Homage to Honda history classic blast from the past

David Silver's favourite bike in his collection is a 1952 Honda Benly J-type.

David Silver's favourite bike in his collection is a 1952 Honda Benly J-type. - Credit: Andy russell

Motoring editor Andy Russell travelled back in time with a visit to the David Silver Honda Collection for a nostalgic reunion with some of his past motorcycles.

It's a homage to Honda, a two-wheeled trip down motorcycling memory lane and now the David Silver Honda Collection is open to the public.

The motorcycle museum, featuring more than 150 classic Honda bikes produced between the 1951 and 1991, is based in a new purpose-built, two-storey showroom. It tells the story of the motorcycle business which, founded by Soichiro Honda in 1946, had become the world's largest motorcycle producer by the end of the Fifties.

The David Silver Honda Collection starts with the Cub F-type motorised bicycle and finishes with the CBR900RR Fireblade – a tribute to the period of Soichiro Honda.

In between are Hondas of all shapes and sizes from single to six cylinders, two-stroke and four-stroke set against a 100m timeline display along the walls, providing a year-by-year history of Honda motorcycles. TV monitors show videos of past Honda factory tours and other interesting films.

Fifties

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From the Fifties are first Dream models and early Benly range – from the word Benri, meaning convenient in Japanese – of practical commuter bikes.

And the Super Cub – the world's most produced motorised vehicle boasting the protection of a scooter, handling of a motorcycle and dependability and economy of four-stroke power. It was a phenomenon that has seen more than 80 million built.

Sixties

Move into the Sixties, with the advertising slogan 'You meet the nicest people on a Honda' attracting new buyers to dealers, and you go from the tiny CZ100 Monkey bike through to the 1968 Dream CB750 Four – the first 'superbike'. The modern designs, bright colours and simplicity attracted commuter and sport riders. From 50cc mopeds to 450cc sports bikes and from on-road to off-road designs, there was a model to suit all tastes.

Seventies

The 1970s Honda range was exceptional – a new decade, new models and a new hi-tech era.

Honda research and development worked overtime on new engine configurations and high levels of sports riding specification – in-line fours and sixes, V-twins, flat-fours and automatics and on and off-road, two, three and four-wheel bikes that were practical and fun.

It was the age of the flagship Gold Wing touring range and six-cylinder CBX.

Eighties

New V-fours and DOHC in-line fours dominated the 1980s and V-twins went from workhorse CX500 to the turbo-powered CX650T and on to a new range of VT500 to VT1100 custom and tourers as Honda increased its market share across the world.

Mopeds and scooters remained dominant while the off-road sports market was well served with new CR, TL and XR models. By the end of the decade Honda was working on the CBR900RR Fireblade, a highly-successful super-sports model that takes Honda from 1991 to today.

The new venture runs alongside David Silver Spares which he started 30 years ago, supplying new old stock parts to Honda owners around the world.

Starting with a few hundred pounds worth of obsolete petrol tanks and mudguards bought from Honda dealers and distributors, it now carries parts for more than 1,000 different models from the early 1960s through to 1999.

He had 15 old Hondas on display, and also restored them for sale, but it grew considerably in 2013 when he bought a private collection of Hondas from Pennsylvannia which accounts for about half the current exhibits. The 1950s bikes were from another collection in Europe.

'Since then I have gone round collecting old bikes and many people offered us their bikes for sale,' he explained. 'The thing has snowballed and people just contacted us.

'You are really looking at pieces of history. They are all in their original condition and that is what makes them unique.'

Such is the quality of the collection that some of the motorcycles have only a couple of hundred miles on the clock.

His favourite is a 1952 Benly J-type – not a great success but full of innovative ideas developed for future Honda motorcycles.

'The aim is promotion for our main parts business and hopefully it will inspire people to do up old Hondas,' he added.

It's not the end of the road for his collection as he is looking to go right back to the beginning with the first Hondas from the Forties.

The David Silver Honda Collection at Unit 14, Masterlord Industrial Estate, Station Road, Leiston is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturdays 9am to 4pm.

Admission is £10 for adults, £5 for over 65s with accompanied children up to 16 free. Telephone 01728 833020 for group bookings.