Project 422, an effort to produce a sporty motorcycle with commanding performance, culminated in the 1979 Honda CBX. Since Honda’s entry into the United States market, the long series of CB-designated street bikes normally had numerals indicating engine displacement, but this CB was followed by X, for extreme. Even people who cared little about bikes couldn’t help noticing the transversely mounted six-cylinder engine, nearly two feet wide, tilting forward 33 degrees, and sprouting a row of exhaust tubing that would make a pipe organ repairman reach for his tuning knife.
The CBX’s precursor from 15 years earlier, the RC165 racing bike, featured a 24-valve 250cc six-cylinder with a 15,000 rpm redline. This production bike adapted that design, but it displaced 1,047cc. The air-cooled DOHC engine was fueled by six 28mm Keihin carburetors that received assistance from an accelerator pump and an advanced air cutoff valve. Bore and stroke were 64.5mm x 53.4mm, and the engine operated with a 9.3:1 compression ratio. Output was 103 hp at 9,000 rpm. The six-into-two exhaust system was tuned to sound like an American Phantom jet fighter.
Even weighing 600 pounds wet, the CBX turned the quarter-mile in 11.55 seconds at 117 mph, but in Turn Eight at Willow Springs Raceway, the bike “would wobble fearsomely,” as one magazine editor recalls. Even Honda engineers recognized the lack of chassis strength and inadequacies of the suspension. Nevertheless, the absence of a downtube frame left that great finned and ribbed engine exposed, and the sculpted 6.1-gallon tank, ducktailed cowl, and elegant five-spoke alloy wheels completed the look. All this performance cost $3,998.