Marcos Markoulatos unexpectedly became a fan of 1970s Japanese motorcycles, and his 1976 Honda CB750F Super Sport has pride of place.
Marcos Markoulatos' 1976 Honda CB750F Super Sport.
1976 Honda CB750F Super Sport
Claimed power: 58hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 114mph (period test)
Engine: 736cc air-cooled SOHC transverse-mounted inline four
Weight (dry): 449lb (227kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.8gal / 35-55mpg
Price then: $2,152
Price now: $1,000 - $3,000
By the mid 1970s, the motorcycle marketplace was chock-a-block with fast and delectable rides. From pasta and meat sauce Italian to fish and chip British or sushi and wasabi Japanese, there was something on the menu to satisfy every taste. And while bikes like Ducati 750GT and Norton 850 Commando could have been considered entrees, the main courses were increasingly coming from Japan, with full plates like the Kawasaki Z1 900 and Suzuki GT750.
It could certainly be argued, that the progenitor of the 1970s superbikes was the four-cylinder Honda CB750, a machine first introduced in 1969 and the precursor to the 1976 Honda CB750F Super Sport featured here.
Honda definitely wowed the motorcycling community with the CB750, but it didn’t hold the top spot for long. By the time Honda was marketing the CB750 K4 in 1974, plenty of luster had worn off the model. For one thing, competing manufacturers were producing faster motorcycles — like the aforementioned Z1. And thanks to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, fuel economy had become an important concern in the North American market.
In response, Honda detuned the CB’s 736cc power plant — increasing efficiency, but decreasing horsepower. Where the 1969 CB750 produced around 67 horses, for 1974 there were only about 50 ponies at the rear wheel. By comparison, the 1974 Z1 produced a claimed 82 horsepower. The CB750, once the lightning rod for a new generation of Superbikes, had suddenly become the old man in the group.
Much of the performance market Honda had created was lost to them, and in 1975 Honda wasn’t even going to offer a standard CB750. Instead, Honda planned to spice things up by replacing the four-pipe CB750 with the 1975 Honda CB750F Super Sport.
The Super Sport was an improved machine, complete with a four-into-one header and muffler system, revised frame geometry featuring a lengthened rear swingarm, a rear disc brake and a longer gas tank with a new seat and rear cowl.
There were yet more changes. Honda returned some of the lost horsepower to the 736cc engine through various internal improvements, including an increased compression ratio (from 9:1 to 9.2:1) and revised cam timing. In Honda’s world, the Super Sport, with 58 horsepower, would be the company road burner while the newly introduced liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder Honda GL1000 Gold Wing would take over as Honda’s big touring bike. CB loyalists weren’t going to let the four-pipe CB750 disappear, however, and for 1975 Honda ended up offering all three big models.
Marcos Markoulatos, a mechanic at Baron MINI in Merriam, Kan., is a fan of 1970s Japanese motorcycles. Born one year after the Honda CB750F Super Sport was introduced, Marcos got his first motorcycle, a 1984 Yamaha Maxim 700, when he was 22. He had put an extra $1,000 down on a house he and a friend were buying, and his friend gave him the Yamaha. And while the Yamaha was his first “motorcycle,” it definitely was not his first powered two-wheeler. When he was 14, and for the two years after, he could regularly be seen riding a Honda Express moped around his hometown.
Marcos didn’t like the Maxim 700’s upright, cruiser-style handlebar, so he swapped it for a flat, straight drag bar and rode the Yam for three or four years. But then he discovered offroading and started spending more time playing with a Jeep, and the Maxim saw less and less use. It wasn’t long before the motorcycle was for sale. “I’d had my fun with the Yamaha, and even though it was a great bike, I wasn’t really in love with it,” Marcos says.
A couple of years later, though, and Marcos was itching to ride again. “Motorcycling was something I couldn’t kick, and I started to look around on the Internet,” he explains. Not entirely sure what he was looking for, Marcos found himself researching 1970s Japanese motorcycles. “Japanese machines of that era seem to be plentiful and dependable — economical to own and purchase,” Marcos says. Eventually, he decided what he really wanted was a Suzuki GS1000S Wes Cooley Replica, a particularly rare machine manufactured for only two years, in 1979 and 1980. When Marcos couldn’t find one, he looked into building his own version of a Wes Cooley Replica, but learned that would be a costly proposition.
And then, as fate would have it, he was talking motorcycles with a co-worker who said he had a 1972 Honda CB750K2 sitting in warehouse storage. It had been stored for 15 years, Marcos says, and he bought it for pennies on the dollar, but there was no title and the engine was stuck. None of that really worried Marcos, however, and he set about getting the Honda running, installing a used but clean set of Flame Sunrise Orange side covers and a matching gas tank.
Marcos got the bike tuned up and ready to ride just in time to have to put it away for the winter late in 2008; he didn’t get to ride it until the spring of 2009.
In the interim, still searching Craigslist and other Internet sites, Marcos discovered our feature 1976 Honda CB750F Super Sport for sale in Chanute, Kan., just two hours southeast of his home in Lawrence, Kan. “Basically, I was addicted to searching Craigslist, and the (CB750F) was close and the price was right,” he says. At $1,800 the price wasn’t bottom dollar, but the seller was the second owner and the bike was obviously very well cared for. All of the factory decals are in place, the plastic lenses are crystal clear, and many of the yellow paint dots, applied at the factory during assembly, are still clearly visible on various nuts and bolts.
