In the mid-sixties the global motorcycle landscape was populated by British smaller-displacement singles and twins.
In that light, it was bold of then up-and-coming brand Honda to set about the development of a large-displacement, transverse, air-cooled, inline four-cylinder. But aren’t we glad it did.
Honda was exporting more than half of its Japanese-made motorcycles in the late sixties, but it didn’t offer large-displacement sports bikes, even though they were in great demand in developed countries.
With prodding from US dealers, Honda set about developing that large displacement sportster in and appointed visionary development manager Yoshiro Harada to oversee the CB750 project. After many teething problems during the bike’s pre-launch introduction, the bike was let loose to a hungry public in the same year a man named Armstrong set down on the moon.
Gone was the dominance of the Brits, due to old technology and tooling, which resulted in a pretty well-deserved reputation for unreliability.
The American market was a point of focus and the CB sold a staggering 400,000 units across a ten-year model run in the US.
Australians too were taken with the bike, the competitive $1650 (approx.) price considered too hard to resist.
Honda had become a world leading manufacturer on the basis of that single bike, paving the way for other Japanese manufacturers to enter the market with sports bikes featuring large, 750cc engines.
The trend was set and if you take a critical look at today’s offerings in the litre bike sports category, it’s possible to see many echoes of the K0 of 1969.
That the bike can claim a strong influence some 50 years after introduction tells some of the tale of just how important it was, and indeed remains.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.