The Honda CB750 Four: Classic for the Masses

With its four-cylinder transverse engine, the Honda CB750 was a big hit with the public at its introduction in 1968 and has since become a collector favorite.

  • Honda CB750 parked on dirt
    The Honda CB750 KO.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • profile view of Honda CB750
    About as technically advanced as you could get in 1969, the CB750 brought sophisticated power within reach of the average buyer.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • sandcast and diecast Honda CB750 engines displayed side by side
    An estimated 7,414 sandcast CB750 engines were made, making them the Holy Grail of early CB's and the most valuable. The difference in finish of a sandcast engine from a diecast is obvious.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • front view of Honda CB750
    The Honda CB750 was a groundbreaking machine in the late 1960s and an instant success.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • view over handlebars of Honda CB750
    The speedometer and tachometer of the CB750.
    Photo by Richard Backus

  • Honda CB750 parked on dirt
  • profile view of Honda CB750
  • sandcast and diecast Honda CB750 engines displayed side by side
  • front view of Honda CB750
  • view over handlebars of Honda CB750

Honda CB750 K0
Years produced:
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 67hp
Top speed: 123mph (period test)
Engine type: 736cc overhead cam, air-cooled inline four
Weight (wet): 227kg (499lb)
Price then: $1,495
Price now: $12,500-$20,000 (sandcast), $5,000-$8,000 (diecast)
MPG: 34.3mpg (period test, average)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1969, throngs of motorcyclists clamored to see and ride Honda’s newest creation: the four-cylinder, single overhead cam Honda CB750 Four. It was unlike anything Honda had produced for the public, and frightfully similar to their race bikes, with the first mass-production in-line four-cylinder engine. It was the first Superbike, and more than 35 years later it makes for a great classic ride. Today, motorcyclists and collectors alike are snatching up original and restored early-production Honda CB750 motorcycles due to their limited numbers and their place in history, pushing sale and auction prices for these classic motorcycles sky-high.

Some 15 years ago, that wasn’t the case. When Dale Keesecker, owner of a Candy Blue-Green 1969 Honda CB750 K0, decided he wanted to restore one for his collection of two-wheeled machines, both the bikes and most replacement parts were readily available, and prices were fairly reasonable.

Editor-in-Chief Richard Backus and I had the chance to drive out to north-central Kansas not long ago to visit Dale and his 750. As the proud owner of a 1976 CB750 K6 I’ve been working on for just over a year, it was a trip I’d been looking forward to.

As we walked around Dale’s bike, ogling the perfect condition of pieces such as the emblems, gauges, exhaust system and more, answers to questions of origin started to have a broken-record effect. What isn’t original on the bike (albeit meticulously cleaned and polished) is NOS — new old stock. These are factory made replacement parts, most of which are identical to the original ones they replace. And while it isn’t a miracle to find NOS parts for some machines, the market has been picked very clean for early Honda CB750 pieces in recent years, as the value of these beauties has risen.

12/14/2010 12:45:59 PM

Hi there! Mr. Carter's vote for the Trident (ignoring BSA's Rocket 3) as 'first' Superbike is misplaced. He cites racing figures, some incorrectly, while this is about street bikes. The Norton Commando was introduced at the Sept., '67 Earl's Court show & was on sale prior to the introduction of the Trident. The Commando won the Motorcycle News 'Machine of the Year' readers poll 5 years in succession from '68 to '72. In Cycle magazine's March, '70 'Big Seven Superbike Comparison Test' the Commando posted the best 1/4 mile time (12.69), 2nd best exit speed to the Triumph, 3rd best circuit speed & was 3rd lightest (only the Suzuki & Kawasaki 500 2 strokes being lighter). Anyone honest who has ridden both a Commando & Trident will admit the Commando out-pulls the Triumph, whips it on top end & its handling is legendary. The CB750 was a technological marvel & altered forever what were acceptable features of a big bike. However, as a rider, it was a mediocre motorcycle at best. It was neither quicker nor faster than the competition nor did it handle nearly as well. It was a nice, smooth commuter/tourer, but hardly the 1st Superbike.

Tim Carter
12/10/2010 5:46:45 PM

Dear Sirs, The Triumph Trident was the first modern multi-cylinder motorcycle ever produced and is considered the "First" Superbike of that era,not the CB 750,for these reasons. The Trident would hit the market in late 1968 and the CB 750 would not hit the market until early 1969. The Trident was the first production racer ever to break over the 100 mph mark and the Trident known as "Slippery Sam" would go on to win the Isle of Man five consecutive years in a row, 1971-1975, a feat that still stands unbroken in the record books, even today. While the CB 750 was very dependable,reliable, high tech,cheaper and oil tight as opposed to their British counterparts,there was a trade off,however,the CB 750 was very top heavy and unbalanced for its weight,making handling poor,at very best. I'm surprised that you never mention these facts in any of your articles,they are well known established facts.

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