Friday, March 22, 2019

Honda Early Model Product Codes and Model Codes

People often wonder just what some of the Honda model designations are and what they mean. Below is a short list of the pre 1961 model codes and what they were assigned to, in the beginning of Honda’s storied legacy of amazing machines.
Model No.          Name                    Model                        Cycle                     Cylinder capacity
10                           Dream                  E                                4                              146
11                           Dream                  3E                              4                              146
12                           Dream                  4E                              4                              220
13                           Dream                  6E                              4                              200
14                           Juno                      7E                             4                              200
15                           Juno                      8E                             4                              220
16                           Juno                      8E(KA)                    4                              220
17                           Juno                      8E(KB)                    4                              220
18                           Juno                      8E(KC)                    4                              220
20                           Benly                     J                              4                              90
21                           Benly                     JA                           4                              140
22                           Benly                     JB                           4                              125
23                           Benly                     JC                           4                              125
24                           Benly                     JC                           4                              125
30                           Dream                  SA                           4                              250
31                           Dream                  SA                           4                              250
32                           Dream                  ME                          4                              250
35                           Dream                  SB                           4                              350
36                           Dream                  SB                           4                              350
37                           Dream                  MF                          4                              350
70                           Dream                  C70                         4                              250
71                           Dream                  C71                         4                              250
72                           Dream                  C72                         4                              250
75                           Dream                  C75                         4                              305
76                           Dream                  C76                         4                              305
77                           Dream                  C77                         4                              305

As you can see, the last few model codes match up to that of the 1960s 250-305 twins, which which most people are aware.  After this list, the CBs came into being and US variations, thus CB72 (250) and CB77 (305) and CA72, CA77 US-spec Dreams in 250 and 305 configurations.
More 1960s relevant codes through 300 are:

254         CS71 Dry-sump Dream Sport
255         CA71 US Dry-sump 250 Dream
256         CAS71 US Dry-sump 250 Dream Sport
257         CE71 Dry-sump Dream Sport 250
258         CB71 Never produced
259         C 72 Wet-sump 250 Dream
260         C76.CA76 Dry-sump 305 Dream
261         CS76.CAS76 Dry-sump Dream Sport 305
262         CA72 US Wet-sump 250 Dream
263         C2-72 Solo seat 250 Dream
264         CS72.C2S72 Dream Sport 250 Dream
265         CR71 Factory 250 road racer
266         C77.CS77 Wet-sump Dream/Sport
267         CA77.CAS77 US 305 Dream/Sport
268         CB72 250 Hawk
269         C2B72.CMB Type 2 Hawk
270         CM72 CB with Dream 250 engine
271         C3-72 Dream variant
272         C3A72 Dream 250
273         CL 72 Scrambler
274         C2L 72 Type 2 Scrambler
275         CB77 Super Hawk
276         C2B77 Type 2 Super Hawk
277         C1AL72 Late 250 Scrambler
278         CL77 305 Scrambler
279         C 78 late Dream
280         CA 78 late US Dream
281         CP77.C2P77 non-Police
282         CYP77 305 Police
283         CB450.450P Black Bomber
284         C2B450 Type 2 Bomber
285         CP450 Bomber Police
286         CB250 basis for the CB350
287         CB350  350 version of 286 code bike
290         CL250 basis for the 350 Scrambler
291         CL350.FP 350 Scrambler
292         CB450K1 5 speed
293         CL450 Scrambler
294         CL450K1
296         CB250M Domestic 250
297         CB350M
298         CD250.K1
300         CB750.K1 750 Four

To avoid some duplicate codes, Honda renamed a  few with “C” in the beginning, according to the charts on the CMSNL.COM site:

C12         DREAM 4E
C13         DREAM 6E
C24         JC58
C30         SA250
C30         SA350
C32         ME250
C32         ME350

For fans of the Benly series machines, the numbers started with 90 (C90) and had related numbers up to 225 (CA160, which is based upon the Benly chassis design).

