The Honda CB750 was the bike which pretty much finished off the old Brit bike industry.
With four cylinders, overhead cams, a disc brake and decent reliability, the CB750 made the leaky twins from Triumph, BSA and Norton look like the old pre-war designs they were.
Dominating the UK superbike market in the 1970s, the CB750 went through many model changes and updates, eventually becoming a retro style machine in the 1990s.
Honda sold many thousands of CB750 fours and it became the foundation of an entire range of similar bikes, covering 350cc-1100cc for over two decades. A true classic.
October 1968 was one of the great landmarks in modern biking. At the Tokyo Show Honda lifted the veil to show the world its latest product, and into a world of big bikes dominated by twin cylinders, push rods, kickstarts and drum brakes stepped the CB750. Four cylinders, overhead camshaft, five-speed gearbox, electric starting and disc front brake. With Honda’s reputation for building reliable bikes already well established, the world knew that this was a quantum leap for the road rider.
Honda’s four cylinder racers had dominated the racing world earlier in the decade until they dropped out of the Grand Prix scene in 1967 to concentrate research and development efforts on a new generation of road bikes. Here was the result, that same sophistication, available in a road model that came with all the user-friendly fittings the Japanese were famous for. It reached Britain early in 1969 and was the runaway star of the Brighton Show, with a price tag of £650.
You got a lot for your money. The transverse four cylinder engine revved beyond 8,500 rpm and gave you 67 bhp to play with, or it would purr along at little more than tickover revs in its high gears, if you wanted to potter down the back lanes. Nonbelievers looked in vain for oil leaks of any sort as the handsome all alloy engine stayed absolutely clean. Electric starting was totally reliable, as were the indicators, fed by a big 14ah battery with a beefy alternator to keep it up to the job.
Four silencers emphasised to those left behind on the road that this was something new. It was never going to outperform the agile British down a winding road, not with a kerb weight of 517lbs (235kg) and suspension that tended to wilt in the heat of hard use. But the CB750 arrived in the late 60s, when Britain’s Motorway network was growing and a new type of bike was needed. When serious racing men were on board factory prepared bikes, the model showed its breeding with victories like Dick Mann’s in the 1970 Daytona 200.
In a production life that lasted until 1979, the 750 went through many alterations, and over 600,000 were sold all over the world. The engine would cover huge mileages if ridden and serviced properly, and could stand a lot of neglect. The original Honda UK show bike was found in the 80s in a very sad state, with 75,000 miles on the clock, but it still ran. Thoroughly restored by a knowledgeable new owner, it lived in his lounge for years until a tempting offer from a collector whisked it away to a quiet life.
Many good working examples have been brought into the UK from America, where bikes tend to cover low mileages and the atmosphere in the warmer states is kind to chrome. With the Honda company’s sympathetic approach to producing spares for older models, it remains a realistic favourite with the burgeoning Classic Japanese movement.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda cb750.
Engine………Straight four-cylinder, single overhead camshaft, all alloy, cc 736
Claimed power (bhp)………67bhp at 8,000rpm
Compression ratio ………9.0 to 1
Transmission………Five-speed constant mesh gearbox, in unit with engine. Primary and secondary drive by chain
Welded tubular steel duplex cradle
Telescopic front forks, swinging arm rear with twin suspension units
Single hydraulic disc front brake (twin discs on F1 version) and single leading shoe drum at rear
Top speed………125 mph
Current price………£4,000 – 4,500 for a prize example