40 YEARS SINCE MOTORCYCLE HISTORY WAS MADE. Part 1. The older GT-riders maybe still remember it but most probably don’t. This year is 40 years since the mother of all Super Bikes, the first modern motorcycle, the first in-line four produced in high volume, the first disc brake motorcycle the incredible HONDA CB 750 was introduced and on sale on the market. After the introduction Honda CB750 was to become the benchmark for all new motorcycle models for ten years. It is probably quite difficult for people who where not active motorcyclists by that time to really realize what impact this model had on the motorcycle market. In this post and in other posts coming in the next few weeks I will try to analyze how the Honda CB750 Four was born and what impact did it have globally on the motorcycle market from very many aspects. The CB750 SOHC did not only not only revolutionize motorcycle manufacturing and design. It caused the total collapse of the English motorcycle industry. It also created or at least gave new power to the “Cafe Racer” trend that started from the ACE café in England but because of the Honda CB750 Four it was spreading quickly to California and the rest of US. It also gave a new dimension to the “Chopper concept” which up to now mostly was a HD phenomena. The CB750 HONDA Four was also gave birth to a huge accessories industry, everything from engine parts, frame kits, exhaust systems, fiber glass tanks, transmission systems to chrome and high polished alu parts. The CB750 Four was manufactured in such huge amounts that it was profitable for accessory companies to manufacture special parts for the CB750. Just to give you an idea about the amounts, about 1 million Honda CB750 SOHC was manufactured, a figure BMW just reached as a total figure for the whole BMW motorcycle factory life…. The CB750 was also very active in Racing even if Honda officially had withdrawn from Road Racing. Instead Honda sold kits that transformed the standard bike into racing machines. Honda was also very active in Endurance racing both in Suzuka and in Europe. The Europe part was mostly handled by the French importer Japauto. At the early stage of the CB750 Honda also dominated drag racing in US together with Russ Collins and his CB750 based dragster. Hopefully you will not find these posts to boring or presented with too much old, antique information. On the other hand I think it is important for all motorcyclists to understand the CB750 phenomena because it changed the motorcycle world. It is important also to know that at this time Honda was not a very solid company financially. The expansion and growth of the company had outrun their financial means many many times and Honda had been on the brink of bankruptcy many times. Soichiro Honda was a gambler and high risk taker not only in business matters but also in his personal life. He had a serious Car racing crash with an airplane engine planted into a car chassis in his early twentieth. He crashed several times with motorcycle when racing. He crashed airplanes many times and everything that was technically interesting, had much power where things that Soichiro Honda could not resist. The same thing in business. New projects, technically interesting was enough to make Soichiro Honda happy. He didn’t care about money but luckily for him his partner Takeo Fujisawa was the person who saved Honda Motor Company from bankruptcy several times. In the middle of the 60:s Honda sale in USA declined and something had to be done because Honda had invested heavily in the US market and the establishment of American Honda had been an real high risk project. The US market for big Bikes at this time was about 50-60,000 bikes per year dominated by HD, Triumph, BSA, Norton. Common for all these brands was low quality and oil on the shop floor. It was this market Honda wanted to enter hoping to change the negative sales trend, again a high risk project…. Soichiro Hondas (the co-owner of Honda) decision in 1967 to start to develop a “big motorcycle” is the source to many, many rumors. One as told by Mr.Soichiro Honda himself, was that during a business strip to Switzerland, he saw a motorcycle police on a Triumph and thought that the motorcycle looked small but when the police left the motorbike he realized that it was not the bike that was small, it was the driver that was big. He then understood that Honda, despite being already the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, must start making motorcycles for the International market not selling motorcycles made for small sized Japanese on the International market. According to another rumor the project manager for the Honda CB750 Mr Yoshiro Harada (who also had been in charge of the CB450 development) was visiting the USA trying to convince American dealers to sell better of the 1965 launched CB450 DOHC torsion controlled valve motorcycle which he said had more power and handled better than any HD. Triumph, BSA or Norton and it did not leave any leaking oil on the show room floor.. The CB450 was developed on the request of the American dealers who wanted a little bigger bike than the CB77 305CC “Hawk”. Anyhow the 450 was a compromise because Honda wanted to sell the 450 both on the Japanese market and the American market. But despite that the American dealers and consumers knew that the smaller capacity Hondas had more power than the English competitors the dealers just asked him “why make small when can do big” During his trip to USA Mr. Harada also first time heard that Triumph and BSA where about to launch a 750 three cylinder so it was quickly decided that the new Honda must be a 750 Four cylinder in order to keep the “big advance”. At the same time it was decided that the new CB 750 Four must have at least 67 Hp because the biggest HD had 66 Hp… Another