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

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