1983 Honda CX650 Turbo
T is for Turbo
Ron Graf's 1983 Honda CX650 Turbo.
Honda CX650 Turbo
Years produced: 1983
Claimed power: 100hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 140.4mph (period test)
Engine type: 674cc OHV, turbo-charged, liquid-cooled 80-degree V-twin
Weight (wet): 260.5kg (573lb)
Price then: $4,998
Price now: $4,000-$6,000
MPG: 45.8mpg (period test)
In 1983, turbocharging was the wave of the motorcycle future. And while the Honda CX650 Turbo was arguably the best of the turbocharged motorcycles that roared onto roads in the early Eighties, it is now one of the rarest production Hondas ever, with only 1,777 built and fewer than 1,200 imported to the U.S. and Canada.
Remember the late 1970s? Relatively high gas prices combined with general affluence spawned a large market for motorcycles, especially middleweight bikes that could be used to get to work or school and for short distance touring. Motorcyclists were generally younger than they are now, and interested in power, speed, and the new and the different.
But there were clouds on the horizon. Growing concern about pollution and safety had governments increasingly regulating motor vehicles; but we weren’t too worried. Technology was king, and we thought technology would give us socially conscious but exciting motorcycles — bikes that were quiet but still an absolute thrill to ride. Bikes that, despite being pollution free, would blast past everything on the road.
Looking for the new dawn
Although Honda was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in the 1970s, the company was very conscious of competitors breathing down its neck, and it was looking for ways to stay ahead of the pack. One way to do this was to stay ahead of the technological curve.
In 1978, Honda introduced the CX500, a bike it said was designed to be quiet, efficient, low emission and maintenance free. In fact, when the CX500 was first conceived, it was intended to appeal to women. The CX had a 4-valve-per-cylinder, pushrod operated V-twin engine, shaft drive, a 5-speed gearbox, water cooling and Honda’s new ComStar wheels shod with tubeless tires — the first tubeless tires designed for a production motorcycle.
Although the CX500 wasn’t particularly exciting to ride, it proved (after a cam chain tensioner glitch was ironed out) to be reliable and user friendly. It sold well, especially in Europe, where tax and licensing laws encouraged people to buy smaller bikes, and it became the favorite mount of British motorcycle couriers for many years.
Honda, however, wanted to show it could do more than simply build user-friendly, durable motorcycles. Its engineers, conscious of the need for innovation, thought the CX might be used as a platform for something more exciting. After some experiments with supercharging, they came up with the idea of turbocharging the CX. A turbocharger significantly increases engine performance without adding a lot of weight, and at first glance it seemed an ideal way to increase performance.
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