Honda MT250 Elsinore

This is the story of a bike that I always wanted...


As anyone reading this will no doubt have experienced, over the years you see and lust after a lot of vehicles, sometimes the dream is fulfilled, other times not so much. For many years I really wanted an Audi Quattro, but it was either too expensive, and then when I could afford one, too much work was needed on the ones I could find. Eventually I leap frogged the Quattro entirely as they were suddenly cheaper than my budget, so I missed out. (Ok, yes now they are still cool, but I dislike the interior colours and to be honest an Imprezza is a better car yada yada). That sort of story is just life for those of us who love cars and bikes, and it’s happened to me on numerous occasions with too many makes and models, but it wasn’t really like that with the MT250 as I could never find one to buy. Let me explain...


Back when I was a kid growing up just south of Amsterdam I had a Honda MT50. It was a tuned bike and lots of fun, but even tuned up it wasn’t much of a powerhouse and back then young lads spoke in hushed voices about the ‘amazing 250 version’, even though none of us had actually see one. Later in life I found out about the fabled MT250, it was much older than I expected but it did have direct MX (CR) lineage and was one of the earliest Honda two stroke models as well as being a cool early Enduro bike. What’s not to like?!


Of course when the chance came along, I had to have one...

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I had always planned on re-using as many of the old parts as possible. I know you can get quite a few bits of repro stuff for these bikes as Honda shared its parts with so many models back then, but I wanted to use the OEM and original MT stuff if I had or could find. Sadly that meant searching through my stack of parts a lot of the time, then cleaning it all up and making something work again, that all takes so much time but it is worth it... Examples of that have been the indicators and the cables, both took hours when I could have hit ebay and bought brand new reproductions and they would have fitted right on... ahh well, at least I’m using some of my stash of parts!


The engine went in with no problems, but it still really needs painting to be a full restoration, and the colour would need to be mixed, so I’ve left it like they do with old house restoration, i.e. you can see what has been changed. The motor has been fully rebuilt with new seals and bearings. While locating engine bearings were fine, I did struggle to locate the quite hard to find small end bearing, luckily my diligence paid off.


Wiring was a mess that took a day to sort out with adding the missing connectors or swapping better ones in after a huge clean up and re-taping session, and also work out what went where when I got it back on the bike. NOS looms are long NLA and no one does an aftermarket loom for these machines.


I did have to buy some new parts. Not least the handlebars (those fitted were twisted and only used initially on the build to work stuff, thats why they appear in the early pics), front indicator stems, levers (many parts came from Honda as there were cheap enough).


Amusingly, for such a long time this bike existed in my life as ‘just a frame’ with the rest of the parts safely ensconced in boxes, that for a while it seemed bizarre to see a second MT in my garage that I was forced into doing double takes! I fixed the issue by selling the other bike when I realised I just didn’t have the time to restore two MTs, I was sad to see it go though.


Oh and yes... in some of the pics you can see that the bike has got a mismatch of wheels on it. I have two sets of rims for this one and the alloy rims with the dirt tyres were on my other MT. The front end was also swapped around while it was being fully restored. This meant that the front wheel got moved over but the back took me longer to do. Confusing to readers I am sure, but made sense while I was doing it...

I fitted the CR250M top end that I had rebored to a new Wiseco piston and it was onto fitting up the Bassani pipe... It fitted pretty well but as ever there was a bit of messing with some of the fittings.


If I shave the fins slightly this would fit better... but could you bring yourself to do that to a CR cylinder head? I couldn’t....

A lot of people ask about the rear shock absorbers. These are know as Red Wing Hammerheads and have 'made in Japan' cast into the reservoir, and I have to say they are really quite nicely made for an old shock. They have a reservoir of fluid in those large tanks which has fins for air cooling, how '70s trick'! Actually you can hear the fluid if you shake them.


I think they were a 60's/70's thing and were used on Bultaco/OSSA MX’ers and probably others of that ilk. Recently some one found a bunch of them and sold them as NOS parts as there a spate of them on ebay for a while. I also saw that people have rebuild kits for them as well, which is cool going forward.


