Honda CB400 Four: Less is More — Classic Japanese Motorcycles — Motorcycle…

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Honda CB 400 Super Four Special Edition

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Project Motorcycle Classics CB500

It’s been a year since we finished our Motorcycle Classics build, a 1971 Triu.

Motorcycle Which 750 Four would you

When Honda launched the CB750 Four back in it was so far ahead of the curve it too.

Honda CB500

A 1974 CB500 on display with classic motorcycles at the Barber Motorsports Museu.

Project –We’ve Got a Winner!

Years 1975-1977

Total production: (est.)

Claimed power:

Top speed: 95mph

Engine 408cc overhead cam, inline four

Weight 179kg (394lb)

Price $1,470

Price now:

MPG: 45 (period test

than 30 years later, the CB400 Four has never better. A stalwart British fan, I’d never ridden a multi until one day in 1975. My driver” was a persnickety BSA Victor, a enough machine, certainly, but a clunker.

It was, after just an old-fashioned and only civilized dirt bike.

A offers me a ride on his new CB400F. I’m not to like this, I tell It’s a wussy rice I’m still trying to kid myself it’s nothing special I hand it back.

Just six years separate the from the F-bike, but the contrast is it’s like the Space just landed in the Stone

I doubt I could have a more stark comparison if I’d and in spite of my own laggardness, by 1975 the of the world was used to four-cylinder The Honda CB750 Four came of course, in 1969, and created the for all Honda Fours for the next 10 The air-cooled in-line four wet sump engine used a single overhead camshaft and through four carburetors.

The was constructed in unit with the drive, wet clutch and five-speed An electric starter was standard, as was the front brake.


Having effectively created the category, Honda took its bag of and downsized them. Next the 1971 Honda CB500 then the 1972 CB350 This last machine Honda’s flair for miniaturization but was not a success. With four chrome pipes, mild and meager power, it was slower the company’s same-size twin and capable of highway speeds.

It lasted two seasons on the back of the fashion.

From an engineering standpoint, the CB400 Four was a simple evolution of the An increase in bore size 47mm to 51mm combined the 50mm … gave and while the engine cases changed to accommodate a sixth many engine internals the crank, rods and camshaft the same. Honda did revise the head, however, increasing to 9.4:1.

Even the four Keihin carbs were

Styling was another matter Out went the mini-me 750 look; in café sensibilities: rear-set controls, lower bars, gas tank (with the new “Super logo) and a daringly asymmetric, in face, four-into-one exhaust. The headers, like a chrome in front of the engine, instantly the 400’s visual signature.

improved was the performance. Though claimed just three horsepower (from 34 to 37 ponies) and minor weight change, the time went from the 15s to low 14s, the extra cog no doubt as well. The baby Four finally keep up on the freeway.


We’re all familiar now the howl of a high-revving multi through a single pipe, but in this siren sound was new on the Honda’s previous multis and the 900 used four separate With the normal firing of an inline four and given the one-two and three-four pipes usually paired, the result was a exhaust beat that more like a twin.

The CB400 Four created a new At its 10,500rpm rev limit, the single was blowing 350 beats per second, or F above middle C. Contemporary concurred: the new sound was music to the of gearheads everywhere.

Though the sparked the café racer trend that would give us today’s repli-racer it wasn’t universally appreciated at the Most professional testers part-time racers) noted the bars were at an uncomfortable but they liked the overall lean.

But the Average Joe of the day didn’t any of it. Many dealers found installing high bars to their inventories. And the abbreviated wouldn’t accommodate two regular-sized Americans very well, so if you did that nicest person on Honda, he or she might have to walk.

This is all familiar now, but Honda’s approach a revolution at the time, and like pioneers, Honda suffered for it.

And it help that the CB400 wasn’t as fast as its competitors, of which were two-strokes. leader was the Yamaha RD350 RD400, while Suzuki’s and 400-class stroker triples also walk all over the But the baby Four scored better on handling, braking, and general sophistication: An innovation on the 1975 model, for example, was the now combined ignition/steering lock.

And while the strokers have faded away, the little gets more collectable all the

Honda CB 400 Super Four Special Edition

Don Hughes’ Hondas

When I up to Don’s house for our photo he’s unloading a crusty-looking 750 Four from his trailer. just one more tired that will now get the Hughes Don presently owns 36 motorcycles, all of Japanese.

Of the 36, 18 are completed projects, the rest are either in progress or in the wings.

Read Don Hughes’ on owning and riding a 1976 CB400 Four

Don started motorcycles 10 years ago after as general manager of a printing His first projects were a of Honda mopeds.

“When I I decided I wanted to try something this,” he says, “so I started on a 1981 C70 Passport.”

The previous had dismantled the bike down to the nut. “He even dismantled the says Don, and was using the to stop deer from under his house! Fortunately, all the were in labeled bags identified their origin. “I had it in a couple of weeks,” says “It was so much fun, I bought two

Since then, Don estimates restored more than 60 and his present collection includes a 150cc C95 Benly, a hard to CT200 dirt bike, an (the swivel handlebar and a 1964 50cc C115 Cub. “I suppose you could say become an obsession,” Don says.

are Don’s preferred brand parts are more readily “The other makes, very hard to find for the older bikes,” he says. bike I do, I strip it right to the frame, paint the frame and checking everything as I put it back I don’t necessarily re-chrome or tear the motor to pieces I know there’s a problem it.” The result is that bikes retain much of period patina, giving an authentic look that over-restored bikes lose. minimalist restoration strategy that many people be able to enjoy seeing, and riding these then-revolutionary just as they were. MC


“If you can’t respond to the mechanical presence, you should change your sport to

— Cycle . March 1975

“A shortish 54in wheelbase the 400 in the compact category, the appropriate for a sporting machine. This, puts the 400 pretty much out of for behemoths, and relegates passenger capabilities to the ‘occasional duty’

— Cycle World . July

“As revs rise, so does the note. To hear the 400F at is to know why colorful journalists say machines wail. And it’s all

— Cycle World . May 1977

original CB400F Super made a rave-review hit with here at Cycle, but it just play worth a hoot in Oddly, and significantly, it was precisely features we found most that seem to have the greatest sales resistance.”

— . June 1977

Read about the motorcycles mentioned in article:


Honda CB 400 Super Four Special Edition
Honda CB 400 Super Four Special Edition
Honda CB 400 Super Four Special Edition


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