CLASSIC HONDA LIGHTWHEIGHT MOTORCYCLES
The Honda CB450 Black Bomber
Article courtesy of www.motorcycleclassics.com
Two cylinders, twin cams and loaded with technology, the Honda CB450 put the world on notice: Honda was at war, and planned to win.
By Margie Siegal March/April 2010
Honda CB450 Black Bomber
Claimed power: 43hp @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 102mph (period test)
Engine type: 444cc DOHC air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (wet): 430lb (195kg)
Price then: $1,000 (approx.)
Price now: $3,500-$6,000
MPG: 40-45 (est.)
“All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.” — Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
Widely recognized as one of the most important motorcycles ever launched by Honda, the Honda CB450 Black Bomber is celebrated as the company's first “big twin” and as the first volume production double-overhead cam. Lauded and hyped by motorcycle and car magazines as one of the most remarkable machines ever, it was in fact a slow seller, never quite lighting the market on fire as Honda might have hoped. To understand the impact the CB450 had, it’s important to understand the U.S. market of the early 1960s and what led Honda to introduce the 450.
In the beginning...
Honda started exporting motorcycles to the United States in 1959. At the time, Honda was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, selling 500,000 small motorcycles a year, mostly to Asian countries. Honda wanted to sell even more motorcycles, and astutely recognized that the U.S. market, where motorcycle registrations totaled a modest 500,000 or so, had great untapped potential. Americans were buying some 60,000 motorcycles a year, about 12,000 of which were Harley-Davidsons. A large percentage of the rest came from England. Harley-Davidson was running on a tight budget and had little money for advertising, and the British companies were basically content with the market as it was; efforts to increase the numbers of riders were hamstrung by the refusal of English management to spend money on improving the product or on aggressive sales efforts.
By contrast, Honda was designing bikes to meet the specific needs of the American market. Teenage baby boomers were interested in speed and offroad competition, and so the 1961 product lineup featured the 305cc Super Hawk, a peppy little overhead cam twin, and the CL72 Scrambler, a 250cc OHC twin with a smaller tank and high pipes.
American Honda embarked on a marketing effort that, like a successful military campaign, was well funded and carefully thought out. Targeting non-riders, Honda placed ads in general interest publications marketing its bikes as a means of fun, carefree recreation. Honda was introducing motorcycles to a new leisure market, and great effort was made to promote a squeaky clean image through its “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” campaign. It worked. In 1962, only three years after renting a storefront on West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, U.S. Honda motorcycle sales were up to 65,000 units. A year later, sales reached 150,000. By itself, Honda had more than doubled total U.S. motorcycle sales...
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1964 Honda CB125SS CB92 Benly
In the early 1960s, Honda had a very special Super Sports version available for the up-and-coming small-bore road-racing crowd. Dubbed the “CB92” and released in 1959, the transformation from lowly C92 roots to the CB92 was a complete makeover and it was given many special parts to make it a full-blooded racer.
While both engines shared a 44 x41mm bore and stroke, there were differences starting with the crankshaft and cases. The low-powered C92 had a two main-bearing crankshaft, while the CB92 had a fully-supported center main bearing crankshaft design and matching cases. The connecting rods were stronger on the CB92s and the compression ratio was raised a notch, as well. Even higher compression YB racing pistons and racing rings were made, thinner than those of the street versions, allowing for better ring sealing at 10,500+rpm operation.
The spark advancers had less lead to prevent detonation on the Sports model. Carburetion seemed to be different depending on the year of manufacturer. First CB92s came with a power-jet 18mm carburetor, whereas later production models drew breath through a CA95 sized 20mm mixer.
The CB92 camshaft had more duration and lift than the C92 cam, plus the valves were of better material. Early cams had no provision for tachometer drives, so the outer cylinder head covers were plain finned versions. Once Honda designed more high performance engine parts, a tachometer drive and matching drive housing were used on the later production engines. The tachometer ranged to 14k rpm and mounted in place of the speedometer for racing applications.
