The Honda GB500
Best bets on tomorrow's classics
The Honda GB 500.
Years produced: 1989-1990 (U.S. version)
Claimed power: 33hp @ 6,500rpm (measured, rear wheel)
Top speed: 108mph (period test)
Engine type: 498cc air-cooled SOHC 4-valve single
Weight: 390lb (wet)
Price then/now: $4,198/$4,000-$6,500
Rarely does the bamboo curtain part just enough for us to glimpse the domestic Japanese motorcycle scene. Gray market imports of the Honda VFR250R and Suzuki RG250 race replica offer clues. But in 1989, Honda listed two of its home market bikes for sale in the US: the 13,000rpm inline four, gear-cam drive 400cc Honda CB1; and the “Great British” Honda GB500 thumper. Neither was a big seller at the time, but both are fast becoming collectable classic Honda motorcycles.
Though sold as a 400 in Japan, the GB500 was given a full 500cc engine for the U.S. market, using a sleeved-down version of the SOHC radial four-valve (RFVC) engine from the XL600 dirt bike. But it was the GB’s old school styling that made the biggest impression.
Though not intending to reprise any specific British single from the golden era, Honda managed to capture the essence of the Norton Manx, the BSA Gold Star and the rest through subtle styling cues and period-replica components.
The gold pin striping on the swooping black gas tank echoed Velocette and Sunbeam practice of old, while the paired tachometer/speedometer sat in chrome binnacles above clip-on handlebars steering an aluminum-rimmed spoked front wheel. Visually, the single disc brake was the GB’s only necessary concession to modernity. Yet while many classic British bikes look like the assembly of disparate components they actually were, the GB500 is a stunning example of coordinated manufacturing bringing form and function together.
The dry sump 92mm x 75mm air-cooled engine drives a five-speed transmission via primary gears and a wet clutch. The oil tank lives behind the right side panel (thoughtfully stenciled “Tourist Trophy”) and the whole is wrapped in a single downtube dual-cradle steel frame. An aluminum box-section swingarm holds the spoked rear wheel with traditional dual shock suspension. Completing the period look are narrow 90/90 x 18in front and 110/90 x 18in rear tires.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>