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.


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


Law Bike


  1. Marc

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

  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.

  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!

  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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.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