Honda’s CBX1000 is a six cylinder masterpiece of engineering cheek, 70s glamrock style and gas guzzling hedonism. It remains one of the few Honda motorbikes with real rebellion in its soul and attracts collectors and petrolheads to this day.
Alastair Walker looks back at the history of this iconic Superbike and offers some handy tips on collecting CBX sixes.
Honda CBX1000 Model History
Late 1977 saw bike journo’s gathered at Suzuka race circuit in Japan to test two significant new machines for Honda; the CX500 twin and the CBX1000Z. Both bikes had new features like Comstar alloy wheels, tubeless tyres and novel camshaft arrangements, but there’s no doubting which model became the more collectable – the CBX1000 was Honda’s last word on the cult of the Seventies Superbike and the word was; goodbye baby and Amen.
Not surprising really, given that the CBX could chunder fuel at 25mpg, rip the tread off its skinny Dunlop tyres in 1000 miles or so and stretch its drive chain until it flapped lower than Rod Stewart’s flares.
Yet even today, the CBX1000 has its fans who wouldn’t trade it for a `plastic rocket’ worth twice as much.
CBX1000 Z MODEL – Bruce CBX action.
The first CBX1000Z was launched in 1978 in the UK and other key markets. The two colour choices were candy apple red or metallic silver and the UK spec models can be quickly recognized by the slightly lower clip-on handlebars they sport, compared to the US and Canada models.
It’s rare now for any CBX1000Z to have its original exhaust, so check it completely and carefully if you’re thinking of buying one – if it is rusting away it will cost hundreds to replace – if you can find one at all.
Typical 6 into 1 systems from the era include Marshall or Jardine, whilst other bikes feature Pipemasters 6 into 6 systems, made in Australia. Whatever the replacement exhaust, the bike needs careful setting up of its six carbs if it is likely to run nicely at all well. My own bike had K & N filters fitted, which added another wriggle to the dodgy knack of starting the bike, especially after it had been unused for a few days.
Cold starting can be further hampered by the output from feeble OE battery. However, a battery from the Honda Gold Wing can fit perfectly into the space under the seat. One more tip; if you leave Z models parked on the side stand, with the fuel switched on, it can also flood the left side carb too.
If you’re trying to identify a genuine Z model, the spec should include all alloy, 5 spoke Comstar wheels – unpainted, not matt black ones – plus the correct decals on the gas tank and side panels. It should say Super Sport under the gas tank badge and CBX on the side panels. Also the tail piece should NOT have a cubby hole lid in it – those were on American A spec models and the Z model indicators have massive round orange lenses, not smaller square shaped ones.
The seat should have a quilted type section in the centre of it, plus a grab strap across it for the pillion, and a thin metal strip of trim along each side. If it looks different, it is a rebuilt or aftermarket seat. The original saddles tend to split along the seam of the quilted section, especially if the rider has a large rump.
The 105bhp engine (claimed) was good enough for about 125mph in the real world, although road test figures claimed it would do 135mph. Honda initially priced the bike at £2750 in the UK, but soon slashed the RRP as the Suzuki GS1000 began to outsell it easily.
Even at this age, a good, looked after CBX1000Z should accelerate well, revving cleanly through to 9,000rpm. Any `roughness’ or knocking noises at tickover may be due to the clutch, or more likely the carbs being out of balance, jetted incorrectly, or holding dirt inside them. It isn’t difficult to get the carbs set up correctly and any dyno shop should be able to help, but clearing them of 25 years worth of grunge can be very time consuming.
The camshafts are split in two, so effectively there are four cams, with a Hy-Vo type camchain in the middle of the motor and an Oldham coupling, plus a mini chain tensioner on top and the main camchain tensioner at the back of the cylinder block. There is potential for lots of top end problems, so be very careful to examine the engine and any service receipts when shopping for a used CBX1000.
The CBX is sensitive to a weak spark via its inadequate battery and this can cause starting problems, which in turn may cane the alternator and the starter motor – both ride piggyback behind the crank and run via chains.
PURELY COLLECTING EARLY Z MODELS
UK dealers at the time were selling CBXs for just under two grand and Honda provided them free to the TT travelling marshals for 1979 and 1980 TT races to try and promote the bike. An ex marshals bike might be worth more, if it’s been hoarded away for years.
Some motorcycle dealers gave up trying to sell them in the early 80s and stashed them away and insidebikes.com spoke to Mel Watkins from the International CBX Owners Association who says he knows of some UK dealers who recently sold mint examples – prices range from £6,000 – £12,000.
Insidebikes.com tracked down a Z series bike in New Zealand, which had just 1200kms on the clock and a good, traceable history. There are some extremely lovely Z model examples around. Collectors often have two, three or as many as ten CBXs – they are addictive and buying complete `cooking’ bikes as a `spares donor’ is not unusual.
So far as `famous’ owners go, I’m unaware if any rock stars owned one, although Keith Emerson is a good bet – he rode more bikes than Dick Emery back in the Seventies. Jon Pertwee, who played Dr Who back then also seemed to be a regular buyer/promoter of Honda bikes back in the late 70s. Phil Read featured in one Honda UK campaign claiming to personally own one. Checking V5 log books is good to do in any case when assessing an old bike, but whether a `celeb’ connection adds any value to the bike is debatable.
If you’re simply collecting, then the condition of the cycle parts, not the engine, should be your main priority. Engines can be re-built and nobody can see if the piston rings are pattern parts, or original. The sidepanels, tank, exhausts, shocks etc are all on view however. A non running CBX1000 should have its battery removed and the engine and exhausts filled with some lubricant to preserve it from corrosion, plus a vacuum bag helps. This is the kind of cosseted condition you should expect to find a real `minter’ to be in, so buy very, very carefully.
