Home » An Art Car And A Monkey Bike: 1995 Ford Ranger vs 1969 Honda Z50A

An Art Car And A Monkey Bike: 1995 Ford Ranger vs 1969 Honda Z50A

Sbsd 5 23 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we explore the stuff no one’s dreams are made of. Today we have a pickup truck so bizarre that only a vintage mini-bike could possibly be paired with it. I’ll explain in a minute; first let’s finish up with yesterday’s collegiate clunkers:

Screen Shot 2023 05 22 At 5.03.59 Pm

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Fifty-five whole votes, huh? Well, that’s about fifty-six more than I expected it to get. I never said they would all be even matchups. Those few who voted for the Jeep either have a fetish for rust that would make even David blush, or were somehow wronged once by a Dodge van and can’t let go.

Today’s matchup is weird. But it’s not entirely my fault; we have established a tradition of sharing automotive classified ads in the Autopian Slack main editorial channel, and once in a while one comes along that simply must be shared with a larger audience. (And sometimes David buys them.) Yesterday, our east coast buddy Stephen Walter Gossin shared an ad for a Ford Ranger that demanded further attention. It’s not really a truck anymore, as such; it’s art. Like a Picasso or a Garfunkel. Certain comparisons, therefore, seem appropriate: a nice Chesterfield or an Ottoman, perhaps. I thought about subjecting you all to another K-car, but the only one I found on short notice was too far gone even for this column. Then I thought: How about a Monkey instead?

1995 Ford Ranger – $1,500

00x0x L5n9mc5xpfh 0t20ci 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Jacksonville, NC

Odometer reading: 206,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs great, but doesn’t appear very roadworthy

We all know and love the Ford Ranger. It’s the little truck our buddy had in high school, who took us out to do donuts in a field until he hit that tree stump he didn’t know was there. It’s the truck you always see at Home Depot on Saturday afternoons being grossly overloaded with bricks or bags of gravel or something and then somehow lumbering out of the parking lot on the bump stops like it’s no big deal. For damn near three decades it was America’s Small Truck, much more so than Chevy’s S-10 or any import challengers.

ADVERTISEMENT

00x0x Voarvsze57 0t20ci 1200x900

But if you came here expecting to see an honest little work truck, you’re in for a surprise. This Ranger has been modified and decorated to within an inch ot its life. The doors are gone, as is the tailgate (or maybe it’s hiding under all that fiberglass). The top has been chopped, and the windshield is missing. There is what appears to be tennis racquet grip wrap around the A-pillars. The wheel arches and bed sides have been re-shaped. There are no seats, only an ornate rug that covers the entire inside of the cab. And I don’t know what the hell is going on with the back window. [Editor’s Note: Something triforce-related, maybe? – JT]

00e0e Jqxgyemzxgs 0t20ci 1200x900

And then there’s the paint. Lace work and metalflake are everywhere, in many colors, and portraits of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink and Von Dutch’s flying eyeball adorn the hood and roof, respectively. It’s well-executed, but there’s no real theme; it looks like someone’s painting practice. And maybe that’s what it was; the seller does say that it began as a father and son project. Maybe this truck was just a canvas for trying out ideas.

01212 4o04xs6byjy 0t20ci 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

If so, more power to them, I guess. I never have quite understood art cars, but I do love the old ’60s and ’70s show rods, and I can see some hints of an homage to them here. But I don’t think this was planned out very well; I think it just sort of happened. It could be “finished,” I suppose, but it would take a lot of work.

00y0y I0kiizcclvv 0ci0t2 1200x900

Mechanically, it sounds fine. The 2.3 liter four in the Ranger is as tough as they come, and 200,000 miles is a walk in the park for one. The truck also has new wheels and tires all around, though I don’t understand the choice of wheels; they really don’t fit the rest of the theme. Such as it is.

1969 Honda Z50A – $2,400

00t0t Kpsihu9wwfj 0ci0ra 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 49 cc overhead valve single, three-speed semi-automatic, RWD

ADVERTISEMENT

Location: Beaverton, OR

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Yep!

Honda’s Z series of minibikes came out in the early ’60s and almost immediately became known as Monkey bikes because of the ridiculous appearance of a full-grown adult riding one. Astonishingly, these tiny 49cc wonders are street-legal, despite having a top speed of maybe 30 miles an hour. A four-stroke single-cylinder engine drives a three-speed gearbox through a centrifugal clutch, so there’s no hand-operated clutch lever, but you still have to shift with your foot.

