It didn’t look too bad on the auction site but then we all know rusty bikes tend to look better in a picture. It was only about 15 miles away but unfortunately the sale had a Friday night finish, this could often result in a ‘beer bid’; even so we had bought and restored one before and I was confident in this 1973 Honda PC 50 with only two previous owners. Saturday morning, I was greeted by a nice chap who explained that with another project on the go he couldn’t see himself completing this one and being a man of my word, I paid up; but being honest I had paid too much. It ran, but badly, and just a few yards of travel confirmed the front suspension was minus any bushes. It had a new exhaust but that was blowing and insecure.
A hole in the seat cover plus most of the frame had been repainted by hand in dark blue Hammerite… oh, and the rear wheel was rotten to the point of collapse; oh, and the air filter was made with gardening twine with foam. Good bits, well there wasn’t any. As I loaded it up, with the seller’s assistance, who I think was pleased to see the back of it, I consoled myself with the thought we had tackled worse.
Back of the Shed
By pushing the PC50 behind every other project I could also put it to the back of my mind, ‘we can start it in the winter’ I instructed my mate Alan. He is used to my impulse buys and with several other projects on the go the little Honda would collect spider’s webs over the next six months. I informed anyone that ‘gave a monkeys’ via our classics mopeds UK page on facebook and surprisingly a message arrived from someone that had owned a similar example in the 70s. Obviously the mudguards enjoyed a light blue colour but it turned out the interested party had purchased his in-period and the whole machine was the same colour; he wasn’t wrong, as we found out by scratching through the dark hand finish and revealing its original hue. It turns out the Sky-Blue finish wasn’t very common and let’s be honest it is a tad ‘girlie’ but not being afraid of the ‘feminine side’ we decided to return our PC to original.
During 1969 Honda brought the PC50 to the world, utilising much of the famous Cub technology but in an even more ‘user friendly’ mode, twist ‘n’ go four-stroke, as it was no secret Mr Honda detested small oil burning engines. Priced at £80 in the UK, initially the motor featured OHC layout but by 1970 the bullet proof OHV unit of 49cc arrived and as fans of the PC know well, these engines can remain dormant for decades but with some fresh fuel and enthusiasm will fire and run perfectly with just a few minutes fettling. We considered the momentous Cub, C70 and 90 but most are either too far gone, too expensive or too altered by some wannabe art student who got an angle grinder for Xmas. Yes, the PC was ‘personally correct’ in-period’ Ideal for thousands of seventies lady shoppers or those workers who wanted cheap reliable transport, but maybe not ideal for followers of platform shoes, flairs and the Bay City Rollers; they went two stroke and usually got there quicker.
Breakdown and Assess
The PC shares much with Honda’s Novio we recently featured on classic-motorbikes.net and having dismantled another PC50 previously we are well versed at taking this deign of 70s Jap moped to bits. My mate removed every socket, spanner and screwdriver in the tool box in his quest to have this machine down to nuts ‘n’ bolts inside two hours. He succeeded and we took another hour to clean up the mess with a celebration beer as the frame was totally solid; it may have looked rough but that hand painted alteration had definitely saved the metal. Normal procedure follows when Alan takes the worst of the parts away for blasting and I spend the next couple of days sanding the paint off the frame; which we have mounted to a work bench on wheels. Normally this would take a couple of days but with those extra hardened coatings applied over a decade ago it took twice as long and saw the premature demise of one pack of 40 plus another of 60 grit mouse pads. Whilst that task was mundane, to say the least, the minimal of filler work was needed before four coats of primer followed; flatting back after each soon shows up any blemishes and offers a decent base for the top coats.
Matching the light blue proved to be an easy task, it was the ‘off white’ on the tank panels and chain guard that we suspected to be a problem and so it proved. I had already concluded the wheels were far from salvageable, so I contacted Mark Daniels at Mopedland who priced up new rims, spokes and rubber. As the budget on this project was always going to be blown we opted for new everything including tubes and Continental white walls. It was 22nd October when my de-rubbered rusty old wheels enjoyed a courier trip to Mopedland, this date would become significant nearly two months later when the rear rim was still not finished! Top-tip, when planning any bike resto and consider the rims and spokes need replacing ask for a lead time and work to it; or you can go to the back of a long queue and stay there.
Prep & Paint
The front rim was returned complete and looking resplendent mid-November along with new chain, front sprocket, head race bearings, exhaust gasket and air filter. The engine was visually shocking but once years of grime were removed it was just a case of a day’s labour to remove the original silver paint; often beginning with something brutal then gradually decreasing the grit used for a smooth finish that will polish, then tidy up the barrel with coats of cylinder black topped with lacquer. The frame enjoyed three heavy coats of an almost exact light blue, supplied by Rust-Oleum. I favour this brand as once an early dust coat is applied further applications can be ‘loaded’ quickly and without fear of runs. It dries rapidly without the need for an oven and is ready to flat and polish within a couple of days.
Next time, the fun starts with re assembly and all those extra touches that make any restoration worthy and not just average; plus, more paint and disaster averted when modern technology comes to our rescue.
Grant Ford for www.classic-motorbikes.net