important input to the decision process was that by 1966 , Honda decided to withdraw from the World Grand Prix circuit after having captured five consecutive championship titles in the historic 1966 World Grand GP circuit, beginning the very next season. Upon that announcement, the company turned toward its primary target: the development of high-performance consumer machines. Thus it would achieve through the application of technology obtained in road racing. Officially the CB750 Project started in February 1968 when Soichiro Honda gave the project to Yoshiro Harada and he picked up a 20 member design team to help him. As a thumb rule he got a very broad advice from Mr. Honda “The bigger the better” The 650 cc displacement size was the largest to be found in Japan, (This according to Honda Japan. Anyhow this is not correct even if Honda is referring to the 650 Kawasaki “BSA A10” copy, originally made by Merusa before the factory was sold to Kawasaki in the 60:s. Honda forgets the Rikuo Harley 750 and 1200 CC license made bikes which where still manufactured until 1958 and sold still in the 60:s) Yet these bikes accounted for only a few percentage points in the overall market. Harada therefore decided to develop a bigger model, as an obvious nod to the U.S. market. However, the request given by American Honda'"the bigger the better,"seemed quite vague to him. Based on that advice alone, it would be difficult for Harada to determine the right displacement. Probably the first engine prototype was a four cylinder 650 based on two CB350 Hondas. They also tried to use the CB450 DOHC engine and double it but they quickly found out that the engine will be too big with a DOHC engine so Mr. Harada informed the project team that we will start with a SOHC engine and in about 3 years we will upgrade it to a DOHC version. Because of the huge success of the SOHC Honda 750 it took them 10 years to introduce the DOHC engine….The 750 Four decision was made then when it was clear that Triumph/BSA will launch the 3-cylinder 750. The more specific targets were as follows: 1. Ensure stability during high-speed cruising (between 140 and 160 km/h) on highways, yet retain an ample margin of output for effective maneuvering in traffic. 2. Provide a braking system that is reliable and resistant to high loads by anticipating frequent rapid decelerations from high speeds. 3. Minimize vibration and noise in order to reduce rider fatigue during long-range cruising. Provide an ideal riding position for comfort and the proper operation of controls based on human-engineering principles, and design the mechanisms so that the rider can easily learn how to operate them. 4. Ensure that various ancillary devices, such as lights and instruments, are large and reliable. They must be designed to help the rider make sound judgments and ensure sufficient visibility for surrounding vehicles. 5. Extend the service life for each device and ensure that it provides for easy maintenance and servicing 6. Create original designs that also are easy to mass produce by utilizing newer, better materials and production technologies. This applies particularly to cutting-edge surface-treatment technologies. A team of about twenty members was assembled on behalf of the development project in February 1968. The design of the CB750 FOUR had officially begun. However, Honda was already the industry's leading producer of motorcycles, thanks to the popularity of its classic Super Cub. By introducing the CB750 FOUR, the company planned to become the world's top manufacturer in terms of quality as well as volume. This model's competition, however, would be formidable, since the pack included comparable models from Triumph, BSA, BMW, and Harley. Therefore, the new Honda would have to offer a superior level of performance and reliability in order to lead the field. The first picture of a prototype was in a Japanese magazine in 1968 from a racing circuit named Arakawa close to Tokio. The first prototype pictures. Probably the engine was fit in a Honda CB450 chassis for testing The two first pictures are from the Arakawa circuit the lower one from the Saitama Factory. The bike was first presented at the Tokyo Show on the 28.10.1968 ( this date is sometimes referred in Honda:s own papers as 1966 and 1969 but I am quite convinced that 1968 is the correct year. Tokyo Show with a separate engine. Tokyo Show Before the exhibition Mr. Harada presented two prototypes to Mr Honda and asked him which one he preferred, one had a drum brake in front from the CB450 and the other one had a Disc brake. The answer was easy for Mr Honda who was a “tech freak” Mr. Honda's reply, though, was simple and direct: "Well, of course we'll have to go with disc brakes." !!!. Unfortunally Mr Harada and his team had not have time to develop the disk brake system and their experience was only the result from tests with an accessory Lockhed bought on his recent US-trip and a spying mission at the Lockhed factory in England. They were not sure if they could live up to the next spring production target. They still had three problems unsolved, how to get mileage on the brake pads, how to get rid of the typical “noise” from the pads and how to get a no-rusting surface on he disk without loosing any braking power. A good disk is rusting but that was against their “goals”, the bike should look tidy even after a rain. To speak frankly Honda never solved the brake problem, it was very noisy and especially when raining there were no braking power at all. The stainless steel brake disk anyhow didn’t rust….. Okay this was an introduction then sit down and relax when looking at these two You tubes first presented on Discovery Channel. The test ride with the 1969 model is not correct it is not a 1969 model, maybe more a 1971 model but it doesn’t matter.