Stock CB92s were rated at 15 horsepower vs. about 12 horsepower on the C92s. Honda cooked up a whole lineup of their YB (accessory) parts. Racing parts included pistons, rings, camshafts, cam chain tensioners, a 14k racing tachometer, megaphone exhaust pipes (2 lengths), racing ignition coil, shouldered alloy rims, air scoop vents for the front brake, number plate brackets, starter blank off kit and alternator index parts for a total loss ignition, racing seat, safety-wire drilled bolts and nuts and a racing carburetor. The full racing kit added about 5 to 10 mph to the top speed of an already-rapid, stock CB92, not to mention a tremendous wailing roar from the open-ended megaphone exhausts.
The stock CB92 chassis was pretty special to begin with, using magnesium hubs and backing plates on CB72-sized brake shoes. The 1959-60 versions had alloy fuel tanks, front fenders and side covers, to lighten the bike substantially. The big brakes were spoked to 18” rims to aid in high-speed stability. Café-styled “Ace” handlebars were used on the early models, which were replaced with stock CB72 flat handlebars, after that.
CB92s were fitted with mudflaps on both fenders, like the C110 Sports Cubs. Some early versions were kind of blue-green colored rubber, whereas the later ones were white on the front and black on the back. Small windscreens were attached to the headlight shell via small cast alloy brackets. The entire windscreen package was deleted from American Honda’s parts books in the 1966 parts book update, apparently not conforming to current DOT regulations of that time. The front fork and headlight shells were different than those of the regular Benly series machines; so careful checking must be done when attempting to buy parts for these rare machines.
Back in the late 1980s, I purchased a truckload of CB92 bits, enough to build up two chassis and a spare motor. The red chassis, which turned out to be featured in a 1970’s coffee table motorcycle book, turned out to be a fake. It was a bike based on a 1962 CA95, which had been modified by trimming off the back of the rear fender, installing a complete CB92 front end and altering the motor parts to suit.
More than a few machines have been faked or altered, in an attempt to get maximum dollars for the sellers. This is one bike you really have to check serial numbers on before you buy. FYI the serial numbers for the frames are stamped in an area just behind the left side cover, going towards the opening of the rear fender. This was another of Honda’s odd actions, similar to the hard to find location on Dreams, which are down by the footpeg bracket mount.
The frame numbers are not deeply stamped, so a thick layer of powder coating or even a few coats of primer and finish paint can often obscure the numbers completely. DO NOT BUY a bike until you find and verify that the serial numbers match the title. Some genuine CB92s had CA95 motors dropped into the chassis and/or the top end was changed out from 125 to 150cc, to boost performance.
Honda sold CB92R versions, ready to go, in 1961-62, but many bikes were standard street machines with the YB race kit parts installed. Variations, for dirt racers, were fitted with sets of Scrambler-style exhaust pipes and handlebars, to help riders get control in the rough stuff.
CB92 engines had subtle changes made to help narrow the engine and make foot controls all fit properly. Both the kick-starter and shift shafts are a little shorter than the CA95 variety. Both clutch cover and generator side covers were narrowed to match the appropriate shaft lengths. The earliest of the CB92 transmissions shifted 1 up and 3 down, but that was quickly changed to the reverse shift pattern of the CA92. Because of the remote shifter linkage, you could flip the gearshift arm over and get either pattern from the same shift drum.
Like most all Honda models, there were improvements and refinements through the years. There were at least 4 different fuel tanks (two alloy and two steel), two knee pads, alloy and steel front fenders and side covers, original magnesium hubs were superseded to aluminum alloy parts, several types of tail lights and seats, two types of cable sets and cable adjusters for the handlebars.
Early mufflers were seamless in design. Then, those were replaced with seamed mufflers, made in two halves and welded together, more like those of a CB72. The list goes on and on, so if you are involved with CB92s, at all, get all the versions of the parts lists and study them carefully.
The serial numbering for these bikes was similar to that of the bigger 250-305cc twins, in that the first digits after the model name indicted the year of manufacture. However, in 1964, the last year of production, the CB92s started with a 7XXXXX serial number, instead of a 4XXXXX number, for reasons unknown.
