Honda CB400 Four: Less is More

More than 30 years later, the Honda CB400F has never looked better

| November/December 2006

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    Don Hughes' 1976 Honda CB400 Four.
    Photo by Robert Smith
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    Don Hughes' 1976 Honda CB400F.
    Photo by Robert Smith
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    Though the 400 Four sparked the café racer styling trend that would eventually give us today's repli-racer sportbikes, it wasn't universally appreciated at the time.
    Photo by Robert Smith
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    Photo by Robert Smith
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    Photo by Robert Smith

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Honda CB400 Four
Years produced:
1975-1977
Total production: 105,000 (est.)
Claimed power: 37hp
Top speed: 95mph
Engine type: 408cc overhead cam, air-cooled inline four
Weight (dry): 179kg (394lb)
Price then: $1,470
Price now: $1,800-$3,000
MPG: 45 (period test

More than 30 years later, the Honda CB400 Four has never looked better. A stalwart British bike fan, I’d never ridden a Japanese multi until one day in 1975. My “daily driver” was a persnickety BSA Victor, a worthy enough machine, certainly, but a real clunker. It was, after all, just an old-fashioned and only partially civilized dirt bike.

A friend offers me a ride on his new CB400F. I’m not going to like this, I tell myself. It’s a wussy rice burner. I’m still trying to kid myself that it’s nothing special when I hand it back. Just six years separate the Beezer from the F-bike, but the contrast is huge; it’s like the Space Shuttle just landed in the Stone Age.

I doubt I could have chosen a more stark comparison if I’d tried, and in spite of my own laggardness, by 1975 the rest of the world was used to four-cylinder Hondas. The Honda CB750 Four came first, of course, in 1969, and created the pattern for all Honda Fours for the next 10 years. The air-cooled in-line four cylinder wet sump engine used a chain-driven single overhead camshaft and breathed through four carburetors. The engine was constructed in unit with the primary drive, wet clutch and five-speed transmission. An electric starter was standard, as was the disc front brake.



Honda’s mini-multis
Having effectively created the four-cylinder category, Honda took its bag of tricks and downsized them. Next came the 1971 Honda CB500 Four, then the 1972 CB350 Four. This last machine exemplified Honda’s flair for miniaturization but was not a technical success. With four heavy chrome pipes, mild tuning and meager power, it was slower than the company’s same-size twin and barely capable of highway speeds. It nevertheless lasted two seasons on the back of the four-cylinder fashion.

From an engineering standpoint, the 1975 CB400 Four was a simple evolution of the 350. An increase in bore size from 47mm to 51mm combined with the 50mm stroke gave 408cc, and while the engine cases were changed to accommodate a sixth gear, many engine internals including the crank, rods and camshaft remained the same. Honda did revise the cylinder head, however, increasing compression to 9.4:1. Even the four 20mm Keihin carbs were retained.

josheldridge
4/22/2019 5:54:42 PM

I Bought 2 76 554 Honda's for my 16yr son , one was an extra parts/replacements, over a year ago, unfortunately they are still in my shed and hasn't been touched. So, this year I'm taking back my shed for projects that I want/need done. I want to sell both as a pair for $600.00, to someone who is really interested and who would appreciate them. The one that he was supposed to be using to ride is actually very low mileage & clean title and would run, it does need some carbs worked and some TLC. I know I could get more for them and even more if I part them out. But I would really like to see someone who would appreciate and really enjoyed these classics. If this someone is you or your son/daughter please email me or message me back and I will get back with you. He doesn't understand what he is giving/throwing away or not even showing any remorse/loss of the best times he missed out on. I AM REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT SELLING THEM, it's no longer a threat, IT WILL BE DONE. I have Two 76 554 Hondas, one has clean title, runs but needs, carbs worked, and the other , was intended to be used as parts bike/replacement parts when needed. The one with clean title has very low mileage. Was bought for my 16 year old son, but he shows no interest in them, so Im willing to sell as a pair to get them out of my shed and to someone who will appreciate them. It does needs some TLC. Only those who are serious, please respond. Will consider trades, but absolutely nothing if it doesn't run, or for parts for my 74HD Iron. This I posted on Craigslist. Email me: josheld80@gmail.com. Text Only: I have Two 76 554 Hondas, one has clean title, runs but needs, carbs worked, and the other , was intended to be used as parts bike/replacement parts when needed. The one with clean title has very low mileage. Was bought for my 16 year old son, but he shows no interest in them, so Im willing to sell as a pair to get them out of my shed and to someone who will appreciate them. It does needs some TLC. Only those who are serious, please respond. Will consider trades, but absolutely nothing if it doesn't run, or for parts for my 74HD Iron. ABSOLUTELY NO CALLS, WILL BE DISCARDED & NOT RETURNED, BUT WILL get back as soon as I'm able too. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING.


gary
6/13/2015 1:14:18 AM

Michael, I'm restoring a 400F and would love to have a good header for it. Don't know how to reply directly to you so if you read this email me at aa00727@aol.com I'll be holding my breath! Gary


Michael
6/2/2015 5:40:49 PM

I bought one of the first four hundred/fours brand new in 1975, then rode it for a good ten years or so. It was a great little bike, but mine had a five speed transmission -- not a six speeder. I put flat dragster-style handlebars, and oil cooler, and a Kerker pipe on the bike, then rode the wheels off that thing. I finally sold it to a friend who was moving to New Mexico… but still have the original four-in-one chrome exhaust header. It's been in a closet for the past twenty years or so. Don't have the muffler -- that rotted off, thus prompting me to buy the Kerker header. It's in good shape, so if anybody out there is interested in buying it, reply to this e-mail.




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