Honda experimented with a number of different models in the late 1980s that didn’t lead to any large-scale success. Hard to sell at the time, they are now considered cult bikes with dedicated fan clubs.
These models include the GB 500 Tourist Trophy, modeled after a 1950s OHC single-cylinder British Isle of Man racer; the CB-1, which was a compact 400 cc DOHC, liquid-cooled, four-valve, four-cylinder with 55 bhp and a 10,000 rpm redline; and the original Honda Hawk GT NT650.
The Hawk was based on the 52-degree V-twin engine from the shaft-drive VT500 Ascot. Designed by Honda’s Toshiaki Kishi, it combined a liquid-cooled 58 bhp, 650 cc, SOHC, three-valve V-twin with a twin-spar aluminum frame, disc brakes, and a five-speed gearbox. An ELF single-sided rear suspension developed for the race-replica RC30 was fitted, with a mono-shock. In the ELF system, the rear wheel could be removed easily from the hub without having to undo or re-adjust the chain.
Along with the Yamaha SRX 600 cc single, the Hawk was really the first “naked” bike, though its mechanical limitations prevented it from gaining the following of the Ducati M900 Monster that would appear in 1993. Dubbed the RC31, the Hawk was sold in the U.S. and Canada from 1988-91, though the similar Revere was sold in Europe until 1997, and the 400 cc Bros (400 cc and 650 cc) in Japan until 1993.
The Revere had a steel frame instead of alloy, a lower and stubbier muffler and normal swing-arm, but the advantage of a five gallon gas tank. The U.S. Hawk was handicapped by the 2.9 gallon tank, which gave a range of barely 100 miles.
U.S. club racers pounced on the Hawk for the middleweight class, but though its handling and braking were adequate, the engine proved resistant to much upgrading, becoming increasingly fragile as more power was extracted. Hawk riders battled Suzuki GS 500, 600cc Bandit, and Kawasaki EX 500 riders through 1999, when the Suzuki SV 650 V-twin replaced them all overnight.
Hawk GTs can be found in Tempest Gray and Tanzanite Blue for 1988 and Italian Red for 1989-91. There were few changes from the 1988 model through 1991. Two front suspension damper rods replaced four in 1989, and the front calipers were modified. The oil lines were routed inside the engine for 1991, but very few bikes were imported that year.
Costing only about $500 less than a CBR 600, fewer than 6,000 Hawks were estimated to have been sold in North America (4,200 the first year, 1,600 the next, and a handful thereafter). The Hawk GT has become a cult bike, and true believers will probably have several. A number of intelligent upgrades are recommended, and a knowledgeable seller will either have done them, or be able to tell you which to undertake.
1988 Honda NT650 Hawk GT Info
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