Just Because They Could

I was attending the annual Meltdown Vintage Motorcycle Show in Hendersonville, NC a few years back with my father, and as we walked among the old bikes lined up along the streets, I stopped and gawked at one of the wildest looking engines I’d ever seen shoehorned into a factory motorcycle before- a 1979 Honda CBX six-cylinder beast. I’d viewed them in pictures and a couple of museums before, but seeing one parked by the curb there, with its owner sitting behind in a small lounge chair sipping a local brew, I just had to linger and chat while my dad wandered off to check out some old Harleys.

The owner had restored the CBX a number of years ago, and it was a regular rider for him. He fired it up for me, and the sound from those six pistons pounded out through the dual exhausts was unlike anything I’d heard before on two wheels. “What a beast!” I exclaimed over the roar of the CBX motor. “It’s pretty distinctive,” he understated. Crouching down, I took in the metal mass that hung beneath the frame, a powerplant that looked as if he had custom mounted a car motor to the bike out in his garage, to wow his moto friends and terrify his neighbors. I imagined Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on “Home Improvement” chuffing and grunting, “More power!” at the sight and sound of this.

That engine. Geez. Photo by Throttlestop.

During the late 1960s-early 1970s, the Japanese Big Four found themselves in a “Superbike war” after Honda launched their game-changing CB750. Kawasaki answered in 1972 with the historic Z1 900, with Yamaha and Suzuki jumping into the 4-cylinder performance fray as well. Across the decade, all four brands produced bigger, faster, and better bikes to one-up the competition.

Then as the decade drew to a close, Honda dropped the outrageous CBX.

Somewhat unassuming in profile. Until you look more closely. Photo by Throttlestop.

The Honda CBX ran a four-stroke 1047cc inline six, each with its own carb, and four overhead cams, 24 valves, dual Hy-Vo cam chains and a wet-sump system. Pounding out 105 hp at 9000 rpm, the CBX topped out at about 140 mph via a 5-speed gearbox. It was a heavy beast for its day, tipping the scales at about 600 lbs wet, but could allegedly muster about 39 mpg, if you could resist the temptation to pin the throttle. Which was tempting, as the CBX could clock a quarter mile in 11.64 seconds at 117.95 mph.

I remember seeing this Honda ad in motorcycle mags.

The CBX wasn’t the first production six jug to see the streets- the 1973 Benelli 750 Sei held that distinction. But the engineering, design, and performance of Honda’s CBX monster rocked the motorcycling world. Cycle Magazine declared the CBX a “breakthrough for the Japanese motorcycle industry”, and Cycle Guide offered up its praise as “the Vincent Black Shadow of 1979” at its introduction. Yet by year’s end, Honda had actually sold more of their CB900F bikes than the massive CBX.

The view many saw of the CBX as it left them behind, wondering what they just beheld. Photo by Throttlestop.

The Honda CBX1000 (as it was also known) was manufactured and sold for only four years, in two configurations- the standard seen here in 1979-80, and as a sport tourer in 1981-82. It soon was outstripped by lighter, better handling, and more affordable competitors, the Suzuki GS 1000 S being one. Yet like the owner of the CBX I saw at the Meltdown Vintage show, these bikes have a cult following today, and still carry that mystique, still elicit awe when seen up close and personal.

1979 Honda CBX in silver. Photo by Throttlestop.

The model here is courtesy of the Throttlestop Museum in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, one of two currently in their collection, the other being “Perseus Silver” to this one’s “Glory Red”. For more photos of each, and a slew of over 200 other historic motorcycles under their roof, click here:

Throttlestop Museum

*Enter your email, and they will immediately send you a code to access their entire gallery of motorcycles and historic automotive engines as well. And if you’re up in that neck of the woods, for races at Road America or visiting Milwaukee, definitely drop in for a visit. Well worth a day among the mechanical marvels.

Rob

*All photos by The Throttlestop Museum, except for the vintage Honda ad.

 

Law Bike

16 Comments

  1. Marc

    I owned both the cbx and the gs 1000. I preferred the cbx.

    Reply
    • James

      I remember rolling off the Honda East lot on my new 79CBX only to run into my friend, on his new 750, at the traffic light intersection only 200 ft away. Off we went riding what seemed like every street in Columbus.
      The dealer did not let me test ride the CBX. Only when it was paid for did I ride off the lot. One little wobble, then the smoothest best sounding ride ever.

      Reply
    • Patrick Johnson

      Had a red 1980 cbx1000.
      Best bike ever

      Reply
  2. Kawboy55

    I hate to break this to you, but in shear performance, the 1969 Honda CB-750 was trumped by the 1969 Kawasaki Mach III 500. And again in 1972 by the 750 Mach IV.

    Reply
    • Richard Brannon

      Honda didn’t build the CB-750 to be the fastest bike you could buy, just the best. Honda has always offered well rounded machines with quality fit and finish second to none. But I still love those old 2 strokes. Nothing sounds better than a crackling H2 with chambers, or a CBX with a 6 into 1 pipe. Love them all!

      Reply
    • Fred

      Yes sir I believe you I did that I saw that and had blast doing it I was 18 when I got my H2 the guy at the dealership told not to kill myself lol

      Reply
      • neil

        Hi from Australia. Dropped in at a friend’s motorcycle repair shop in a country town couple of months ago, and lo and behold, he was fixing up 2 cbx’s. Because he started working on bikes in 1978 he has quite a good reputation for working on the old bikes. People ship them 2 him from all over the state (nsw). Apparently there are more over here than people know. Mostly on display. But mostly carby problems. Can still get all the parts if you know where to look, and prepared to wait shipment.

        Reply
        • Rob Brooks

          Good to hear from you, Neil, and hello in the land down under!

          Reply
  3. Steven palmer

    Hondas were often out performed by their contemporaries but not when the competition was broken down in the garage. Then the solid mechanics and build quality shone through!

    Reply
  4. Carl Wieman

    I worked as Service Manager at Mankato Honda in the 1970’s-1980’s and when the 1st CBX was set up, I took it for a test ride. WOW! The looks that everyone gave was awesome, especially if you came up behind someone and they saw that engine hanging to the sides.

    Reply
  5. Ron kroemer

    I bought my 1979 CBX in Silverstone England while being stationed at Upper Heyford Air Force base. I loved that bike 107 hp of our fun and excitement.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      I’ve never had occasion to ride one, but I’m sure they were absolute beasts.

      Reply
  6. Mark Zweig

    I had one. Traded my mobile home (not RV) for a CBX and $1000 in 1982. Loved it!

    Reply
  7. Robert

    I owned a silver 79 model that I bought from a Honda mechanic in 1984, with 10,000 miles on the clock. Came with a DG 6-into-1 header. After a high side, I fitted a Yoshimura competition cannister to the end. Wow, the sound was to die for.

    Later I bought an 81 model, and stripped it of the fairing and bags, fitted a 79 headlight and signals, and a Pipe Master 6-into-6 stainless steel pipe set.

    At the same time I had the latter, I also had a 72 Suzuki GT750J water buffalo with 3-into-3 chambers and aftermarket carbs. I fitted it with an electronic ignition not long after I got it, which solved the problem of having t o carry spare plugs with me everywhere I went.

    Nowadays, I have a 2006 Suzuki M109R, a 2008 Suzuki GSX1300 B-King and a 2021 Honda CBR600RR.

    I’m 63 years old, and that little 600 Honda is one bad-ass motorcycle.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      An awesome array of iron, Robert!
      Thanks for sharing.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *