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History of the 1965-1968 Honda CB 450 "Black Bomber"
The 1965 Honda CB 450 – known as the “Black Bomber” in the U.S. – was Honda’s tentative step into performance street bikes and, like the Model T Ford, could only be had in black. By 1965, the company was already fully involved and successful in racing, with Jim Redman winning the Junior and 250 TT in the Isle of Man, but the CB 750 was four years away and the company was still known for small displacement bikes.
The 305 cc Super Hawk had brought café thinking to Hondas in 1961 with its telescopic forks, tube frame and lively performance. The CB 450 was a natural progression that took aim at the British 500 cc Triumph and BSA twins. Its 43 bhp, DOHC 444 cc straight-twin had chain-driven cams, torsion-bar valve springs, a screaming 9,500 rpm redline, 412 lb weight and genuine 102 mph capability. The first examples had four-speed gearboxes, but five-speeds arrived later. The crankcase was split horizontally to avoid the oil leaks that plagued British bikes, an electric starter was fitted, and constant velocity carburetors meant smooth running. 18-inch wheel rims were alloy, while the gas tank and fenders were steel.
The original “KO” model Black Bomber wasn’t the most elegant design. Its humped tank in particular had polarizing looks, but an upgrade kit was offered in 1967 and its looks were improved in the “K1” of 1968, when the five-speed gearbox was fitted. With 19,482 sold in the U.S., the CB 450 was undoubtedly successful, and the model continued to be sold through 1974. The launch of the CB 750 in 1969, however, made it essentially obsolete straight away. With its SOHC four-cylinder, disc brake and electric start, it sounded the death knell of the big British bikes and 448,900 would be sold in 10 years.
If anything, the CB 450 didn’t go far enough. It was a naked bike instead of a sport bike with an upright riding position more suited to a commuter, and it had limited ground clearance. Handling and brakes were certainly adequate, but not amazing. Even so, it was a very important step in Honda motorcycle evolution and the move towards a performance image for the company’s road bikes.
Finding a good Black Bomber these days will take some doing, and it probably won’t be cheap. OEM parts can be quite expensive and items like mufflers are probably not worth re-plating.
Due to the CB 750’s popularity, Black Bombers are now quite rare and you’ll be sure to attract attention at any vintage bike gathering you attend. Plus, when it’s time to go, you just hit the starter button.
1968 Honda CB450K1 Super Sport 450 Info
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