The Smallest Four: Honda CB350F
Honda’s magic shrinking act gave us the smallest production version of its inline four, the CB350F.
Honda’s CB350F was the smallest version of the well-recieved Honda CB750.
Photo by Rick Schunk
1973 Honda CB350F
Engine: 347cc SOHC transverse-mounted inline four, 47mm x 50mm bore and stroke, 9.3:1 compression ratio, 34hp @ 10,000rpm (rear wheel, estimated)
Top Speed: 98mph (period test)
Carburetion: Four 20mm Keihin
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube steel cradle frame, 53.3in (1,354mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, twin shock absorbers w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: Single 10in (254mm) disc brake front, 6in (152mm) SLS drum brake rear
Tires: 3 x 18in front, 3.5 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 373lb (169.2kg)
Seat height: 31in (787mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 12.1-liters (3.2 gal.)/40-60mpg
Price then/now: $1,100/$800-$3,000
Magicians like David Copperfield and Criss Angel stun and amaze audiences with their mind-bending stunts and tricks. While Honda isn’t generally recognized as a magic act, the company did stun and amaze the motorcycle community in 1969 when they introduced the CB750 Four — the first in a new generation of quality, oil-tight, large displacement multi-cylinder machines. And while they started big, Honda still had a couple of other tricks up its corporate sleeve.
Two years later, in 1971, Honda introduced the smaller CB500 Four. Cycle Guide magazine thought the CB500 was quite the package, as its August 1971 issue headline blared: “They’ve Done It Again: Honda has unleashed another new standard for the motorcycle industry to follow.”
If that wasn’t amazing enough, Honda’s next magic act was to decrease the size of its four-cylinder engine package even farther. In the spring of 1972, Honda introduced the CB350F. “Honda had blown everyone away with the 1969 introduction of the CB750 Four,” says Honda enthusiast and collector Doug Sheldon. “In 1971, the CB500 Four was released, again ‘one-upping’ all the competition. So the 1972 release of the 350 Four was almost a natural progression — a statement as to what Honda engineers could do.” The world’s first mini-multi, it was the smallest capacity multi-cylinder motorcycle to ever enter into full-scale production.
Through the years
Honda had, of course, been developing the multi-cylinder power plant over many years, with experience gained in both their motorcycle racing exploits and their efforts with V-12 Grand Prix formula racing cars. By the time they introduced the 350 Four in 1972, the design and layout of the Honda SOHC four-cylinder engine was well established, helping coin the term “Universal Japanese Motorcycle,” or simply UJM as the basic layout was called.
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