Honda CB Inline-4 55th Anniversary Retrospective

The original Honda CB750K0 (left) meets a current Honda CB inline-4: The CB1000R.

It was 55 years ago that Honda shocked the world with the 1969 Honda CB750K0. The electric-start inline-four motor featured an overhead cam, four carburetors, four exhaust pipes, sand-cast cases (first year only), and a hydraulic front disc brake—and it was affordable and reliable. The CB750K0 was a revolutionary design that brought motorcycles into the modern era—its influence continues to reverberate over a half-century later.

Honda inline-4 55th anniversary: 1969 Honda CB750K0
1969 Honda CB750K0.

It wasn’t long before Honda offered downsized versions of the CB750. 1971 saw the introduction of the mid-size CB500F and the diminutive CB350F a year later, with both bikes sharing the same feature seat as their big sibling. Some insiders at Honda claim that the CB350F was founder Soichiro Honda’s favorite Honda motorcycle.

Honda cb inline-4 55th Anniversary - CB500 Four
1971 Honda CB500F.
1972 Honda CB350F.

Honda went sporty with the small-bore four in 1975, and the legendary CB400F was born. It was the first Honda with a six-speed transmission. The iconic four-into exhaust and the café-friendly styling make it a timeless favorite.

Honda CB inline-4 55th anniversary - 1975 CB400F.
1975 Honda CB400F.

Not content with satisfying the sporting crowd, the 1976 Honda CB750A featured a two-speed Hondamatic automatic transmission. It wasn’t a big hit, though Honda continues to chase the Holy Grail of automatic transmission to this day, currently finding success with the dual-clutch transmission in models ranging from the Gold Wing tourer to the Africa Twin adventure bike to the Rebel 1100 cruiser.

Honda cb inline-4 55th Anniversary: CB750A.
1976 Honda CB750A.

On the tenth anniversary of the CB750K0, Honda changed the architecture of its inline-four. The 1979 Honda CB900F featured a double overhead cam design. Honda’s first DOHC was in the 1960s CB450 twin—a bike that has enjoyed a cult following.

Honda CB Inline-4 55th Anniversary Retrospective: 1979 Honda CB900F.
1979 Honda CB900F.

Two years later, Honda rushed past the liter-bike class to build the fully faired 1981 Honda CB1100R. This bike was raced by Wayne Gardner and Ron Haslam with great results.

1981 Honda CB1100R.
1981 Honda CB1100R.

Over a decade later, the 1992 Honda CB1000R debuted the first liquid-cooled inline-four CB from Honda. It also featured a single-shock rear suspension design. With modern styling that resonates to this day, the CB1000R ushered in a new standard for upright naked sportbikes.

Honda CB Inline-4 55th Anniversary Retrospective: 1997 Honda CB1000R.
1992 Honda CB1000R.

Also in 1992, Honda returned to its CB Four roots with an air-/oil-cooled CB750 with twin piggyback shocks. Triple disc brakes kept the 1992 CB750 contemporary.

Honda CB Inline-4 55th Anniversary Retrospective: 1992 Honda CB750
1992 Honda CB750.

The Hornet was born in Japan in 1996, powered by a 250-class inline-four powerplant cribbed from the CBR250. The Hornet was a modern upright naked sportbike with underseat exhausts, a box-section single-shock swingarm, and three-spoke wheels.

1996 Honda Hornet.

Honda explored the other end of the displacement spectrum with the 1998 CB1300. Twin shocks were retained, though the CB1300 featured triple-disc braking and three-spoke wheels.

1998 Honda CB1300.

The 21st century ushered in the Hornet CB900F and fuel injection for the CB range. The 2001 Honda CB900F dipped into the 1996 Fireblade 918 superbike’s parts bin for its liquid-cooled motor. Like the first Hornet, the 2001 CB900F featured underseat mufflers.­­­

2001 Honda CB900 Hornet.

The 2006 Honda CB1300 Super Bol d’Or added ABS to the CB mix, and an upper fairing gave the bike a competitive countenance.

2006 Honda CB1300 Super Bol d’Or.

Honda went retro with the 2007 CB750 Special Edition, which recalled the early 1980s. IT had an air-/oil-cooled motor, twin piggyback-reservoir shocks, and vintage graphics.

2007 Honda CB750 Special Edition.

The 2013 Honda CB1100 tapped into the ethos of the original CB750K0, thanks to its styling, twin shocks, and an air-cooled motor. Of course, it had fuel injection and triple-disc braking.

2014 Honda CB1100 Deluxe.

In 2018, the CB1000R went Neo Sports Café, with retro-modern styling wrapped around a thoroughly modern CB Four.

2018 Honda CB1000R.

A year later, the CB650R joined the Neo Sports Café party.

2019 Honda CB650R.

Both models endure into 2024, the Honda CB inline-4 55th Anniversary.