200         C 90
201         C 95
202         C 92
203         CA92
204         CS92
205         CB92
206         CA95
207         CB95
208         CD92
209         CS95
210         C2-92
211         C2D92
212         C3 92
213         C10 95
214         C2D 95
215         C3A 92
216         CB93 (CB125) not related model
217         CB96 (CB160) not related model
218         C3S92
219         C3 95
224         C4 92
225         CA160

Honda finally ran down the digit codes with the   496 CB400T motorcycle model. From 500 to 999 the codes mostly covered automobiles and power products. From that point the new letter codes were invoked.

Commonly seen in the 1980s were these models; however the actual product code for the parts is generally different than the model code. Model codes were implemented when the US decided that every new motor vehicle sold in the US was required to have a 17 digit VIN code. You will see the model codes as part of each VIN number for motorcycles sold in the US.

RC01      CB 750 KZ-C / CB 750 CB-C / CB 750 SCC-D
RC03      CB 650 Z + B
RC04      CB 750 FA-C
RC05      CB 650 B-C / CB 650 CA-B
RC06      CB 750 CB
RC07      VF 750 SC-D / VF 750 CC-D
RC08      CB 650 SCC
RC09      VF 750 CC-E
RC10      GL 650 D / DD Silverwing
RC11      CX 650 CD
RC12      CX 650 ED
RC13      CB 650 SCD-F / EE / CBX 650 ED
RC14      VT 750 CD + H (Canada)
RC15      VF 750 FD-E
RC16      CX 650 TD
RC17      CBX 750 FE + G
RC18      CB 750 SCE (Canada) / CBX 750 PE-H / P2H-L (Police)
RC19      VT 700 CE-H
RC20      CB 700 SCE-G
RC21      VF 700 CE-H
RC22      VF 700 SE-F Sabre
RC23      VF 700 FE-F
RC24      VFR 750 FG-K
RC26      VFR 700 F / F2G-H
RC27      CBR 750 F (Japan)
RC28      VF 750 CH-J
RC29      VT 750 CH (Deutschland)
RC30      VFR 750 RJ-L
RC31      NT 650 J-M Hawk GT / NT 650 Bros (Japan)
RC32      VT 800 CJ
RC33      NTV 650 J-V
RC34      PC 800 K-T Pacific Coast
RC36      VFR 750 FL-V
RC38      CB 750 M-W Nighthawk (USA + Canada)
RC40      NR 750 N
RC42      CB 750 F2N-W Seven-fifty
RC43      VF 750 CP-T
RC44      VT 750 C/C2V / NV750C2 (Korea)
RC45      RVF 750 RR-S

For example, the VIN on my NT650 Hawk GT is JH2RC3113JM000597, where the RC31 is inserted. However if you are looking up a fuel tank part number for this bike you will find it shown as 17506-MN8-860, where MN8 is the actual parts product code for this machine.

These model codes were not continuous for a series of bikes, but were assigned as to when they were created/planned as a new model. For example the little CBR250R(RR) four cylinder screamers started with

MC17    CBR 250 RH (Japan) original model
MC18    NSR 250 RJ-K / R2J 2 stroke twin
MC19    CBR 250 RJ-K / R2K (Japan) 2nd generation
MC20    VT 250 Spada (Japan)  V-twin
MC21    NSR 250 R (Japan) 2-stroke twin
MC22    CBR 250 RRL / RR2L (Japan) 3rd generation.

So, you can see that there are gaps in the numbers between the variations of a single basic design machine. Model codes were assigned in sequence of the next model to be designed and built, not as a “next model” version of the same machine.  It’s complicated….sometimes.

Before the 17 digit VIN codes, which began with the 1980 model years, the bikes built from 1968-1978 generally used the engine displacement as part of the model name, with an appropriate prefix, like CB, CL, SL, XL, CX, etc. (CB350, CL175, XL125, SL90, CX500), followed by a suffix that often indicated the updated model of a series; i.e. CB450K7. Honda took a bit of a diversion when they added the model year to the series, but only for 1976-78. Most of the models had K-something suffixes, however the little 100-124 single-cylinder models had an S behind the model size, so CB125S0, S1, S2, etc. The K-series designators pretty much died out by 1979.

