Beaverdale’s Doug Stone was as thrilled as any youngster would be when his dad brought home a 1974 Honda Z50A Mini Bike.
The Honda Z50 was originally developed and produced as a children’s amusement park ride in Japan. In 1967 it was put into mass production and distributed in Europe. It was not long before the U.S. market became hungry for this little off-road “gorilla” bike, and the second wave of production became available in America in 1969.
Nicknamed the “gorilla” bike because of the way people were said to have looked when riding the miniature motorcycles, the Honda Z50 became a staple in parades, used by the Za-ga-Zig Shriners who performed stunts and routines on the tiny bikes.
After buzzing about the neighborhood on his Z50A for several years, the aging teen Stone developed a craving for a vehicle with a larger engine, four wheels and interior seating for himself and his friends. With $300 cash and the mini bike, he traded it to his dad for a 1972 Plymouth.
“I wish I had that old car back,” says Stone. “That thing was a beast.”
Though Stone sold his car after high school, his dad kept the mini bike out of the elements and in his garage.
Now, nearly 40 years later, the same Honda Z50A that he grew up on showed up in his garage when his dad cleaned it up and presented it to Stone for his birthday last summer.
“I was stoked,” says Stone. “Our kids are just at the age where they can start riding it. I hope they like it as much as I did.”
The little bikes are not street legal (too small and too slow to integrate with traffic) so they are most often used as trail bikes on private property. Stone intends to use his to teach his kids the basics of riding safely. He wants them to have fun on it, and he may just take it out for a spin himself.
“Those little things were built tough,” says Stone. “I’m a little over the weight limit, but not by enough to keep me off of it.”
Asked if he intends to don the red fez and join the Shriners in the next Beaverdale parade, Stone says, “No, I think we’ll just stick to riding it in our yard and around Dad’s place.”