Sunday, May 15, 2016

The two ends of small: Hot Wheels 1985 Honda CRX and Honda Z50 Monkey

Hot Wheels is not known for making small vehicles, but then again they have done a few: the Go Kart that I still like, motorcycles, and a few odds and ends.  The latest for 2016 come from Honda with the updated 1985 CRX and literally the first smallest bike for Hot Wheels, the Z50 Monkey.

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First, the CRX gets a major redesign as the casting gets migrated to the mainline where plastic base is always required.  The CRX that has been used since the Hot Ones debut in 2012 has a three-piece construction: upper metal body, lower plastic trim, and metal base.  This design worried collectors when they heard of the CRX coming to the mainline in 2016: was it going to be mostly plastic?  Turns out designer Ryu Asada has been listening and addressed those concerns with an all-metal body that now includes the lower trim as well.  In turn the base is now plastic.  Asada also adjusted the front grille to eliminate the unnecessary gap and make the front-end more uniform.  The gap between the lower grille and Honda logo is much cleaner and more noticeable, while the headlights now are the only piece that is part of the windows (the side maker lights are now metal as well).  The lower bumper with larger scoops and spoiler that is part of the base still continues, as does the gap in the hood to allow air to flow through the radiator.  The flared fenders still continue on the sides and the graphics on this first mainline release have been toned down to give more visual emphasis on the new body updates.

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The rear still has the taillight bar, dual exhausts, and meshed vents to exhaust air out of the rear motor.  That is right the CRX is still rear-engine with a SOHC I-4 that is likely a 1.8L from the Honda family.  The details of the engine and surrounding components still remain, but the timing belt cover that was once part of the metal body is now plastic; the old rivet post has moved inside more to just ahead of the engine and attaching to the roof where the hood scoop is, making a seamless snorkel for the air cleaner.  The interior is unchanged with sport buckets with 5-point seatbelt harness, right-hand drive layout, and dashboard with auxiliary gauges on the otherwise flat upper portion of the dashboard.

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On the other side of small is the Honda Z50 Monkey.  This was Honda's affordable and compact way to get around the city.  The Z-series of minibikes were designed to be small enough to carry almost anywhere and provide basic transportation in tight urban cities where a larger car would not fit.  The Monkey name came from the height of the tall handlebars on this small bike that when a rider sits on it and grabs the handle bars it makes them look like a monkey.  These small bikes come in various models and designs over the years and are still produced today, though more for recreational than practical use.  The engine four-stroke, overhead camshaft 50CC one-cylinder motor that produces an estimated 50 hp with a three-speed manual.  But with a top speed of 30 mph this is not a bike for the road!

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It is the smallest bike produced by Hot Wheels, though by size its not: it's as tall as a jacked-up 4x4 truck!  The tall handlebars are made of rubber and flex so that they don't break off to easily.  The headlight is the largest for a Hot Wheels motorbike and attaches to the forks and front fender.  The fuel tank is metal and is nicely done in red with the Honda wing logo.  The seat after that is plastic and enough for one rider, while the shelf over the rear fender can secure small cargo.  Below the shelf at the back is the center brake light, plate, and signal lights.  The wheels are the wide 3-spoke wheels from other Hot Wheels motorcycles, yet they seem too big for this casting and take the whole bike out-of-proportion (not like it isn't already).  Despite the lack of painted areas the prime of this casting is the detailed engine area.  On the left side is the engine block, clutch cover, drive chain, oil pan, kickstand, and rear strut.  The right side has the carburetor, rear strut, brake disc at rear, and the exhaust pipe that whips up over the engine.

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These two Honda's are the smallest, but in the land of Hot Wheels they might not look the smallest!

Update:  The second color of the Monkey, in yellow, is much harder to find than the red version for some reason.  This was the only one that I found in stores.  Hopefully the dark blue version for 2017 is more easier to find.

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