When service manager of American Honda Bob Hanses visited Honda’s Japanese headquarters in 1967, he requested that the company build a larger bike for the U.S. market. Although Honda was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles on earth thanks to products like the C100 Cub, their biggest bike was the DOHC CB450 twin that had been launched in 1966. There was a very big market for larger bikes in the States, Hansen argued, and Honda responded with the CB 750, a bike that would become one of the most popular and famous motorcycles of all time.
Introduced at the Tokyo Motorcycle show in November 1968 and launched in the UK in April 1969, the CB 750 was a groundbreaking design with its 736 cc, cross-frame SOHC four-cylinder engine, five-speed gearbox, electric start, and front disc brake. Four carburetors led to four separate exhausts.
Just as appealing as its design was its cost. At just $1,495 MSRP, the CB 750 had a $400 price advantage over its two- and three-cylinder rivals from Great Britain, and in the next 10 years 448,900 examples would be built before the advent of the DOHC engine. Save a few electrical gremlins, the CB 750 also had bulletproof reliability, a trait that few really expected at the time. The American motorcycle market would never be the same.
This became even more apparent when the AMA Competition Committee changed the rules in 1970, enabling all 750 cc machines to compete with Harley-Davidson, which had previously enjoyed a 250 cc advantage. This also meant that Triumph and BSA could field their three-cylinder racers.
The Honda team competed with four racing CR 750s at the 1970 Daytona 200 race. Ralph Bryan, Tommy Robb and Bill Smith rode for the UK team, while Dick Mann rode a fourth CR 750 for Hansen’s American team. The first three bikes failed to finish, but Mann finished in first. Honda followed up by entering two bikes in the 1970 Isle of Man TT Production Race. Tommy Robb and John Cooper finished eighth and ninth, and complained about the bike’s handling on the famously unforgiving 37-mile road course.
Back on the road, the CB 750 was such a huge success in sales that Honda had to alter their production process. While the early bikes had dull “sandcast” engine casings, later ones had smooth die-cast parts. Predictably, it’s the early bikes that now command the highest prices.
During its 10 year production run, the CB 750 changed relatively little. Performance remained competitive with 67 bhp, a 13 second quarter mile and a 125 mph top speed. The first few years offered some vivid 1960s colors, but as the 1970s set in, lime green, bright gold, electric blue and ruby red made way for more subdued browns and blacks. A Hondamatic two-speed automatic version of the CB 750 was offered from 1976, but it was never a popular option. A Super Sport was introduced in 1977 with dual front disc brakes, Comstar alloy wheels and a black-out engine treatment.
The CB 750 remains an excellent collector bike for many reasons. It’s big and heavy by modern standards, but it is comfortable and reliable, and because so many were built, there is a ready supply of affordable parts (with a few exceptions) and an active community of owners. It’s best to find an example that’s been maintained by a long-term owner, has solid electric connections, and to try to find one that has had its forks and brakes rebuilt.