Sometimes you just have to wonder why a motorcycle manufacturer would keep building a bike that they have already replaced with a much better bike? A bike that is smoother, faster and much more in line with the times. The 1976 Honda CB500T is the poster child for just that question.
In the early to mid sixties, Harley Davidson was doing it’s best to compete with the British invasion and the Brit’s were happily selling bikes as fast as the factories could turn them out, nobody was really paying attention to the Japanese…particularly Honda.
Honda and the other Japanese motorbike builders were developing and selling small displacement bikes by the boat load but in 1965 Honda went head to head with the Brit’s with CB450. The first CB450, also known as, The Black Bomber’ (named because at that time, for that model, Honda followed Henry Ford’s mantra…”you can have it in any color you want, as long as its black”) had typical Japanese styling (odd) but a great number of technological innovations. Reliable electrics, it was oil tight, an electric starter and quite fast for a 450, Honda claimed a 112mph top speed but Cycle World magazine could only coax 102 out of the 450, still quite impressive for a first try from Honda. The CB450 really was one of the most important models ever launched by Honda, it was the first of the big twins from Honda.
The CB450, for all its new technology, still had its issues, mainly it vibrated…a lot. The CB wasn’t as fast as the slightly bigger Brit bikes,it was a bit on the heavy side and the suspension was, well…not so suspending. On the plus side, it was the first production street bike with double overhead camshafts (previously only on race bikes), and constant velocity carbs, again a first for street bikes. Styling however was woeful and the bike was not making as much of an impact on the US market as Honda had hoped.
Despite slow sales here in the US Honda kept building the DOHC 450. After the first couple of years Honda changed the styling, making it a little more British looking, hoping to attract more buyers. Still, the 450 collected more dust than buyers at the dealers.
IN 1972 Honda delivered the wonderful CB500 Four, the nail in the coffin for the CB450? Not yet. Which brings me back to my opening question, why would a manufacturer continue to build a bike that didn’t sell that well in the first place and was replaced by a much better motorcycle? Well, because some people still liked and continue to like, the way a twin cylinder motorcycle feels and sounds. Me included. I had a 1969 CB450 for a while and compared to my CB350′s, WOW…what a bike!
I have seen CB450′s set up for touring, been chopped and of course my favorite set up…a cafe racer. You can make a CB450/500 look and sound great and with just a few mods it becomes a very capable canyon carver.
Still trying to keep their original ‘Big Twin’ alive, in 1975 Honda bumped up the engine to 500cc, added a disc brake to the front (which in reality, the original drum brake was better), a bit of a styling tweak, a few other modifications, and…the bike still went over like a fart in church.
It seems that the CB450/500 was always just a bit shy of the mark but for some reason it has become a moderately desirable collector bike? Let’s see, the bike is special in many ways technologically, in its stylistic simplicity it is good looking (even the Black Bomber), the engine is almost as good looking as Yamaha’s XS650, and if you maintain it according to Honda’s specifications it will outlast you, your kids and your grandkids. These DOHC Honda twins are pretty damn nice. You want to know how good Honda still thinks it is…a 2013 Honda CB500 twin is on its way.
I found a really nice 1976 CB500T on ebay today that would be really nice to have. This CB500 looks almost new. It has only 11,000 miles on the clock but the owner had a basic overhaul done on the motor, refreshed the brakes,new tires, battery, etc. The only thing I see that is different from a completely stock version are the mufflers, but by the looks of them they probably sound better than the stock. This is a really nice CB500T and I’m sure it will go for a reasonable price and if you are a fan of Honda twins, this is a good bike. Most importantly, it will make a great cafe racer!!!
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info.
1976 Honda CB500T