Honda’s SS50 became the reluctant choice of parents who realised they weren’t going to win the moped v cycling/bus/lift or walk argument but also considered keeping their neighbours as friends a priority. Yes, just like Mr Honda, in our house the two-stroke brigade were considered far too noisy and rapid for middle-England; thus, if they finally relented it was only after accepting the promises the SS offered. Reliability with less performance plus reduced decibels when their young off-spring arrived home at midnight. I would have been barely into high school when the first four speed SS50’s arrived on the scene. Honda had updated its SS50E originally from 1967 to gain some traction in ‘sixteener’ moped revolution that swept the nation in the early 70’s. I hated the decade, hated the music and certainly despised flairs, TV was rubbish and acne let rip all over my boat race.
Reality check; Suzuki’s AP was quick but the Garelli (when it ran) was faster, the FS1e was cool whilst the Fantic was simply art and Honda’s SS did everything well but would never win in a game of Top-Trumps. Sure, I had a Raleigh Chopper and once a week we had a Vesta Curry but staying out after midnight was banned in our house and so was talk of mopeds. It would be another decade before motorised freedom visited my abode; maybe that is why four decades later the chance to own an early SS50 has become important. A couple of hundred quid wasn’t small change in 1973, the average wage was around £40 per week but Honda priced the SS just under the other (more popular) peds of the time. I would gladly pay that now but finding one in the first place would test my patience; those that remain are either restored and rather pricey … or rotten and will become rather pricey.
Idle Talk Costs Money
Every now and then you meet up with someone who knows someone; you know the scenario. I visited a nice bloke in Hampshire to purchase a Honda PC50 for parts, after telling him how much I enjoyed the reliability of the brand, he told of a mate who possessed the SS50 I would want to own. Turns out, following the death of an elderly resident in their village the Honda was found buried in the garage where it had obviously stood for decades. Who it belonged to is still a mystery but with no next of kin it ended up in his barn and so did I. With 5k miles this early four speed from 1973 was complete with rust, dented red tank and more rust, but no parts were missing, it turned over and selected gears. The registration was known to the DVLA and we agreed a price that I knew was far too high but when would another cross my path? Having carried out several ‘Ped Restos’ it quickly became apparent this one was going to be long-term and the most expensive we have attempted.
Working out a budget was going to be a challenge on its own but over the years I have made contacts and could pull a few favours to get this project underway. Regulars of classic-motorbikes.net may recollect the Yamaha FS1e we restored last winter, and we will look to many of the same suppliers who assisted us back then. Much of our shopping list will come courtesy of Wemoto, they carry vast stocks of quality parts at the right money plus there is always someone on the end of a phone that knows more than me. Being local to us in Shoreham, West Sussex its easy to visit their shop and see what I am buying, drink coffee and gain some knowledge. Mopedland have many of those items you can’t find elsewhere and carry an ever-changing selection of used parts plus they will source the rims and spokes for Neil at Walton Works to build up my all new wheels. Neil will also take the dented tank, reshape and repaint to a very high standard; sure I can wield a spray gun and will recolour the frame but when you are looking to the best finish one’s tank just has to be right; so best trust the pro’s. Finally, I am hoping the experts at Cranbourne Chrome can resurrect the brightwork, although this can’t be confirmed until they view the rusting relics that once gleamed brightly.
The Big Strip
Along with my long-suffering mate Alan the SS50 was stripped down over a couple of weeks. Prior to that we tested the electrics and after repairing several corroded connections enjoyed both a neutral light and healthy spark. Good points, the corrosion hadn’t seized too many fixings and the angle grinder remained in the toolbox. Bad points, our seat base is not in a heathy state although the welder may save it from the scrap bin; one place our exhaust will certainly end up. With a huge hole alongside the drain tube this will be our biggest threat to success as original spec exhausts are no longer available in Europe.
One engine casing screw put up a battle resulting in a size ten drill bit taking its head off! Followed by days of ‘drip feeding’ WD until it finally surrendered. Its now early June and courier post have taken the wheels and tank to Suffolk whilst Wemoto peruse my A4 list of parts and confirmed all in stock with only the seat cover being special order of 28 days; leaving just the chrome to be assessed within the next couple of weeks which will lead into full on resto mode for the summer. We estimate completion for 2020 and as always look to share the results right here. Grant Ford for classic-motorbikes.net.
Honda SS50 1973 Specification
Engine: OHC 4-stroke
Power: 2.5bhp @ 8000rpm
Carb: Keihin 12mm
Transmission: 4 speed
Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gallons
Wheels 2.5 x 17 fr & rr
Max Speed: 39mph
Colours: Green, Yellow & Candy Ruby Red
Walton Works: facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005067645665
Cranbourne Chrome: cranbourne-chrome.com