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This Honda CB 450 “Black Bomber” is widely considered one of the most important motorcycles ever to come out of Japan. The first of the “big Hondas”, the CB450 was the world’s first production dual-overhead cam bike. Paired with unusual torsion valve springs and other refinements, it was a technological tour de force that the European and American manufacturers could not match.
At a time when US motorcycle sales totaled 60,000 per year (12,000 Harley-Davidson, the rest mostly British with a smattering of Italian and German bikes), Honda wanted part of that business. Introduced at the 1961 Brighton Speed Trials in England, the CB compared favorably in performance with the 650 and 750cc offerings from BSA, Triumph, and Norton. Priced about the same, it made up in performance what it lacked in displacement. “The Honda CB 450 put the world on notice: Honda was at war, and planned to win” said Motorcycle Classics magazine. By 1962, US motorcycle sales had increased to 65,000; by ’63, 150,000 – primarily due to Honda sales. The Honda CB 450 was credited with singlehandedly crushing the British motorcycle industry, and changing the course of motorcycle history.
Developed in comparative secret in a new, state-of-the-art factory in Osaka, the big Honda was a shock to the competition. The CB 450 was not without its faults, however. Offered only in black the first year, it was not as visually appealing as other models. It was heavy at 412 lbs., and also suffered from vibration, poor rear shock valving, and it required a long, gentle warm-up period. Later iterations, K1-K7, addressed these and other issues, with tank redesigns, bright colors, and disk brakes all coming to the fore. Even after it was surpassed by the iconic CB 750, the 450 remained an important bike for Honda, and remained in production another 3 years.
Manufacturer: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Country of Origin: Japan
Engine: 444cc, straight-twin, air-cooled, DOHC, 43hp 444cc
Transmission: 4 speed
Top Speed: 110 (est.), 103 tested
Years of Production: 1965-1974
Number Produced: Undisclosed
Original Cost: $1,000.00