From what Marcos ascertained, the seller bought the bike in 1991 from the original owner in Wilton, Conn. “In the last few years the seller had been riding it, but not that much,” Marcos says. “However, he’d taken great care of it. When I got there to pick it up, I saw it was in super nice condition, and it had been kept in his air-conditioned garage. It’s nice buying from somebody who takes care of their stuff.”
The bike needed a little bit of tuning work, however, so with the CB750F back home Marcos went to work on the bike’s four 28mm Keihin carburetors. The carbs weren’t all that bad, and having learned a lesson or two on his 1972 Honda CB750K2 about the difficulties of removing and installing four carbs, with the CB750F Marcos simply left them in place instead of removing them. He took the jets out, cleaning and rebuilding the four carbs while they stayed attached to the engine. With clean carburetors the CB750F started on the button — Marcos didn’t even have to replace the 12-volt battery.
Still wearing its factory-original yellow finish, Marcos’ bike is a beautiful survivor. Marcos says he prefers the longer and skinnier gas tank of the CB750F, and the hinged lid that hides the fuel filler cap, against a K’s tank. The Super Sport tank holds slightly more gas than a CB750K, although only just barely; 4.8 gallons versus the standard bike’s 4.5 gallons.
One item Marcos didn’t like was the 1980s-style slash-cut muffler the last owner had installed to replace the original can. “That muffler just wasn’t quite right, and the bike was so nice it was worth looking for the original exhaust,” Marcos says. The four chrome, double-wall Honda headers to the single collector were original, and Marcos soon found himself bidding on a NOS muffler he found on eBay to make the bike correct. He scored the unit from a seller in Fond du Lac, Wis., for $222.50, and laughs when he says the reserve was a very modest $35. “He shipped it to me for free, he made so much more money than he thought he was going to,” Marcos says. Granted, it cost a lot more than Marcos hoped, but there’s no question it was worth it, as it really pulls the bike together.
A friend encouraged Marcos to change out the raised white-letter Dunlop tires for something a little more pliable, and a set of Continental Super Twins went on the rims. From the factory, Honda ran a 17-tooth front sprocket to give the CB750F increased off-the-line performance, but this lower gearing causes buzzing at highway speeds. A common upgrade is a sprocket with one more tooth, and Marcos installed an 18-tooth sprocket when he put on a new chain. Apart from ensuring the cam chain is properly adjusted, Marcos hasn’t had to do any work to the SOHC engine.
Honda increased the compression ratio of the CB750F by running higher-domed pistons, and the cam timing was extended five degrees at both the intake and exhaust. Valve lift was also slightly increased.
According to a contemporary magazine test report, the carburetors, right down to the main jets, appeared exactly the same as those found on the CB750K5.
Marcos has rebuilt the standard Honda forks, replacing the seals and changing the fluid, and says next on his list will be replacing the ball and cone steering head bearings with tapered rollers. To increase the straight-line stability of the CB750F, Honda changed the chassis rake from 27 degrees to 28 degrees, and the trail was increased from 3.7 inches to 4.5 inches.
Surprisingly, the CB750F gained some weight over the standard CB750 — a little bit more than 12 pounds. Yet a few extra pounds didn’t bother Cycle magazine’s tester, and they were quite happy with how the machine handled.
In its May 1975 issue, Cycle said: “The CB750F, tighter gearing notwithstanding, is going to get shaded in a straight-line contest of speed with, say a Z-1. But it handles better than any of the other Japanese Superbikes. Despite the longer wheelbase and stability-oriented steering geometry, the Honda CB750F handles like a bike at least a hundred pounds lighter.”
Marcos bought the CB750F with 8,200 miles on the clock and he has rolled that up to 10,000, a figure it turned during our photo shoot. Interestingly, both he and the CB750F share a birth date. The VIN tag on the bike indicates it was produced in August 1975 — the same month and year as Marcos.
Marcos says he intends to ride the Honda, just not on a daily basis. Instead, he’ll pull it out for short jaunts and enjoy its charms while riding the back roads around eastern Kansas.
“I’m no expert motorcycle rider by any means,” Marcos says. “But the CB750F handles really well, and it’s nice and nimble.” As it was when new, it’s approachable and easy to handle, making it an excellent everyday machine.
Marcos still watches Craigslist, but he’s happy with his very stock, very clean low mileage Honda CB750F. With his appetite for mid-1970s machines satisfied for now, he doesn’t think he’ll be choosing another machine off the menu any time soon.
Then again, we couldn’t help but notice the 1974 Yamaha TX500 sitting in his garage …. MC
“The fact remains that it will just whip the tires off your typical, tricked-out café racer. Highbars, turn-indicators and all, it really is a super sporting motorcycle.” — Cycle, May 1975
“Performance-conscious riders will enjoy the added power and acceleration which have brought the machine back to the fringes of the Superbike category, with the added benefit of improved handling.” — Cycle Guide, July 1975
“It handles better than any other standard large Japanese bike I know, which makes it more fun than Honda 750s have ever been.” — Cycle World, November 1975
“The Honda 750F aims to please on too broad a scale to be a truly great motorcycle in any single category. But to label that as bad would go against the fact that Honda has a sold a huge number of K models since 1971.” — Rider, Winter 1976
“The acceleration, handling and braking are spirited enough to keep your adrenaline pumping.” — Cycle Guide, March, 1977