These are very long shocks, the MT sits with the frame suspended really high as it has an early CR derived frame Ok don’t worry this is still a 70’s designed dirt bike and the seat isn’t “high”, but the suspension travel is long. The MT needs the longest version of these Hammerheads shocks, part number MX 360 which translates to 36inches.


I’ve not tried them yet in anger, but they seem nice quality and were better than the old Konis that were on frame when I got it. Those were an inch to short and had the bike falling over every 5mins even without the engine weight in the roller... hmm, you’ve gotta love a half restored bike sold quickly by any (D)PO!

A simple fix for the rear mount was achieved with an old exhaust bracket and a jubilee clip, this proved surprisingly solid actually! And the design has been kept pending me manning up on the fin cutting decision...

Missing parts were the bane of this bike’s build as trying to find quality parts and NOS Honda stock became a chore. I finally tracked down a NOS clutch cable by buying a CR250 version and the slowly filing down the engine end lever pin as the CR clutch has a larger fixing. If the engine was apart and I was doing this again I would probably drill out the lever holes of course, but that was not an option with the engine built and in the frame.


I also fitted a new front brake switch along with new levers, new pins and new covers, all available cheaply enough from Honda. In fact Honda has been great for the parts it does supply for these bikes, it’s just a nightmare to dig for the parts when it comes those that are NLA.


Around this time I worked through the best of my petcocks and built up a decent one that didn’t leak. Actually, I could have cheaply bought a new one from Honda, but where’s the fun in that?!


I will admit that I departed from my “All OEM Honda” policy and fitted a set of DT200R footpegs that I had on the shelf finally after blasting and painting them up as they provided a stable platform and looked just like the EU style off road pegs you could buy from Honda for dirt use - the originals are rubber stubs, great for road, but very slippy when wet off road.

Like most restorations looks can be a bit deceptive... In the photo above while the bike looks complete, it still needs a carb and mounts to make the carb fit, a modded airbox lid (needed as the filter design is an old style road bike oval type not an off road dome shape) and the exhaust being put on properly

I’ve never posted much about these bikes on the forums, and I don’t really know why... I really love the look of them and I originally got two of them in a deal with a couple of Yamaha DT200Rs that I traded. The original and unrestored one was sold, which was a shame as I had enough parts to restore it including some really hard to find items, but time and other projects just got in the way.

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For those wanting to know the obvious visual differences between the CR and MT 250 cylinders, other than the porting, here is a short guide:


1, The CR cylinder has 4 thin studs to the head to hold the compression, the MT has only one.


2, The intake on the CR cylinder has 4 bolts and is rectangular, on the MT is oval-ish and has 2 bolts.


The 4 main studs and the right side exhaust exit are the same, the MT came from the 73/74 CR engine of course.


The CR head does not have cut fins for an up-n-over pipe, as 73/74 CR pipes were underslung.

This info is good to know if tackling a ‘70s Honda restoration. Don’t always buy the ebay parts, check the online parts sellers as well, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.



Specifications:


The CR250 engine upgrades lifted the power to around double of what the original MT250 had, making a great fun road bike, woods machine or maybe a VMX contender!


Engine:

  1. Fully rebuilt MT250 engine with all new bearings, seals and gaskets

  2. Crank checked and proved true

  3. Re-bored 1974 CR250 barrel with new Wiseco piston and new small end bearing

  4. Honda CR250 1974 head - fins uncut

  5. Original OEM Honda CR250 1974 inlet manifold (OEM is very hard to find now)

  6. Mikuni VM34 carb - CR would run a 36, but with the pipe and its road use, 34 was deemed correct

  7. Working 2 Stoke oil pump still present and cleaned up ready for use including throttle cable connection, but bike running premix.