There are many variations and often confusing options on Honda’s myriad of models from the past 60 years. Hopefully, I have revealed a few of the answers to those many questions about Honda’s model and product codes.

Bill “aka MrHonda” Silver

Thursday, March 14, 2019

1959-64 Honda CB92 Benly 125 Super Sport

Of all the bikes that American Honda has brought into the U.S., the little CB92 is the most enigmatic and lately the most expensive and sought-after of any small-bore twin ever sold here. According to AHMC, there were only about 1,000 models brought into America, covering the 1960-62 year range.
Most Honda enthusiasts have never heard of a CB92 due to their scarcity and the fact that they were never really a practical model for sale here in the US, especially from a previously-unknown manufacturer who had only arrived in Los Angeles in June of 1959. So, for those of you who have never heard of the little Benly 125 Super Sport, here’s a bit of history for you.

If you have read my previous posting, you will note that the 1960s Benly twins were offered in a couple of different models, varying from Sport to basic transportation configurations.  The very name, “Benly” is a rework of the Japanese word “Benri,” which means convenient in that language. Soichiro Honda sought to bring quality, reliable and functional motorcycles to the world, starting back more than 70 years now and this was one of the tools he used for customer satisfaction.
Mr. Honda had traveled to Europe to see the Isle of Man races, all the way back in the early 1950s and vowed to bring his own racing machines to the event, sometime in the future. While in Europe, he studied what was being offered for sale there and brought home various motorcycle components in his luggage in order to further study what was working for those manufacturers and how those component ideas could be incorporated into his product line.

Japan had a history of importing various motorcycles from the UK and Europe to help shore up their own fledgling motorcycle market. In many cases, these bikes were reverse-engineered in Japan and offered as unique, homeland models. When you study the NSU Fox, you will see a lot of similar design features in the first Honda J-Benly machines, starting in 1954. But Honda didn’t copy the engine design and created their own 4 stroke, pushrod version for the similar-looking NSU Fox pressed steel frame and chassis.  The little J-series Benly singles ran until 1958; then all new machines were close to their release dates. First, the dry-sump OHC Dreams arrived in late 1957 and continued on until the wet-sump models replaced them in 1960. Next the new OHC 125 Benly twins appeared in 1958, initially as a C90 model, without electric starting, then in 1959 as the C92 with electric starter motors attached.

While the C92 was created to be “convenient,” Honda released the CB92 (and a 150cc CB95) in 1959 to take on the 125cc Sport machines of the day. TSB material, distributed to Honda dealers, illustrated the many changes to the basic designs, as HMC sought to solve the problems of running small bore engines at an unheard of 10,000rpms, as street bikes or race bikes.
Honda’s basic architecture for the CB92/95 was a pressed-steel chassis with dual rear shocks and a leading-link front suspension supported by two more shocks. The magnesium 200mm brakes were DLS on the front and SLS on the rear. Both the brake hubs and the backing plates for the brake shoes were made from cast magnesium for the first 3 years.  Clearly, this was more than sufficient braking for a 250 lb. 125cc street bike, as the same-sized brakes were also used on the 250-305 CB72-77 Super Hawks which weighed around 350 lbs. The magnesium brake parts tended to become brittle, cracking around the spoke holes. They were easily damaged by water, as well, so Honda switched to aluminum castings in 1962.

The fuel tanks came in various designs, too. Early ones (1959) had decals on the sides, replaced by the more typically seen small, round plastic tank emblems scripted with either BENLY (1960) or Benly 125 (1961-later) thereafter. The early 1959-60 fuel tanks were alloy and came with an internal vent system. This was replaced by a vented fuel cap style, both types of which screwed onto the tank opening. After that, Honda made the fuel tanks in steel, first with a screw-on cap, then with the more typical ¼ turn twist cap used on many other models of the era.  Three different sets of knee pads were fitted through the years, with some glued onto the tank and others clipped onto brackets welded on the tank surface.