But there’s no doubt that an original 1978-80 CBX1000Z will hold its value and is rightly regarded as the best example of the entire series. It has slightly more power than later versions and the best overall styling, in my view. It can only appreciate in value – so long as you don’t ride it any distance. Selling prices are from £2000 for something rough to over £6,000 for a uniquely preserved/restored example.
CBX1000 A MODEL
All bike manufacturers faced criticism from the US government over exhaust emissions in the late 1970s, plus the German government announced its intention to ban bikes making more than 100bhp, so Honda rushed out a facelifted A model for 1980, but not for the UK market. Fact is, there were plenty of unsold 1978-79 models still in dealerships from the initial allocation of 2500 units.
The A model saw two colour options, glossy black and metallic silver, plus gained a few changes to tweak the bike’s handling, clutch and styling, as well as it’s emissions and power output.
Inside the engine the ignition timing and valve overlap was changed, so the bike breathed in a different, `lean burn’ kinda way. The oil cooler increased slightly in capacity. Power became less revvy, midrange was boosted a little bit, but the overall power dropped back to a claimed 95bhp. In reality, it was probably less than that, but still enough to overwhelm the chassis, despite a revamped swingarm being fitted.
The new rear end had FVQ shocks, with multiple adjustments on rebound and damping. The swinging arm pivot was strengthened, with needle roller bearings fitted instead of plastic bushes. It was better, but no JMC deep braced arm.
Meanwhile, at the front the forks received air damping assistance, which didn’t really make much difference. The Comstar wheels got reversed out matt black spokes too, plus the final drive chain was more substantial.
The A model also had a little storage area flap fitted to the tail piece section, complete with a steel cable lock. You definitely get bonus points if the bike still has this fitted, along with an owner’s handbook – unlikely after twenty odd years…
Mainland Europe market A series bikes had lower handlebars, whereas US bikes came with `cowhorn’ type bars, but there were lower handlebar kits available as a factory option in America, so don’t think it isn’t an original US spec bike just because it doesn’t have ape-hangers on it.
Prices should be less for the A series bikes, as the power is lower and the bike will never be as collectable as the Z series. That said, it is arguably nicer to ride and many bikes from the USA have had sheltered lives and may well run better, so long as no cack-handed imbecile has attempted to `tune-up’ the bike.
CBX1000 B AND C SERIES MODELS
For 1981 Honda decided to turn the bike into a tourer and painted it a dull John Major type of grey, added a massive fairing and new gas tank, seat, sidepanels, brakes, lights etc.
Dry weight went up by 54lbs, so even though Honda found some horsepower in the engine once again, the B and C models are slower, but that’s probably a good thing. The brakes are another definite improvement, featuring twin piston calipers and bigger, vented discs. The forks were also 2mm thicker.
The frame received some bracing work, but is essentially the same design, with the motor hanging from its spindly steel tubes. New footrest hangers, indicators, handlebar assembly, brake fluid reservoirs and tail light lens were shared with the CB900F2, which was launched at the same time. The 1100 Gold Wing also shared some common parts, should you be shopping around breakers yards for spares…
At the back, the CBX B and C models have the Pro-Link suspension, which basically works like a Moto X bike of the time, with a cantilever assembly at the bottom of the shock allowing some movement, as well as the usual spring rebound and oil damping. The B and C models have a longer wheelbase too, making the ride more stable, but probably slow steering too.
The B series had optional hard panniers, but the C series for 1982 had panniers as standard, along with a passenger grab rail. The paint scheme changed to pearl white, which was much more likely to appeal to North American buyers.
The last models are generally the cheapest to buy and the least likely to achieve future classic status. They are also outclassed as touring machines by cheap bikes like the Kawasaki GTS1000, or early BMW K100 series machines, which can easily be had for less cash. My personal opinion is that the B and C models are only worth having for spare parts if you are a CBX1000 collector.
The most collectable are the Moto Martin CBX machines, made from the early 1980s onwards in France. The Moto Martin models were built to order, the machine spec varied to owner’s wishes/budget. The Moto Martin CBX1000 was a beautiful lightweight bike, with stunning bodywork, better lighting and not much in the way of rider comfort. Well worth owning however and an appreciating classic – if the seller has some well documented history with the bike.
A Moto Martin special in the Lake District back in the 1980s.
Fritz Egli of Switzerland built a special rolling chassis for the CBX, which like most of his work at the time featured a Vincent type monoshock at the back end. Some nutters also tried adding a turbo to the motor, although it was always wise to rebuild the engine totally before adding a blower.
Many others have built their own specials, often using GSXR Suzuki front ends, JMC or Metmachex swinging arms, plus nose fairings, new clocks, handlebars, brakes and wheels. What you should look for is a complete makeover, rather than a half finished project – the thing with a CBX1000 is that once you uprate one aspect of the bike’s performance, it highlights the weak areas to a greater degree.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda cbx1000.
Engine……….24 valve, twin cam, six cylinder, four stroke, air cooled.
Bore x Stroke……….n/a
Peak Power……….105bhp @ 9000rpm
Carbs……….X6 Keihin 28mm
Frame……….Steel tubular frame, diamond type, using engine as stressed member
Forks……….37mm telescopic, no adjustment
Rear suspension……….Twin shocks, adjustable for pre-load.
Brakes……….Twin front disc, single rear disc
Wheels/Tyres……….19 inch front, 18 inch rear, Comstar alloy type
Estimated top speed……….125mph