00u0u Irokriklx1g 0ip0ci 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

The Z50A is a trail bike, but going off-road has got to be murder on your tailbone. There is no rear suspension, only that big squishy seat. Since a Honda Monkey is one of exactly two motorcycles I have ever tried to ride in my life (the other being a ’70s Kawasaki LTD 440), I can tell you that it’s not a place you want to spend a lot of time sitting in any case. Fun, yes, but not comfortable. I’m six feet tall and lanky; I must have looked like Ichabod Crane on this thing.

00f0f 1kfl6dlngkf 0jh0t2 1200x900

This Z50 has just been restored, and the seller says it runs great and is ready to go. The seat has been reupholstered, in plaid like it’s supposed to be, and the whole bike looks great. I could see this as a fantastic way to get around a campground in style, and without making annoying two-stroke noises at everyone.

00d0d 7ukdeyowtl6 0ci0rt 1200x900

I’m not a bike guy; I have no need for it; I’d be terrified to ride it anywhere there is any other sort of larger vehicle around, but I can’t deny there’s a small part of me that’s drawn to this thing. It’s just so dang cute. I mean, come on – like the song says, haven’t you always wanted a Monkey?

ADVERTISEMENT

So that’s that. I hope I was able to make your Tuesday morning a little more surreal, and entertaining. We’ll go back to less bizarre modes of transport tomorrow, I promise. But for now, if you had to choose, would it be the haphazardly modified Ford, or the miniature Honda bike?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
46 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Phyrkrakr
Phyrkrakr
1 year ago

Gimme the Ranger, honestly. The only real irreversible changes to the thing are solved by a cabin swap, which, in a body on frame vehicle, is a pain the ass but not impossible. And a 1995 Ranger is still simple enough that pulling off the cab and rerunning all of the systems is at least possible. Then you have a truck, instead of a toy.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
1 year ago

My God. The only way to top this Shitbox Showdown is to put the Mutt Cutts van up against the minibike they traded it for, from Dumb and Dumber

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

And suddenly this match up makes much more sense to me.

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
1 year ago

Um neither? lol

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

I’m a Ranger fan (have owned two), but give me the bike.
That’s not art.

Marc Miller
Marc Miller
1 year ago

Like my momma used to say about sadly colored things (like that Ranger): “That looks like something you see right before you throw up.” The Honda for me!

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
1 year ago

I’ll take the truck, I could really use a new rug to tie the room together.

My last one went missing under mysterious and confusing circumstances.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 year ago

Steal all my money because I’d take the Monkey, even though it’s about four times what I’d actually pay for that one.

I would love to do a custom-bodied vehicle eventually. However, the Ranger has gone in an entirely different direction that I ever would have, and I don’t have the space to store the Ranger until I have time to strip all the garbage off of that frame. I never liked Ed Roth or Von Dutch even a little.

TL;DR: I’d rather grossly overpay for the Monkey bike than look at that Ranger in my driveway while it waits for redemption.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 year ago

Neither of these deserve a vote. I will abstain.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

I voted for the Honda as I had the Sears version of one. As a kid, it only out classed by go karts.

I did hit a tree with it (ouch) and the motor decided to self destruct which end the time with bike. Have not ridden one since.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

Yes, I have always wanted a monkey.

Max Johnson
Max Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

not a K car?

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Johnson

A nice Reliant automobile!

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

Possibly some Dijon ketchup and/or fruit roll-ups.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

All of the photos of the truck are relatively close-up; there’s nothing that shows the whole thing. That may be a metaphor for the project itself — all of the details were carefully executed, but nobody was considering the big picture.

I am a hobby photographer, and I enjoy viewing other photographers’ work. When I see a particularly compelling photo, I am often tempted to purchase a print of it. However, I’d feel weird about displaying a photo that wasn’t my own in my home. I suspect the same is true for art cars — while this truck would certainly get lots of attention at a car show, it’s not my work, and I’d feel like a phony for showing it off. I wouldn’t be able to answer any questions about the process or even discuss the theme (if there is one). It would probably be a lot of fun to talk to the artist and his son, but I wouldn’t want to own it.

But a $900 premium for a motorcycle that looks like a toy? I’m not a motorcycle guy, so I don’t know bikes, but $2400 feels steep for what you’re getting.

