will require replacement bearings
- Original wheels in good condition are difficult to locate. Wheels from the later Honda MBX 50 / 80 will fit with only a few wheel spacer adjustments.
- In standard form the Honda MB5 is very heavily restricted. 70cc big bore kits are still readily available, along with carburettor, exhaust and air box modifications can release 50+ mph performance. Alternatively an engine from a Honda H100A will fit straight in the frame with little modification. Either way, don’t forget to tell the DVLA and insurance company what you have done!
- Join a forum. The wealth of knowledge that can be gained from other forum members can be invaluable.
- If you are on a tight budget, brush paints such as “Ronseal No Rust Metal Paint” can give an excellent finish if correctly applied.
Honda MB5 Gallery