Honda has had a foothold in the American market by 1959 and went strength to strength from then on.
The 60’s was a time of social upheaval, sweeping every aspect of American life along its way, including bikers. Moviemaking styles started to change to what was eventually called “exploitation,” that featured gritty aspects of human follies such as sex, drugs and alcohol abuse. Movie after movie portrayed bikers as anti-social, violent, rebellious, dirty louts who relished on anarchy and invariably rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles. That image is stuck with society till this very day.
Honda saw an opportunity in diversity and went for it. Working with the Grey Advertising agency, Honda created the infamous “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign in 1963, along with the introduction of the CA100 Super Cub. The CA100 went on to being the best-selling motorcycle of all time.
But all those street bikes only served as the cash cows for founder Mr. Soichiro Honda’s true desires: Racing. It was him who coin the most famous quote, “Racing improves the breed. The profits financed Honda’s racing efforts, but it wasn’t a one-way street, as lesson learned and technologies in racing were adopted to their street bikes. Honda also knew the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra all too well.
Okay, okay, so how did the CB750 come about? Patience, my friends.
American Honda’s Service Manager, Bob Hansen met with Honda-san to discuss the possibility of building a large-capacity motorcycle which utilizes Honda’s racing technologies to compete in the American racing scene. It was said that Hansen told Honda-San to build “The King of Motorcycles.”
By the way, racing in America was governed by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), whose rules stipulated that only production-based motorcycles were allowed to compete. This rule became the basis the World Superbike, Supersport and Superstock championships.
The CB750 was born and made its debut in 1968.
And the world went ga-ga.
The CB750 didn’t create new technologies per se, but it was the first bike to incorporate technologies that were the domain of racers. It was exactly Hansen and Honda’s vision. It was the first production bike to mount its inline-Four engine transversely across the frame and disc brakes.
And it went past 120 mph (193 km/h). Oh yeah.
The CB750 was named as the first “superbike.”
The engine didn’t just introduce the world to the smoothness of inline-Fours that we are familiar with nowadays, but being typically Honda, it was reliable, unlike European and American bikes of the day. Those bike industries had been struggling with sales as they became redundant in the face of Honda’s new age technology, reliability, public perception and high price for many years, but it was the CB750 which delivered the coup de grâce.
How much did the 1969 CB750 cost when new? $1,495. The CB750 and its subsequent iterations’ production continued all the way to 2003. Honda sold approximately 400,000 units.