I’m going to go with the truck because the surf board is included. I could turn that board into a fun outdoor table or bar… or even just prop it up in the corner of a room or hang it from the ceiling of my garage as a decorative piece. Then I’d donate the truck to a community college; auto shop classes could use the mechanical parts as learning aids, and art classes could go at the exterior and interior bits. That course of action seems like it’d bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people between today’s two choices.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
1 year ago

Somebody’s mother is going to be happy when that Ranger sells. (and their neighbors, too)

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
1 year ago

This is why we have HOAs.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

like the song says, haven’t you always wanted a Monkey?

Only if I had a million dollars.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Either way you’re going to be embarrassed driving/riding the Ford or the Honda (if you’re an adult, anyway). I had a collection of gum machine Rat Finks when I was a kid, so there was some nostalgia for the Ranger, but not enough. The Honda can always be passed off as a present to your children. Monkey me.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

like the song says, haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

Not really, but monkey bike, please.

The truck is no longer capable of doing truck things, and there is no need to sear my eyeballs on a daily basis. If the changes were only cosmetic they could be reversed pretty easily, but the chopped roof and missing (possibly unobtainable?) custom windshield are a smidge too far.

The prices for monkey bikes – and basically all small vintage off-roaders – are just goofy but that is the state of the market. This example does look quite nice in most areas, though I take issue with someone calling a bike “restored” when the shifter is still clearly bent, the engine cover behind it shows damage, and the aluminum cover on the right side shows pitting.

Dave_Hudson has posted the link to Captain Slow reassembling a monkey bike, so I don’t need to do it. 🙂

Side note: a Kawasaki KZ440 LTD would be a 1980s model. The small ones were 400s through 1979, and they got a bump in displacement for 1980. However, they still looked like 1970s bikes so it’s an easy mistake to make. 🙂

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
1 year ago

I’ll take the micro-machine Honda. Perfect for 3-Day Rock festivals.

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
1 year ago

I think I read that all of Ed Roth’s creations were horrible to drive. For this reason, I vote for the Ford.
Edit: StillNotATony’s comment came up same time as mine. I endorse it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Slower Louder
Turbeaux
Turbeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Slower Louder

On The Autopian podcast with Dave Shuten, Beau says that Dave doesn’t like him driving the art cars.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 year ago

Gimme that pit/camp bike all day every day.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 year ago

I voted Ranger.

I have no defense other than I went to art school and possibly may have a genetic affinity for badly conceived and executed projects (see yesterday’s super canoe).

10001010
10001010
1 year ago

The Ranger would involve non-stop explanations of just what the hell it is.
The monkey bike would be a bucket of fun.
I’ll take the bike.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  10001010

Bucket of fun?
I mean, ‘barrel’ was right there.

come to think of it, I haven’t heard ‘barrel of monkeys’ in a couple decades…

David Hudson
David Hudson
1 year ago

I wonder if I’m first with this. Watch James May build one right here. Maybe not this exact model, but I don’t think they changed much:

https://youtu.be/joCG9w_3fKQ

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hudson

The one James reassembled had rear shocks in place of the hardtail frame, but you’re right, there aren’t a lot of major changes.

Max Johnson
Max Johnson
1 year ago

I had one of these little Honda’s back in my youth. Bought it out of an Auto trader. It wasnt in nearly as fine of shape, all the switchgear was gone, the fender had a big crack in it, etc but it ran when we went to buy it, and we got it for $75. That winter I learned about Bondo and basic motorcycle maintenance. I rode the wheels off that thing for a couple of years and sold it on down the line for $100. I’ve always wanted another. Funny thing happened about 10 years ago – the market for these skyrocketed. Now its nearly impossible to find one for UNDER $2400. Of course, those are all either in excellent original condition or have been extensively restored and they are all in much better condition than mine was, but it astounds me nonetheless

They are, without a doubt, an incredible amount of fun

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Jumping Jesus on a pogo-stick, wtf was that!?! Ugh.

The bike.

I guess.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago

Dead Milkmen reference will almost always get a like.

Tim Beamer
Tim Beamer
1 year ago

Ugh, none of the above…

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
1 year ago

I’m not a bike guy, but that doesn’t look like $2400 worth of motorcycle. However, I wouldn’t be able to show my face in that Ranger. Bike it is

46
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x