Not satisfied building “step-through” 50’s, 160’s, 250’s and 300cc class bikes, Honda developed the CB450 and ventured into a true middleweight bike offering to do battle with the British 500’s and 650s. When released in 1965 its styling met some resistance early on, though now “Black Bombers” are highly sought after. This example, from the final year of production shows the machine’s styling evolved nicely.

In 1965, the CB450, a 444cc double overhead cam sport and touring machine hit showrooms. It was available in black or red, with silver trim. Technically, the machine with torsion bar valve spring closure and constant velocity carbs was then greatly advanced, the first relatively cheap mass production DOHC motorcycle available. Was it fast? Cycle World road tests showed the CB450 not far off the Harley Sportster; quarter mile e.t. and speed for the XLCH, 14.25 at 95.03 vs 14.43 at 90.27 for the Honda, using a higher tech motor with half the displacement.

The CB450 was built in various iterations into the mid-1970’s, was never a really hot product until nostalgia for old Hondas took root, and the first CB450’s became desirable. Now all those cast off fenders and tanks that were thrown up in shop attics due to the styling update are worth hundreds of dollars to restorers. As a side note, the CB450 engine was used as a basis for the N360 and N600 automobiles’ engines which were the precursors to the Honda Civic.

Early on, besides the styling problems, there was also an upper end oiling problem that magazines picked up on. Warming the bike for up to a minute on cold starts helped but was unreasonable. All this cooled sales. In fact, styling “conversion kits” were soon hitting dealerships and the early “Black Bomber’s” “unsightly Honda hump” fuel tank along with the flared fenders and side-covers were pulled, and new tanks, seats, fenders and high-level pipes installed in shops to try and interest customers. By this time Honda was testing the CB750 in prototype form, a much more important project. On the bright side, Hondas in general had dependable electrics, solid, rev-happy engines, stout running gear and leaked little to no lubricant.

Honda started making motorcycles, small pure transportation oriented machines soon after World War II. A little over ten years later, in 1959, they were Grand Prix racing and open for business in the United States actively promoting Honda franchises coast to coast. When Honda celebrated its 70th Anniversary at the end of 2019, they stated they had hit the 400,000,000 unit milestone for global motorcycle production.


    • Engine: Four-Stroke Parallel Twin
    • Type: Double Overhead Cam, Two Valves per Cylinder
    • Bore & Stroke: 70mm x 58mm
    • Displacement: 444cc’s
    • Compression Ratio: 9 : 1
    • Ignition: Battery, Points, Coil
    • Carburetors: Two Keihin 32mm CV
    • Starting: Electric and Kick
    • Horsepower: 45HP
    • Primary: Gear Driven
    • Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
    • