’74 Honda CB350 Four
‘The most civilized motorcycle of all time’…I have heard the ‘CB350 Four’ called that more than once and, for good reason. Honda had already created the first ‘Superbike’ with the CB750, then followed that up with the CB500/Four for the masses, but something was missing? Like what? Small displacement Honda motorcycles were selling great all over the world, the CB350 Twin was the biggest selling motorbike in the US. What else does the Goliath of the motorcycle industry need??? Honda loves technology, and they love showing off their prowess at it. “And now ladies and gentlemen, straight from the racetracks of the world, we bring you…”
In the mid 1970′s everything in the motorcycle world was changing as fast as most of us changed our Bultaco Cemoto T-shirts. European manufacturers were being left behind as fast as the Japanese could make bait…I mean sushi. Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki were making bullet fast, lightweight, and high giggle factor to ride motorcycles. Meanwhile, Big Red was building and selling motorcycles that everyone could love as soon as they sat on it.
The CB350 Four was originally designed to be a 250CC bike but, was deemed to be too small for the US market, Honda’s biggest at the time. So…punch it up a bit and at the same time keep it rider friendly. TA,DA…enter the CB350 Four. What a sweetheart of a motorcycle. Small and lightweight, easy to look at (as in traditional styling), powerful enough that somebody moving up from a CB350 twin wouldn’t be intimidated, it was fun to ride and, at the same time feel like you could sit at the grownups table with the rest of your riding friends at Thanksgiving.
The baby ‘Four’ was built for only three years ’72-74, dismal sales killed the 350 but spawned the 400 Four which is a true cult bike. Why wasn’t the 350 a cult bike? It’s simple, at that time, nobody wanted a plain vanilla motorcycle which is exactly what the 350 four was. Honda wanted to keep the ‘you meet the friendliest people on a Honda’ campaign going, but everyone else wanted to go fast and to heck with being friendly. Since then, little by little…inch by inch…the little 350-4 is gaining on the CB400.
The CB350 Four was not designed and built to compete with the Yamaha RD350, the Kawasaki S1, or the Suzuki GT380. The CB350 Four was silky smooth all the way to its 10,000 RPM redline, reliable as your Grandmother’s Big Ben alarm clock, easy to maintain and……..boring as all get out. Honda succeeded in every aspect of the 350/4 except in the sales department. In 1975 Honda brought out the CB400F to replace the 350. It too, was a dud on the showroom floor, sort of. There is something about American riders. If a motorcycle isn’t a true kick in the pants either horsepower or sound wise…why bother?!
That said, I think the CB350 Four is really one of the best small motorcycle EVER built. Really. It is small enough to be an around town bike, it’s big enough to go across the country on, your wife / daughter / son / mom could ride it and be happy on. Then lastly, and….here it comes, yet again…you could make it a really cool Cafe Racer out of it.
I found this really neat Euro spec CB3450 Four on ebay today, it doesn’t need much to get it totally road worthy. Back in 1992 the owner gave it a nice restoration, including some new OEM pipes that, are starting to rust out a bit on the bottom…not all that difficult to repair though, and won’t be too noticeable. There is some minor corrosion on the motor and frame but that has to be expected with a motorcycle of this vintage. This is a neat little bike that can offer the new owner a lot of fun in a lot of ways. The CB350/4 is a real jewel of a motorcycle and here is one that you can get without paying ‘cult bike’ prices. Click on the pics for more pictures and info.