Honda QA50 KO Historyby Jerry Romick
Japanese motorcycle manufacturers were the first to mass produce minibikes, small displacement motorcycles that often had automatic clutches. Honda was among the leaders in the 1960s, the earliest years of the minibike craze. Honda's models had engines equipped with overhead cams capable of reaching 9,000 rpm. Honda introduced the QA50 series of minibikes in the U.S. in 1970.
The earliest minibikes were made by do-it-yourself mechanics in the 1930s. Most of these early, one-of-a-kind minibikes were fashioned from bicycle frames and small gasoline powered engines. By the early 1960s, Japanese manufacturers were developing minibike design and engaged in mass production. With the increased power, reliability and availability that the Japanese minibikes provided, the popularity of minibikes exploded.
Early Honda Minibikes
Honda produced a 50 cc minibike, the Z100, in 1961 for use in the Honda Tama Tech amusement park. Riders reportedly appeared simian while on the Z100 and the minibike was nicknamed the Honda Monkey. Honda modified the original Z100 for street use and dubbed it the CZ100 in 1963. The Monkey underwent further modifications for 1967 and Honda released it as the Z50M. For 1969, the bike underwent further improvements and released as the Z50A Mini-Trail in the U.S. and the Monkey in the rest of the world. In 1970, Honda released an off-road version for the U.S. market dubbed the QA50.
The Honda QA50 K0
Honda marketed the QA50 series as a youth model minibike. It featured patented Swivel-Lok handlebars that folded down so the bike would fit in the trunk of the family car. Honda dubbed the debut model of the QA50 series the K0. It was available from 1970 through 1972. The QA50 K0 had an OHV, single cylinder, 49 cc engine with an automatic clutch and two-speed transmission. The K0 was available in three colors, Gypsy Yellow, Sprout Green and Scarlet Red.
Later Model Honda QA50 Minibikes
For model years 1973 through 1974, Honda re-dubbed each year's QA50 as the K1, K2 and K3. The only differences between model years were the colors offered. In 1973, the QA50 K1 was available in Hawaiian Blue Metallic and Candy Ruby Red. The 1974 QA50 K2 came in one color, Candy Orange. The final year for the QA50, 1975, saw the K3 in Mars Orange.
Jerry Romick has worked in radio and television for more than 30 years, often contributing to radio publications and websites. He is also an avid motorcyclist who has written about motorcycles for sites such as AllAboutBikes and PowerSportsTV. Romick holds a Bachelor of Science in communications from West Liberty State College.