Five different tail lights were used through the production years. The first ones (250 code) were small rectangles with the bottom dropping down to illuminate the license plate. Then, came either the rounded shaped small tail lights with 253 codes or the straight-sided rectangle shaped 255 code lights. In 1962 Honda began to use the 268 (CB72) generic tail light assemblies used on many other models, however the 1962 lenses were shorter (at least in the US) than the later 1963-on extended ones.

All the various light assemblies used different bulb bases, as well. The small rectangular lights had a tiny double-ended bulb with long, fragile filaments. The high-frequency vibrations of the engine transmitted a buzzing feel to the rider and attached components, including the tail light bulbs. These early lights gave off very little light, anyway, as the electrical system ran on only 6 volts. The 268 lights were larger and had a bigger reflector and bulb head to increase night-time visibility.
In the US, almost all motorcycles required a sealed beam headlight bulb, but there were domestic and Euro-UK versions using replaceable bulb elements. US models were never required to have “winker” (turn signal) lights, but there were requirements for Germany and Scandinavian countries. Obviously, the wiring harnesses, handlebar switches and various turn signal mounts were required to complete the additional lighting requirements.

Early model machines had a 3 bolt handlebar mount system which proved unstable so a 4 bolt mounting was designed and implemented. 1959-60 models had smaller diameter brake and clutch cables, which were upgraded along with the star-shaped cable adjusters. Early speedometers came from Yazaki and had no high beam indicators installed in the face. Nippon Seiki took over the meter building and later meters had an integrated high beam indicator light installed.  In the US, the high beam indicators were required from 1964-onwards, however no CB92s were sold after 1962 in America, but the CA95 Benly 150s continued on until 1964.

First-generation cafĂ©-racer handlebars called “Ace” bars were replaced by the flat handlebars from the CB72.  Early bikes came with alloy side panels and rear shock trim pieces, replaced with steel units around 1962. The first generation front fenders were also from alloy and also replaced with steel units in later years. The first issued bikes came with a large cast alloy rear brake stay, which was replaced with a thinner, stronger steel unit, so the swing arms were changed to reflect this switch, as well.

While the CB92 engines seem to be identical to the 150cc C/CA95 at first glance, the profile of the fin pattern on the cylinder head and cylinder block were different. Viewed from the side, the fin pattern on the 125s is a nice smooth curve, whereas the 150cc head and barrel showed jagged extended fins that interrupt the profile shape. 1959 and early 1960 bikes had no provision for a tachometer drive. Honda engineered a whole “YB92” racing kit for road racing which included a tachometer which fit into the headlight shell, in place of the speedometer. The cylinder head cover was modified for the tach drive components, as was the side of the cylinder head where fins were cut away to give clearance for the tach drive and cable. Obviously the camshaft end was extended to allow the cam to engage with the tach drive unit. 

The early engine cases had a “rear breather” installed at the rear of the top engine case, which separated the oil solids from the vapors.  The transmission gears seemed to throw a lot of oil backwards into the breather system, so the breathing duties were moved up to the top cylinder head cover, fitted with a breather plate to do the same function. To match the various crankshaft configurations, the engine cases were modified to suit. The outer clutch cover and dyno covers are narrower on the CB92s, as both the shift shafts and kickstarter shafts are shorter to help narrow the overall width of the engine.

The first year’s cast iron cylinders (replaced with sleeved alloy cylinders in 1963) had a machined slot cut in the base for an oil feed channel which lead all the way to the left side cylinder where a window was cut into the back of the cylinder to help lubricate the left piston.  Apparently, the early oil pumps and crankshaft designs failed to properly lubricate the left side of the engine and left side piston and big end failures were not uncommon. There are three different crankshaft configurations for the various years of production. The 1959-60 crankshafts had three half-ring retainers to keep the main bearings located in the cases.  The center main bearing was larger than the end bearings by 1mm. The 1961 engines used a pinned center main bearing, which was the same size as the end bearings which were still held with ring retainers.

