1969 Honda CL350: Dual-Purpose Riding, Sixties Style

Honda might not have been the first motorcycle maker to market a high-pipe, 2-cylinder scrambler with the Honda CL350, but it was probably the most successful.

| September/October 2013

1969 Honda CL350
Engine: 324cc air-cooled OHC parallel twin, 64mm x 50.6mm bore and stroke
Claimed power: 33hp @ 9,500rpm
Top speed: 100mph
Weight: 346lb (157kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2.4gal/45-50mpg
Price then/now: $700/$1,500-$4,000

Honda might not have been the first motorcycle maker to market a high-pipe 2-cylinder scrambler, but it was probably the most successful.

Many manufacturers had traveled down the scrambler-style street-oriented route before Honda, including BSA and Triumph. None of them, though, were as successful as Honda and their CL350 model, and according to Honda restoration guru Charlie O’Hanlon, none of them have the same cachet.

“Honda CL350s are really their own entity,” Charlie says from his shop — aptly named Charlie’s Place — in Los Angeles. “They have a very ‘Japanese’ style, with plenty of class. But they were built to be ridden, they were built to be reliable, and they were built for people to have fun on them.”

Honda broke open the American market for small, rider-friendly motorcycles in 1959 when they established their import business in LA. Prior to Honda, many of the motorcycles being ridden on the streets and in the dirt in the U.S. were heavy American-built V-twins. Lighter British iron was more sporting, but still featured relatively crude production qualities.

Honda arrives

Honda’s first production scrambler was the 250cc CL72, first seen in the U.S. in 1962 when Honda dealers and offroad racers Dave Ekins (brother of stunt rider/racer Bud Ekins) and Bill Robertson Jr. rode a pair of CL72s 963 miles in less than 40 hours in a nonstop race against the clock from Tijuana to La Paz. The 250cc scramblers were soon on showroom floors, and they sold well.

5/18/2015 7:00:34 PM

I had a Honda CL350 that I bought used from a dealer in 1970 that was registered as a 1969. It had a red/white tank without the extra stripe. I have often wondered if it was really a 1968 that the dealer had called a 1969. Now I realize that it was truly a 1969. For some reason I don't remember that it had the reflector on the front fender that I have seen on other CL350's. I sold the bike to finance a trip to Hawaii when I was between wives in 1972 and have missed it. I do recall the sweet sound of the side pipes when I was pulling hard in second or third gear. In those days a lot of people thought you weren't cool unless you were running a big bike like the 750 four or Harley chopper. Nowadays with all the cafe nostalgia, it seems these smaller bikes are in fashion. I have been considering finding a CL350 and redoing it just for the fun. I always found more enjoyment in working on the bikes than actually riding them much. Thanks for the information. -Larry Encinitas California

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