The Honda CB750 is a motorcycle built in several model series between 1969 and 2003, and also in 2007, that is recognized as a milestone for Honda’s successful introduction of the transverse, overhead camshaft inline four-cylinder engine that has been seen ever since in the dominant sport bike configuration. Though MV Agusta had sold such a model in 1965, and it had been used in racing engines before World War II, the CB750 is recognized as the four-cylinder sport bike that had a lasting impact and is often called the first superbike. The model is included in the AMA Hall of Fame Classic Bikes, the Discovery Channel’s “Greatest Motorbikes Ever,” and was in The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, and is in the UK National Motor Museum.
Honda of Japan introduced the CB750 motorcycle to the US and European markets in 1969 after experiencing success with their smaller motorcycles. The bike was targeted directly at the US market after Honda officials, including founder Soichiro Honda, repeatedly met with US dealers and understood the opportunity for a larger bike. Under development for a year, the CB750 offered two unprecedented features, a front disc brake and a transverse straight-4 engine with an overhead camshaft, neither of which was previously available on a mainstream, affordable production bike. In 1976, Honda introduced the CB750A to the United States, the A suffix implying “automatic.” Although the two-speed transmission included a torque converter typical of an automatic transmission, the transmission did not automatically change gears for the rider. Each gear was selected by a foot-controlled hydraulic valve/selector. The foot selector controlled the application of high pressure oil to a single clutch pack, causing the selected clutch to engage. The selected gear would remain selected until changed by the rider, or the kickstand was lowered.
The CB750A was sold in the North American market only. The name Hondamatic was shared with Honda cars of the 1970s, but the motorcycle transmission was not fully automatic. The design of the transmission is similar in concept to the transmission in Honda’s N360AT, a kei car sold in Japan from 1967 to 1972. From 1982 through 2003, with the exception of several years, Honda produced a CB750 known as the Nighthawk 750. Early models were designated as the CB750SC Nighthawk while later models were simply known as the Nighthawk 750. The Nighthawk 750 features a 4-stroke engine with a 5-speed manual transmission, and has front disc and rear drum brakes. In 2007, Honda Japan announced the sale of a new CB750 very similar to the models sold in the 1970s. Announced as the CB 750 Special Edition which is in the silver colors of the CB 50 AMA racer of the 1970s, and the CB750, offered in three color schemes reminiscent of CB750s sold previously. As of August 2007, these bikes have only been announced for the Japan domestic market.