Every field has had one legend, one icon who is above the rest, a legend who serves as the definitive point of the industry’s history. A legend that defines the before and after as it lay foundation for everything that comes after it. In the automotive world, we have had people like Massimo Tamburini, John Britton, Enzo Ferrari, Henry Ford and Bruce McLaren who created cars, motorcycles, and companies, establishing their legacy that will forever remain unmatched and keep inspiring thousands and thousands of petrolheads forever. Then theere are cars like the Ford Mustang, Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari Enzo, McLaren F1, Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale and the likes gave us immortal icons. The motorcycle industry is no different, it has its share of legends. However, the legend of the Honda CB750 will forever stand as the most significant motorcycle ever made. For it was the world’s first superbike and it changed everything.
The Honda CB750 wasn’t a technological marvel or an engineering breakthrough. In fact, it was Honda at its conservative best with SOHC and two valves per cylinder. However, the Honda CB750 repackaged exotic technology into a mass produced motorcycle and all that with the legendary Honda reliability backing it up. It arrived in the real world with a price and a quality that gave almost everyone access to great power and raw speed with never foreseen reliability.
With the Honda CB750, the era of modern motorcycles arrived. Honda wanted to shake up the industry with cutting-edge engineering, technology, and manufacturing technique. The CB750 was a direct result of this new approach. The journey of the Honda CB750 started in 1967 American Honda’s service manager Bob Hansen had a meeting with Soichiro Honda in Japan regarding the possibility of using Grand Prix technology in bikes prepared for American motorcycle events
The foundation of the Honda CB750 was laid after Honda officials, including the company’s founder himself understood the opportunity for a larger bike. A large engine capacity road machine was required to compete with the Harley Davidson and Triumph’s twin-cylinder machines. The discussion between Hansen and Soichiro Honda, made evident that a “King of Motorcycles” needs to be created. In April 1969 the Honda CB750 was launched in the UK at the Brighton, England Motorcycle Show held at Metropole Hotel Exhibition Centre.
The Honda CB750 had a visually imposing inline four engine that was accompanied by a four chromed gleaming exhaust pipes. All that made the CB750 look like a grand prix bike for the streets. With a company claimed 125mph (201kmph) top speed the CB750 had an incredible performance to go with its gorgeous looks. When launched, the Honda CB750 was priced at $1,495 giving the motorcycle a considerable sporting performance advantage over its competition, particularly its British rivals. The bikes reviews made it evident that the whole motorcycling fraternity was awed by the sheer performance and price proposition of the CB750.
By mid-70s, Honda was selling as many as 60,000 CB750 superbikes every year. The CB750 and its incredible success ended up kicking off an epic high-performance race among the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers that continues to this day. Looking back into times, had there been no Honda CB750 there probably would be no Honda CBR1000RR or the Kawasaki ZX-10R, or Suzuki GSX-R1000, or Yamaha YZF-R1.
After riding the CB750 for the first time, Honda boss man, Mr. Honda himself, a man who was famously short with praise had said, ‘What a terrific, terrific machine!’ Then walked away, laughing. And this is how the world’s first Superbike was born, the Honda CB750 and the world was never the same again, thankfully.
Image Source: Wikipedia