1971 Honda CB450
Nicely Restored Bike, Very Clean Example of an Early CB450
History of the CB450:
Widely recognized as one of the most important motorcycles ever launched by Honda, the Honda CB450 is celebrated as the company's first “big twin” and as the first volume production double-overhead cam. Lauded and hyped by motorcycle and car magazines as one of the most remarkable machines ever, it was in fact a slow seller, never quite lighting the market on fire as Honda might have hoped. To understand the impact the CB450 had, it’s important to understand the U.S. market of the early 1960s and what led Honda to introduce the 450.
In the beginning …
Honda started exporting motorcycles to the United States in 1959. At the time, Honda was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, selling 500,000 small motorcycles a year, mostly to Asian countries. Honda wanted to sell even more motorcycles, and astutely recognized that the U.S. market, where motorcycle registrations totaled a modest 500,000 or so, had great untapped potential.
Americans were buying some 60,000 motorcycles a year, about 12,000 of which were Harley-Davidsons. A large percentage of the rest came from England. Harley-Davidson was running on a tight budget and had little money for advertising, and the British companies were basically content with the market as it was; efforts to increase the numbers of riders were hamstrung by the refusal of English management to spend money on improving the product or on aggressive sales efforts.
By contrast, Honda was designing bikes to meet the specific needs of the American market. Teenage baby boomers were interested in speed and offroad competition, and so the 1961 product lineup featured the 305cc Super Hawk, a peppy little overhead cam twin, and the CL72 Scrambler, a 250cc OHC twin with a smaller tank and high pipes.
American Honda embarked on a marketing effort that, like a successful military campaign, was well funded and carefully thought out. Targeting non-riders, Honda placed ads in general interest publications marketing its bikes as a means of fun, carefree recreation. Honda was introducing motorcycles to a new leisure market, and great effort was made to promote a squeaky clean image through its “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” campaign. It worked. In 1962, only three years after renting a storefront on West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, U.S. Honda motorcycle sales were up to 65,000 units. A year later, sales reached 150,000. By itself, Honda had more than doubled total U.S. motorcycle sales.
The market grows
Paradoxically, Honda’s effective advertising expanded the market for all motorcycle manufacturers. Harley’s sales went from under 10,000 in 1963 to over 25,000 in 1965. In New Jersey, Berliner imported increasing numbers of BMWs and Ducati singles, and the British importers found themselves selling as many bikes as the home factory could pump out.
At first, British motorcycle companies did not see Honda as a direct threat. Triumph’s Edward Turner had convinced himself the Japanese were a long way from building the large sporting twins that were the backbone of British sales in the U.S., and he convinced his American distributors he was right. Heeding the words of Sun Tzu, Honda was careful to do nothing to alarm its competitors, while building up its retail base in the United States.
In 1964, a visiting journalist discovered Honda testing a 450cc twin at its factory track at Suzuka, Japan. The discovery shocked the British manufacturers, the standard-bearers of the traditional vertical twin. On sale a year later in both Europe and the United States, the new twin demonstrated Honda’s technical capacity. Honda had invested heavily in a state of the art foundry and the best tooling obtainable, and as a result could economically build designs that were out of reach for manufacturers with more antiquated equipment.
Nicknamed the Black Bomber (like the Model T, the CB450 was available in any color you liked — as long as it was black) the new CB450K0 twin had double-overhead camshafts at a time when the only motorcycles so equipped were purpose-built racers. In fact, the Bomber was disqualified from some production races in England on the grounds that it was too much like a factory racer.
The 444cc twin was a running portfolio of Honda’s emerging capacity. Four caged roller bearings supported the crankshaft, and primary drive was by spur gears. The valves were seated by torsion bar valve springs — short lengths of steel splined into tubular guides. Tight valve clearances and effective mufflers aided quiet running. The 450 also boasted a pair of 36mm constant velocity carburetors, a first on a production motorcycle.
Honda claimed the short stroke engine would develop 43 horsepower at the crankshaft and could reach 112mph. Cycle World recorded a top speed of 102mph in its August 1965 review. In contrast with most other bikes of the time, which pulled strongest at lower rpms, Honda’s 450 produced its best power over 6,000rpm. Reliability was excellent, provided you remembered to warm up the engine and changed the oil regularly — the service manual suggested 1,500-mile intervals. The horizontally split cases didn’t leak, and the electric starter always worked, hot or cold.
The Bomber was moderately successful, but Honda belatedly realized it would be even more successful if the styling, with its somewhat odd, humpbacked gas tank, was more mainstream. In February 1968, the K0 was superseded by the K1, with a 5-speed gearbox, a more conventionally shaped tank, a larger oil pump to aid warm up and a longer wheelbase to improve handling. After the introduction of the CB750 Four in late 1968, the 450 twin was no longer Honda’s flagship, but continued through 1974 in an important role as a middleweight street machine.
The CB450K3 was the first USA model with a front disc brake and 19" front wheel (shown below in red and gold from the 1970 Honda USA brochure). Other new features included a larger tail light, hinged gas cap, black-finished handlebar switches, fully -rubber cushioned instruments, and restyled mufflers. The headlight shell and upper fork brackets were painted to match the tank and sidecover color. In 1970 Honda color choices on various models also began to expand, moving beyond the traditional black, silver, candy red, or candy blue to include candy gold. Unfortunately, the original candy red and candy gold finishes are extremely vulnerable to sun fade. The candy blue Honda used is remarkably stable. The CB450K3 was the last model to incude significant engineering as well as styling changes. Most modifications through the CB450K7 were minor and cosmetic only.
From: : http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/classic-japanese-motorcycles/honda-cb450-black-bomber.aspx?PageId=3#axzz2m9VMRqCj
This 1971 CB450 is a very clean restored bike. It recently came out of the collection of the famed Bruce Weiner Microcar collection, which made a big splash in the auction world a few months back for being the biggest microcar sale of all time.
The bike has beautiful paint and all the chrome is extremely nice. The motor is very clean and the gauges appear to have no sign of the common sun damage found on these old CBs. The grips and seat look new. This looks like a bike that lived most of its life inside and was then properly freshened.
Overall, the bike rides very nicely. The motor pulls very strong and starts up immediately. We recently fitted a new battery. The bike does skip a bit out of 2nd gear and this may be the common detent roller issue. Once past that, the bike shifts beautifully, as you can see in the video.
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