By 1962 all three main bearings were pinned to the cases to prevent the main bearings from turning at high rpms.  The early oil pumps had a round screened inlet. This was replaced with a larger, square shaped pump inlet and different pump plunger. The oil filters, which connected to the end of the crankshaft, came in different lengths, too, so care must be taken to choose the correct replacement parts during an engine overhaul. Early outer filter covers were blank, followed by ones with HONDA stamped onto the faces.

Honda used a stainless steel faced exhaust valve on the CB92s, not seen on the other Benly models. The early bikes had alloy valve retainers, which were sourced from the early generation C110 Honda Sport Cubs. The valve springs were of a higher quality to resist valve float at high rpms.
First generation CB92s had just a small 18mm carburetor, which restricted speed and power. Honda upgraded the carburetors with a 20mm version used on the CA95 Benly 150 Touring machines.  Obviously, use of a single carburetor to feed a high-spinning twin cylinder engine was somewhat counter-productive, but there wasn’t sufficient space to stack a pair of carburetors behind the cylinder head with allowances to attach air filter tubes and to clear the edges of the pressed steel frame.  Some enterprising racers have welded and reworked the heads for dual carburetors, as well as the installation of a CB125K3 5 speed transmission, which can be fitted with minimal modifications.  With intelligent modifications, these bikes are capable of 90+ mph. Given the lack of proper shock damping in the suspensions, racing these bikes at those speeds would be quite exciting to say the least.

Exhaust noises were suppressed by large seamless mufflers in the beginning.  By 1963 the replacement mufflers were made in two halves and welded down the vertical seams. While the early mufflers had a clamp-on connection to the headers, the later ones had silicone o-rings fitted into muffler inlets which had welded-on o-ring retainers installed.

The 3/4th length CB92 seats were designed for just a solo rider, however Honda did offer some clamp-on rear passenger pegs, which were fitted to the swing arm.  Still the seat was not elongated for dual seating, so a small passenger would have been ideal to suit the narrow confines of the rider and passenger seat space availability. For racing a shorter race kit seat was part of the YB race kit, which provided a kickup at the back to help keep the rider from slipping off during competition.
The actual YB92 race kit was quite extensive, offering open megaphone exhaust pipes, a racing camshaft, electric starter elimination kit, the race seat, a very stripped down wiring harness, alloy rims, front brake plate ventilation plate, lever brackets with no mirror holes, a high performance racing coil, the aforementioned tachometer, high compression pistons (like the street pistons, they are left and right side specific). Additionally, Honda provided a set of “Scrambler” exhaust pipes and handlebars for dirt competition, but the kit was primarily setup for road racing.

This presentation is just a broad overview of the minutiae involved in restoring these 60+ year old machines.  Just finding one that has all the original parts will generally set you back about $5k if you can find one at all. Running, intact machines easily sell for $7k on up and fully restored bikes can shoot up to $15-20k (asking price) for perfect examples. Always confirm that the engine and frame numbers are within a couple hundred digits of each other, generally less than 100 in most cases. Look for cracked hubs on the magnesium equipped models and CA95 top end switches, which were common back in the 1960s. Very few actual CB95s have been verified anywhere in the world, but at least one has been noted in the US.  Dave Ekins, noted Honda rider/racer, raced one in Scrambles and TT races, winning several races, but it was eventually banned as it was not an actual US market model.

According to Honda’s sales records in the US, all the 1962 bikes were supposedly race models. Still a bone of contention, Honda showed factory-fitted CB92R models in their advertising, but next to none have ever been verified as actual factory CB92R machines. There are no special serial numbers for the race bikes and many were modified at dealerships. Your author owned a 1961 CB92 that came with an AHMC MSO that stated it to be sold as a CB92R model, but no traces of racing parts were seen on the bike. The bill of sale from the dealer to the first owner stated that a set of mufflers were included with the purchase, however!