The first edition CB92 owner’s manuals were held together with brass brads and had the famous “flying racing posture” suggestions for attempting top speed runs. Think “Rollie Free” on his Vincent at Bonneville and you get the picture. This section was removed in the 1960-61 bound versions of the owner’s manuals, probably at the suggestion of American Honda.
Just over 1,000 CB92s were sold in the US, from 1960 to 1962, whereas the total production was about 24,250 machines worldwide. Highly prized for their unique style and high performance, CB92s command prices upwards of $15,000 for perfectly restored original machines.
Novices who are new to vintage Hondas often confuse the Benly 150 Touring with the CB92 Super Sports models, when seeking parts and/or information. Pricing for the Touring machines is just a fraction of that of the Sports models, however. Expect a really, really good CA95 to, perhaps, get into the $2k bracket, unless it is a perfect restoration and or low-miles original machine. Although a fair number of CB92 parts are derived from the Benly touring, the model specific parts are getting to be extremely rare and very expensive. The product code for a CB92 is -205, but a parts list will show codes ranging from 200-215.
The crankshaft and engine cases went through at least 3 redesigns, so swapping parts back and forth between years is not always possible. After 1962, the parts configurations for the engines were pretty well established and much more reliable than the pre-62 versions. Considering that these engines hold less than a quart of oil and spin at 10,000 rpm, it a real testimony to the engineers and tool designers of that era.
Honda CB77 Superhawk
Motorcyclist Illustrated October 1965
"In the early '60s, it was the biggest Honda available, propelling the rider into a full-blown adrenaline rush with unsurpassed power and speed. The 1961 CB77 Super Hawk was the beginning of something spectacular-the Honda sport bike.
With speeds approaching the 100-mph mark, this was not a machine for the weak of heart. But the addition of telescopic forks, dual carbs and twin leading shoe brakes greatly enhanced acceleration, braking and handling. The CB77 gave the rider a feeling of control that many bikes of that era could not duplicate at half of the Super Hawk's top speed.
The 305cc engine came complete with overhead cams, a luxury that was found exclusively in the racing community at the time. Its 9200-rpm-redline was a nice antidote to the low-revving and quiet machines being developed in Europe. The 350-lb. stamped steel and tube frame provided a landing point for one of the decade's finest engines. Indeed, the CB77 was a loud and race-ready contender.
The Super Hawk owned the top spot in the Honda lineup until 1965 when Honda released the CB450. Nine thousand revolutions per minute in top gear gives a road speed in the region of 94 mph on the Honda CB77 and, with the needle flickering towards the 9,400 rpm mark coming down the Mountain towards Creg-ny-Baa, I was travelling at just over 100 mph. As always on "open road" days during T.T. week, small groups of spectators gather on some of the trickier bends to watch the production roadsters imitating the T.T. aces and as I braked heavily, changed down and dropped to a respectably sedate pace round the tight right-hand bend, I could almost hear a couple of lads wondering: "Is it the 250 or 305 Honda?"
In fact, during the weeks I had the machine on test, time and time again I was asked the difference between the two sports Hondas which, apart from the tank badge, are externally identical, and internally differ by a mere 55cc. What is the point of building two machines so much alike that they vary only in cylinder bore dimension and, slightly, in the ratios provided by the four-speed gearbox? Where does the extra 55 cc count on the CB77?
To answer these questions one has only to compare the specifications of the two Hondas. The 250 produces 24 bhp at 9,000 rpm, whereas with its extra 55 cc, the CB77 pokes out another 4 bhp, which in terms of performance means some 5 mph additional top speed. It is also interesting to note that the power band is wider on the 305, with maximum torque of 18 ft/lb at 7,000 rpm, compared with 15 ft/lb at 7,500 rpm from the 250. This means that the CB77 is more flexible than its 250 cc counterpart and, with more urge lower down, acceleration is also slightly better than with the CB72. However, with both machines having twin carburetors, twin coil ignition, twin leading shoe brakes front and rear, twin contact breakers, twin speedometer /tachometer head, a chain driven overhead camshaft, and 180° opposed cranks for each of the two connecting rods, in all other respects they are identical.
Even the lavish standard "extras" such as handlebar mirrors, electric starter, steering lock, pillion footrests, neutral indicator light, and a toolkit which includes spare sparking plugs, are included on both models. Having pointed out the variations between these generally similar sports Hondas, I can now confine myself to the CB77 which I have had the pleasure of riding.
Performance has already been briefly mentioned and I would add that for the capacity of the machine, it was 'outstanding. A motorway cruising speed of 80 mph was maintained on the journey from Liverpool to London and the time of 4 hours taken on the run, including stops for refueling and meals, is good even for a motor cycle of twice the capacity. Fuel consumption of 64 mpg was reasonable, considering the high-speed maintained and during 40-50 mph runs, this figure improved to 80 mpg or better.
Acceleration from a standing start was the equivalent of most 500s and if one revved the engine to maximum in each gear before changing up, it was necessary to cling to the handlebars tightly to stop one sliding backwards along the dual seat.
Apart from the fact that one had to keep the revs above 6,000 to get the best from the motor, it was difficult to fault the mechanics in any way whatsoever. The motor remained oil tight throughout the test. The gear ratios seemed ideally spaced for about-town or open road use, although top gear proved a little high for power output when riding into a strong headwind and maximum 9,000 rpm in top gear could only be obtained in prone position on a long straight. Speeds in the gears were approximately 40-45 mph in first, 55-60 mph in second, 75-80 mph in third and 90-95 mph in top.
With a 90 mph machine, one needs brakes which are more than just adequate. Honda appreciates this point, and only in the wet did care have to be taken, to avoid making the rear wheel slide by applying the rear brake a little too firmly. The same also applied to excessive use of the throttle in first or second gear under such conditions.
Road-holding is one of the most important features of any sports machine and although the CB77 may not be 100% positive in its actions when swinging .through fast, twisting and slightly bumpy bends, it can be classified as good. My reason for hesitating to classify the handling as excellent is that there were occasions when the front wheel twitched somewhat when accelerating out of a bend —a tendency which I found could be counteracted by winding the throttle open.
I put my yearly average at about 30,000 miles, approximately half in a car and the remainder on two wheels. As a long-distance rider, I put comfort on a motorcycle as of prime importance. Sports machines with clip-ons or straight bars leave me cold as I normally find them most uncomfortable.
However, the Honda is an exception to the rule, for the positioning of the footrests, seat and straight bars are such that one is leaning slightly into the wind and resting very lightly on one's hands at speed—an ideally comfortable position, in fact. There is plenty of room on the dual-seat for the pillion passenger and with adjustable pillion footrests, passengers of any shape or height can be accommodated. The rear suspension units are also adjustable, so that suspension characteristics can be modified when carrying additional weight. Electrics on the big Honda's are all 12-volt to cope with the demand from the electric starter. This means that once it gets the benefit of a lighting system which is fully adequate for such a high-performance machine. The dip-switch, situated on the left handlebar, not only incorporates dip and main beam positions, but also has a third, central, position for switching to pilot light when riding through town. This saves having to remove one's hands from the handlebars to reach forward to operate the switch on the headlamp shell.
Horns on most motorcycles, large,or small, are pitiful. Honda fit a wind-tone unit which is efficient and effective at speeds up to 60 mph, although even this still lacks the power for really high-speed "I am overtaking" warnings.
As already mentioned, Honda have an electric starter fitted to the CB77 and no matter what the weather, cold, warm, wet or dry, starting was no problem once one learned the knack. With ignition and fuel on, the throttle was partially opened and, with the starter button being pressed by the right thumb, the choke lever was closed until the engine fired and then partially opened to allow the motor to build up revs.
If the engine began to die, the choke lever was quickly closed again to richen the mixture and then partially re-opened again. By juggling with the choke control and not touching the slightly open throttle, it was possible to obtain instant starting on the coldest, dam-pest mornings. When warm, the motor required only a fraction of a second's touch on the starter to set it in motion.
In addition to the electric starter, there is a kick start fitted and this operates in the unusual kick-forward manner. This means that should a fairing be fitted to the bike, the kick-start might prove almost impossible to use.
The excellent finish of this model calls for as much praise as its superb range of extras. Silencing of its super-smooth twin engine is first-class and only minor criticisms could possibly be levelled against the 305 cc Honda CB77, a machine which is another example of Japanese engineering that gives excellent value for money, at its price of £279 including tax."
The Honda 400F
The HONDA CB400F was first introduced in the fall of 1974 (model 1975). Its predecessor was the little CB350F, which was no great successtory. In the short period the CB400F was marketed it became a popular model: over 100,000 units were produced in 3 years.
With the introduction of the CB400F the F also stood for a 4-in-1 exhaust. The CB400F is particularly known for its well shaped 4-in-1 Exhaust header.
Model history: 1975-1977 CB400F 1976 CB400F1 1977 CB400F2
Besides regional and color changes there have been basically 2 versions of the CB400F. The first has 'Active suspension'. The pillon footpegs are mounted on the rear swing arm. Thus the pillon can actively assist the rearshocks, which can be useful as the standard shocks are slightly to soft. The second version has the pillon footpegs mounted on a(n) (extra) frame pipe. This version was only produced for the European market (European direct sales, England, France, Germany, Sweden). It was introduced in 1976 as a CB400F model and it was also applied in the CB400F2.
Besides regional and color changes there have been basically 2 versions of the CB400F.
The first has 'Active suspension'. The pillon footpegs are mounted on the rear swing arm.
Thus the pillon can actively assist the rearshocks, which can be useful as the standard shocks are slightly to soft.
The second version has the pillon footpegs mounted on a(n) (extra) frame pipe. This version was only produced for the European market (European direct sales, England, France, Germany, Sweden). It was introduced in 1976 as a CB400F model and it was also applied in the CB400F2.
"This 450cc bike was the first double overhead cam engine in a Honda street bike. This engine will rev up to 10,000 rpm, an engine speed that would turn British bikes into a pile of broken bits. The Black Bomber was Honda’s message to the British “Here we come” (the 4 cylinder CB 750 was the message “too late – here we are”). The Black Bomber was considered too old in its styling and was changed to a more modern look in 1968. Collectors, of course, want the “ugly” Black Bomber.
Unlike automobiles in the USA market, Honda motorcycle models were not designated strictly by calendar year. Honda distinguished models by affixing a K-number suffix to the model, typically beginning with K0 at the model's introduction, sometimes with K1. Individual K models were offered for one or more years, depending upon sales rates and remaining inventory. For example, the initial CB450: the 4-speed Black Bomber,is designated CB450K0. It remained in Honda sales literature through 1968, alongside the next model, the CB450K1. It was unique for a road bike in having twin overhead cams with torsion bar valve springs. One of the most impressive parts of the bike to this day is the engine which, when viewed in profile, has a very classical twin cam shape -- like that of a Manx Norton.
The CB450 has a stormer of an engine when it is carefully set up. The main weakness of the bike is that it is very heavy (at about 430lbs) and ithe gear ratios are quite spaced over the 4 speed box with a low top gear. Even so it is generally reckoned to be the best 450/500cc Honda twin until the introduction of the CB500 water-cooled twin of the nineties."
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
Honda introduced the 350 scrambler with this single 8.5 x 11" color page in 1968. This pre-production model was prepared using a prototype aided by an artist and airbrush (note Honda's qualifier "All specifications subject to change without notice").
In fact, there were several changes between this image and the export USA production run. Instead of black finish, as shown, the headlight brackets (at top of forks) were painted to match the color portion of the tank. A different front fender, lacking braces but with a sharp cut front edge as shown, was used. The point cover on production models was embossed to read "TYPE-1", and the 350 emblems on the air cleaner covers were fabricated of enameled metal, with only the numerals "350" (the picture shows an applied emblem, perhaps just a painting, with a small encircled Honda wing).
Although the picture shows two separate chromed exhaust pipes exiting the muffler, the production models had two unplated exhaust pipes enclosed in a single chromed surround. The production CL350K0 also had both a center stand and a silver-painted side stand.
Below is a '68 production street version. Still much the same as the Scrambler but not as stylish!
Here are two good examples of the CB550 Honda. One museum quality and bone-stock, the other a Rickman cafe fairing street machine with carrying-cases. Sort of like a mullet haircut. All business at the front, party out back!
A word to the wise. I lifted the following text about the '72 Honda C450 from Wikipedia because I was intrigued by the mention of "torsion bar" valve gear. I can't say I've ever heard of that, not being a Honda CB450 expert.
If it's true it's very much a technical "innovation" that wasn't a winner. If not true it's a great gag. And if you know better, then shoot me a line and set me straight!
StatsCB450 K7- Manufacturer Honda- Also called Dream, Hellcat- Model year 1965–1974- Predecessor CB77- Successor CB500- Engine 444 cc DOHC straight 2- Top speed 180 km/h (110 mph)- Power 43 hp (32 kW) @ 8500 rpm- Transmission 4 or 5 speed- Suspension Telescopic fork (front),swing arm (rear)- Brakes Drum Twin leading shoe- Weight 186 kg (410 lbs dry)
The Honda CB450 was the first "big" Honda motorcycle with a 444cc dual overhead cam engine producing 43-45 horsepower (more than 100 HP/ litre). Appearing first in the 1965 four-speed K0 model, and progressing through a series of KX models with various improvements and styling changes, notably a redesigned gas tank and 5 speed transmission in the 1968 K1 model. K0 models are often known as "Black Bomber" models in the U.S. and notable for their distinctive large, square gas tank. In Canada the K1 model was marketed as the Hellcat.
Although the CB450 never sold up to Honda's expectations, it had excellent engineering for the time, notably including reliable electrical components, an electric starter, and a horizontally split crankcase, all features distinct from the British twins of the era. The most radical feature was the valve springing. Instead of the conventional coil spings it used "torsion bars" - rods of steel that twisted to provide the spring effect.
The two pics above really are a CB450 Honda that's undergone a transformation typical of the talented folks at Benjies' Cafe Racers. I include them here because I love the looks and just wish Honda had taken the bull by the horns and produced a version that mirrors the cafe movement of the time. One can only "Dream"!
The Honda Sport 90, or Super 90 or S90, was a 90 cc Honda motorcycle based on the Honda Super Cub, made from 1964 to 1969.
It had a single cylinder OHC air-cooled engine linked to a four speed transmission. There was no tachometer but the speedometer indicated speed ranges for each gear. Top speed was claimed to be 64 mph as compared to the CL90's 59.
The engine was rated at 8 horsepower, presumably at the countershaft sprocket, as Honda denied having more than 6.5 HP at the rear wheel, as evidenced in a letter written to [at least] the Reliable Co., the only Honda dealership at the time in Winnemucca, Nevada, in order to quell complaints by the Highway Patrol of sales to younger riders. (A rating under 6.5HP was a requirement in Nevada for a low-powered motorcycle license for those 14 and over, to the age of 16. There was a 35 mph top speed requirement, which was up to the operator to control.)
Hand clutch and usual controls were in place. Shifting was "1 down, 3 up," with neutral between these. A metal cylinder behind the carburetor held the air filter. Tools went under the seat in their own compartment. The frame was pressed steel.
This machine was not intended for off road, as evidenced by narrow handle bars, "universal" street tires, and no accessories for such travel. 90 miles per US gallon (38 km/l) was not hard to attain, even with spirited riding. The engine held a quart of oil and had an internal centrifugal oil filter.
There are a variety of models including the Honda S90, CS90, Sport 90, Super 90 and the Benly 90. The date of manufacturing can be determined by removing the fuel tank and examining the tag surrounding the wiring harness.