The Honda CB700SC Nighthawk S

An American Hot Rod

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    1984-1986 Honda CB700SC Nighthawk S.
  • Radar2
    The Kawasaki GPz750 is sporty rival to Honda's CB700SC.
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    On the market: A 1984 Honda CB700SC, sold for $2,200.
  • Radar4
    The Yamaha XJ650RJ Seca is a sporty rival to Honda's CB700SC.

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Honda CB700SC Nighthawk S
Years produced:
Claimed power: 80hp @ 9,500rpm
Top speed: 120mph (est.)
Engine type: 696cc overhead cam, air-cooled inline four
Transmission: 6-speed
Weight: 516lb (wet)
MPG: 40-45
Price then: $3,398 (1984)
Price now: $1,200-$2,500

When the Honda CB700SC Nighthawk S was introduced in 1984, the words of praise from the motoring press were immediate and, in a surprise twist to the norm, unified. "Surprise: Custom now means California hot rod," announced Cycle. "The California hot rod: Honda’s fiddle-free speed shop special," said Rider. "An American-style, shaft-drive sport-custom that honors another American custom — hot rodding," quipped Cycle Guide. If the motoring press was any judge, Honda had struck a rich vein with its new Nighthawk S.

Like any good hot rod, the Nighthawk S had a purposeful, aggressive look. Paint was either two-tone black and blue or black and red, and just about everything else on the bike — save for the fake chromed velocity stacks on the outside carbs and the polished edges of the cylinder head fins — was matched in elegant, menacing black. Stylistically, the tank, seat and side panels mimicked the angle of the engine’s polished fins, and combined with the bike’s fab little bikini fairing, the 700 added up to a package that screamed "go fast" to riders looking for two-lane entertainment.

Powering this visual feast was an air-cooled, inline four. While visually similar to the engine introduced the year before in the CB650, the 700 was all new. Designed as a 750 (both Canada and Europe got a 750 version), for the U.S. market the engine was de-stroked 3.6mm to give a displacement of 696cc, letting the Nighthawk S just squeak under a newly enacted tariff on imported bikes of 700cc and above.

Since it retained its designed 750cc bore it could still breathe like a 750 through its 4-valve head, giving the new bike 67hp at the rear wheel and performance on par with and even exceeding other 750s. Cycle Guide recorded quarter-mile times of 12.048 seconds, putting the Nighthawk S ahead of Kawasaki’s GPz750 (12.167 seconds) and only slightly behind Suzuki’s GS750E (11.893 seconds). It was only a fraction slower than Honda’s liquid-cooled V4 sportbike, the VF750F Interceptor (11.963 seconds).

Further making the Nighthawk S stand out was its unique mix of old- and new-school bits. By 1984 (George Orwell, anyone?), new-school was in. Liquid cooling, V4 engines, anti-dive brakes, turbos, electronic fuel injection and ignition — anything that gave a performance or marketing edge was on the table. Yet here was the 700 Nighthawk, with a decidedly old-school, air-cooled mill, yet incorporating the latest mechanical advances.

6/29/2019 3:23:37 PM

mrmatt1761...its 2019...she is a 1986 700 nighthawk s...little over 31,000 miles. in Idaho her whole life...not a speck of rust. original everything except its wonderful blacked out paint job...he covered the crazy original paint. What a cool old school machine. plenty quick for me at 58...I guess that makes me old school too. no maintenance to do...but ride.

Mark Mavracic Sr.
1/13/2013 2:51:20 PM

I owned one of these 700 Nighthawk S and it was an amazing bike. Was a joy to have, very little maintenance and it was no bullet but it was fast enough. Handling was also great, the bike also seemed lighter than it was. Was not the handling king that my FZR1000 was but not to shabby. Mine was the red/white that not too many liked but I just found it different. Thanks for bringing this as the memories were great.

cam ritson
9/12/2009 8:16:50 AM

had my import 700snighthawk since 95 never had to lay a spanner on it love the handling. was mint till some bimbo doing her hair had me need of a screen blade just cant get one from anywhere. anyone with any idea,s be mucho greatful.

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