Your author has owned several CB92s, including#24 from the 1960 production which was sold new in San Diego in 1960. Overall, the riding experience is somewhat underwhelming due to the high-strung engine characteristics, grabby brakes and under-damped suspension system components. These days, they have become “garage art” instead of daily drivers or even weekend exhibition mounts. Replacement parts sources are all dried up for the most part, so joining a CB92 specific forum is a must, if you are scouting for a bike or just a few NLA unobtainium parts.  These days, it takes a village to raise a CB92 from the dead. Patience, a generously outfitted wallet and careful attention to detail will eventually pay off, if you REALLY want to own a CB92 125 Benly Super Sport.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The three faces of Benly twins… a bike with mistaken identity

The US version of the CA95 Benly showed up early on in the US, right about 1960, just a year after the start of American Honda, which located in Los Angeles, Ca. There was actually a one-year only model of the 125cc version, labeled CA92 (A for America) sold in 1959, which had a distributor cap ignition system taken right off the domestic C90-92 models. The C90 was the first version, built without an electric starter system, not unlike the C70/75 Dreams of the same time period. When the electric starter was added on, the model became a C92. Honda offered larger bore cylinders in the C95 and CA95 editions. 

While the 150 Benly models thrived from 1960-65, a 150cc version of the CB92, called the CB95 was a 1959 model only. In Japan, one of the driver license and taxation limits was 125cc and the 150s put riders into an odd 150-250cc classification, so few were sold at home.

While the name “Benly” had been used previously on the J-JA, JB and JC single-cylinder models of the 1950s, it was resurrected and used as the Benly 125 and Benly 150. They were powered by a 2-cylinder, 4-stroke twin with 44x41mm dimensions (125cc size).

The base C92 model morphed into a CS92 Benly Sport, as one option. Various refinements and options added to the sales selections available including solo seats w/luggage racks, rotary gearbox transmissions, sheet-metal handlebars in addition to the tubular handlebar types.
Here is a list of the C92-95 variants by product code:

200         C 90

201         C 95

203         CA92

204         CS92

205         CB92

206         CA95

207         CB95

208         CD92

209         CS95
210         C2-92

211         C2D92

212         C3 92

213         C10 95

214         C2D 95

215         C3A 92

218         C3S92

219         C3 95

224         C4 92

225         CA160

You will see the last entry is a 225 code CA160 model, which is based upon the early Benly 125-150 types, but had the newer 160cc center camchain engine installed. This engine was a vast improvement in reliability over the side-cam 125-150 models. Changes were made in the exhaust system, carb covers and a few other areas which required adaptation of the 160 motor, but the bulk of the machine was all based upon the CA95 Benly. Honda chose NOT to call it a Benly, however. The official title was CA160 Touring 160. The series of bikes is commonly referred to as “Baby Dreams,” which could be understood as they have close styling cues to the 250-305cc Dreams, but when they are mistakenly advertised as “Dreams” by sellers (bikes or parts) things can get confusing for buyers and then they call me for clarification.

Note that you will see references to "early" and "late" Benly twins. In 1963 Honda revamped both Benly and Dream models, changing the fuel tank designs, handlebar controls, extending the alloy shock trim pieces (luggage rack carriers) and for the Benlys, the mufflers were changed from a "flat side" to "round" muffler shape.

Basically, other than the ignition switch and the shock covers, virtually no other parts will interchange between the Benly and Dream models. Just recently, here on San Diego’s Craigslist a bike posting was listed w/o photos and described as a Honda Dream which had been disassembled for restoration and never finished up. A SoCal friend, who has been searching for a project bike like this, ran down to have a look at the bike without asking more about it or getting serial numbers. After his visit, he sent a message back to me about what the bike really was… a CA160.

I have seen quite a few eBay listings where sellers offer up parts listed as fitting a “Honda Dream,” without regard to the fact that they are for a Benly or CA160. For new owners of either model, these kinds if misleading remarks can create either missed opportunities for buying the right part or buying a part that does not fit the motorcycle. Because of the similar basic shapes of the parts, it is easy to overlook the details that separate the Benly and Dream models, especially with parts like front fenders, headlight shells, seats and suspension items. 

If you wade into the waters of Vintage Hondas, arm yourself with a copy of the parts manuals or go on-line to view microfiche images related to your new purchase. I often use for quick viewing. CMS has something beyond 50,000 models of motorcycles on microfiche for checking illustrated parts drawings and current part numbers.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver