Honda CB750 History

In the summer of 1969, if you wanted a motorcycle with more than two cylinders you had four choices that were each new models that year: the two-stroke 500cc triple Kawasaki H1 Mach III, the 750cc BSA A75 Triple and its stable-mate 750cc T150 Triumph Trident (actually introduced in the fall of 1968), or the new SOHC four-stroke four cylinder Honda CB750.

With its massive four cylinder engine, notwithstanding any actual advantages the competition may have had at the time, the CB750 ascended to the top of the heap. The advantage widened with Dick Mann’s victory at Daytona astride one in 1970 — even though the BSA triples scored a podium sweep at Daytona the following year.

Creature comforts like an electric starter that neither the British competition nor the H1 offered and functional advantages the British bikes lacked such as a five speed transmission (vs the BSA/Triumph four speed) and front disc brakes (vs over-matched drum brakes on the competition) also set the Honda apart from the other multi-cylinder bikes on the market.

Add an approximately $250 lower price than either of the British models and it quickly became apparent that the Honda CB750 had opened a new front in the war for market share.

All that was impressive enough in itself, but the big Honda’s 736cc motor was smooth, put out 67 hp at 8,000 RPM, enabled a top speed of about 120 mph and offered aerospace-like reliability.

Handling and braking was well matched to the bike’s size and power—if ridden within reason, it didn’t leak oil and the asking price was within reach of a wide range of riders.

\Once in the garage, clip-ons and rear-sets would create a potent weekend racer, while a handlebar fairing, top box and saddle bags would transform the bike into a top-line touring bike and other mods would make it a gas at the drag strip. Versatility and affordability only added to the attraction of that four cylinder engine.

It was the CB750 that triggered the horsepower arms race among consumer motorcycles more than any other bike. It is the start-point of what would be known as the “UJM” or universal Japanese motorcycle platform of an air-cooled, in-line four cylinder, four stroke powered bike with five speed transmission that expanded rapidly in the 1970s and carried on to the present day.

As big a success as the bike was in all its technical aspects, it was at least as big a hit in the showroom. In the ten years after its introduction, nearly a million CB750s were sold.

By 1979, the CB750F had matured to a sixteen-valve DOHC machine, but its bloodline went back to that original CB750.