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1969 Honda CB750
review and specifications


SOHC | CB750-4 | 736cc | Disc front brake | Multi-cylinder | Superbike | Buyers guide



When the original Honda CB750

was launched in 1969, the motorcycle world found itself largely divided into two very distinct camps.


The first, of course, were the old guard British bike diehards whose love of, and loyalty to, the established home grown product was apt to distort objective evaluation of any "foreign rubbish"—not least the invasive offerings of the upstart Japanese; a nation that, due to the well-publicised atrocities of WW2, were still viewed (at best) with deep suspicion and suppressed hatred, or (at worst) something approaching outrage.

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The other camp, meanwhile, were more progressive and ready to forgive and forget a conflict that had ended almost two and a half decades earlier, and this camp accepted pretty much all Japanese products with interest and even optimism. The "nips", after all, built such bloody-good transistor radios, cameras, TV sets and all manner of domestic goods—as compared to the general reliability of British products which at that point in history was often pretty woeful.


Following the success of the famed CB450, the Japanese were well aware of the increasing commercial opportunities in Britain, Europe and more notably the USA and were looking to firmly establish and consolidate their position as the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer.


Launch of the CB750


The Honda CB750 (aka CB750-4) appeared in the UK in April 1969, four months after its January US debut (and six months after its October 1968 Tokyo launch). Actually, two such bikes were put on display at the Brighton Motorcycle Show at the Metropole Hotel.


Triumph, like all world manufacturers, had been watching the rise of Honda and were aware of the development and imminent introduction of the 750-4. Intent on stealing the lead, the East Midlands firm had recently launched the 750cc T150 Trident (September 1968), and the Trident (mercifully) had been well received, particularly on the US side of the pond where the demand for more power was most vociferous, and where general approval of British motorcycles was at its height. But if the Trident, with its 58bhp and its distinctly Anglo-Saxon styling cues was wowing the crowds, the Honda was leaving many breathless and in need of oxygen.


Honda CB750The big CB was simply knockout and was soon to be recognised as "the world's first modern superbike". It boasted four cylinders to the Trident's three. Around 67hp against the Trident's 58. A chain-driven overhead camshaft versus a collection of pushrods. A front disc brake eclipsing the Trident's front drum. An electric starter outspinning the Trident's kickstarter and a beautifully smooth ride (as opposed to the love-'em-or-hate-'em vibes of a Trident).


There were also turn signals, a speedometer and rev-counter, warning lights, a generally refined finish, the promise of leak-proof castings, and all underpinned by Honda's recent successes with multi-cylinder bikes at GP level.


So okay, the CB750 was carrying a little extra weight and was promising no more than 120mph—which the Trident could match. Barely. But it was the kudos of that extra cylinder coupled with the four chromium plated down-pipes/headers that made the old guard British bike fans sigh in anguish, and made the Japanese-focussed crowd grin with delight.


Then came the price in which the Trident was offered at a very competitive £614, with the Honda asking £695. And although the Honda was therefore more expensive, it was far better equipped [Note: there is some confusion about the launch prices, some of which claim the Honda was actually cheaper than the Trident. We're checking on this].


Honda CB750-4 problems


But it wasn't all good tidings for the Orientals. The handling of the CB750 was only adequate at best, and soon enough a few critics were also talking explicitly about rubber frames—not that the Honda was ever dangerous. It was more that its handling characteristics (and, to a lesser extent, engine power delivery) were very different to that generally offered by British iron. It needed a different approach, not least on bends when rolling the power off or on.


The suspension was also a little crude and too soft for many tastes. Worst of all, the front disc brake which was good (enough) in the dry could be a little treacherous in the wet; hence the need to dab the brake lever every once in a while whenever the H20 was abundant.


Other details kept the coffee bar critics busy. The ugly frame welds. The corrosion concerns. The flimsy mirrors. And a general feeling of ... well, differentness. The ultimate sin. But on the streets the bikes soon proved their worth and reliability, and as Honda ramped up production, so the price of the CB750 became increasingly competitive.


Within a few years, the complexity of the Trident design and manufacturing process, largely due to Victorian equipment and outmoded production orthodoxies (plus one or two seriously damaging design and marketing screw-ups), would set its price rising way above the Honda. As a consequence, Trident sales of all types (including the later T160) would end at around 27,000 machines. The Honda CB750-4, meanwhile, would continue in production and sell over 400,000 units in its lifetime, which includes later DOHC models.


Honda CB750 prices


The SOHC example featured on this page is arguably the most prized of the lot. Bonhams sold a 1969 "sandcast" model at Stafford, April 2019, for £25,900. In March 2018, a pre-production example was sold by H&H Auctions for £161,000 and claims to be the most expensive Japanese motorcycle sold at auction (and possibly distinct from the most expensive sold privately).


Generally speaking, you can pay as little as £2,500 for a rough, late SOHC example; i.e. a 1977 or 1978 machine. But don't count on completeness or originality at that price.


Beyond that, sorted examples of these bikes are selling (or at least asking) £5,000 or £8,000 or £12,000 or £30,000 depending on whose asking, the time of the year, and whether some other factor in the wider world has recently shone a spotlight on these machines.


And there are still plenty around, hence the range of offers and confusion of prices. Thousands of bikes were bastardised/cannibalised into choppers. Thousands of others were cafe racered. Countless more were scrapped (prematurely) when interest faded in the 1980s and 1990s. And it's anyone's guess how many are still squirreled away in sheds, garages, workshops or lying around under tarpaulins in fields.


Early CB750s have much investment potential. But the high survival rate mitigates against a quick return on your money. So don't hold your throttle open too long.


As a riding bike, these can still hack it on the mean streets of Hertfordshire or Lancashire or wherever. Parts availability isn't too bad. But you'll struggle at times for the more awkward bits. Talk to David Silver Spares in Leiston, Suffolk. If anyone can sort you out, he can.


Beyond that, check regularly for corrosion and don't let it get a grip. Japanese steel and aluminium of this era isn't very forgiving. Keep the camchains adjusted too. Change the oil as specified. And watch that front disc. These are modern classics that still have plenty of road to travel.


Go ride one sometime and see.




1969 Honda CB750 Specifications



Engine: Transverse, air-cooled, SOHC, 2-valve-per-cylinder, inline four
Capacity: 736cc
Power: 67hp (50 kW) @ 8,000rpm

Maximum torque: 44lb-ft @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 120mph
Compression: 9:1
Bore x stroke: 61mm x 63mm

Ignition: Coil and points

Induction: 4 x 28mm Keihin carburettors

Lubrication: Dry sump

Starting: Kick and electric
Gearbox: 5-speed

Clutch: Wet multi-plate

Frame: Steel twin cradle
Final drive: Chain
Front tyre: 3.25 x 19-inch
Rear tyre: 4.00 x 18-inch

Wheels: Steel, wire
Front brakes: Single 296mm disc
Rear brake: 179mm drum

Front fork: telescopic

Rear suspension: Twin shock/dampers

Fuel capacity: 4.2 imperial (19 litres)

Weight: 481lbs dry (218kg)





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