Honda's current global success is down to meticulous research and planning, but in the early days luck also played a vital role. Take the ubiquitous "Monkey bike" which is not simply a Honda icon but has been copied by many other manufacturers over the years.
By the early 60’s, Honda had produced immense numbers of Cub step throughs. Yet when they thought about creating a fun bike for kids to get to grips with the world of two wheels at the Tama Tech amusement park in Tokyo a conservatively styled commuter bike did not light anyone’s fire – but the Z100 did!
The Z100 was actually a prototype minibike which was introduced in 1961 purely for use at the amusement park. In truth it was never meant to be mass produced and sold to consumers and was more a bit of domestic corporate flag waving than anything more ambitious. However, the success of the Z100 prototype – and the enthusiasm shown by everyone that rode it - convinced Honda to produce and sell a minibike to consumers.
In terms of ease of operation and size the bike was clearly built small to accommodate children but it also appealed to adults who enthusiastically rode them making it a Honda pleasing family affair. The model soon came to be affectionately known as a 'Monkey bike” because most adults looked large in comparison and looked (perhaps unkindly) like a Monkey on the bike.
Honda instantly recognized the popularity of the minibike and they decided to manufacture a street-legal version. In 1963 they released the CZ100 in the Japanese market making the same model available across Europe the following year.
The fact is that this handful of early Z100 prototypes proved the minibike concept could be successful as a niche product and has led many years of Honda Minibike production that continues to this day proving that even huge corporations get lucky sometimes…
issued: Monday, December 12, 2022
updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2022
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