  8. Brand new Uni-filter with cut down airbox lid

  9. Superb condition and fully repainted Bassani MT250 pipe - VERY RARE!

  10. Rare brown Engine paint is good condition for year apart from clutch cover which was been painted black previously. Only swapped as the original magnesium part leaked through pinhole corrosion due to condensation from sitting over the years


Chassis:

  1. Fully repainted and re-stickered bodywork and frame parts (including tank, guards, airbox, rear hoop, light/clock bracket, swingarm etc etc)

  2. Superb condition forks with great chrome (very hard to find)

  3. Fantastic condition seat base (impossible to find) with good foam and new cover

  4. Brand new Honda NOS CR250 clutch cable - last NOS original Honda that I could find in the world!

  5. Brand new NOS Honda swingarm collar (one of the last pair on the planet! Click here to see my parts ad if you need the other one!) complete with brand new modern ‘uprated’ (self lubricating) bronze bushings (OEM was plastic!)

  6. Brand new bars

  7. Brand new old stock (and very trick) Red Wing Hammerhead rear shock absorbers

  8. Brand new battery

  9. Brand new grips

  10. Brand new chain

  11. Many many brand new small parts (levers, lever covers, pins, bolts, brake switches etc etc)

... And much much more!


Many Rare & Hard to find OEM MT250 parts including:

  1. Tool tray and Tool tray cover - When did you last see a set of those!

  2. Chain guard

  3. Chain roller bracket

  4. Original mudflap

  5. Original kill switch

  6. Original rubber exhaust mounts

  7. Original plastic inner mudguards

  8. Original and nice condition rear light and bracket

  9. Original rear brake cable

  10. Original side panel

  11. Original undamaged engine side cover, points inspection cover and oil pump cover

  12. Original tools! Yes seriously.... see the photo!

  13. Original & working ignition and seat lock and brand new OEM Honda keys

... and many others!


Of course.... Everything worked... Indicators, brake switches, lights, horn etc etc.

Throughout this restoration I was musing just how many of the parts for these bikes are still available.


This was mainly because Honda plundered its parts bin to build all of its bikes back in the day, so if you need to locate something like a lever you can be almost sure it’s the same lever used on most of the range for the same sizes of bikes for at least three years either side of the one you have.

Ok, yes, some things were specific like looms, tanks, bodywork and cables, but many of the smaller parts like the Honda specific bolts, footpegs, instruments, grommets, wheels, fuel taps and even many engine parts were used on multiple bikes and many are still out there in dealers, many can even be ordered new.

When I first got these bikes I went thru all the boxes (there were many! including 7 engines!) and sorted out a list of what I needed which included a set of new shocks which I got when I was in the US on holiday (the NOS alloy hammerheads are just sculpture!) and only needed a small amount of grinding to fit on the bike. The swingarm also got one of the last two (I bought both) inner collars and a set of top class modern bronze bushings - I still cant believe the originals were plastic, no wonder they wear so fast!


I also got a CR top end when in the USA which was known as ‘the upgrade’ for these bikes back in the day. Bear in mind that the MT250 is a claimed 16bhp and the CR has been proved to be over 10 more than that. To be honest this engine is not at all bad in MT form, I think it’s more like a ‘pokey modern 125’ really. It revs to about 8000rpm and is noisy and old school with it’s power as you would expect, ie. its peaky and fun, and slow to come back to idle with the heavy flywheel keeping the motor spinning.


I don’t really how the CR will be, but of course more powerful i’d think due to the porting... and losing the boat anchor OEM pipe since it’s has now been replaced with a MT fitment Bassani pipe which was a good upgrade back in the day. This pipe would have been more like 20bhp on the original MT and of course I can just fit that if I don’t like the CR top end when it’s done.

After months of messing about I finally gave up on the modern tapered steering head bearings and instead refitted the (still good) originals, sigh... seems no one had bearings that actually fitted my MT who knows why?! So since I had most of the other parts, I spent a few days building up what I had and then had to clean up and lube old cables and make up a throttle cable from parts of other dead MT ones I have in my spares, I have boxes of the stuff! I kept surprising myself at what I did have which made the missing parts all the more annoying.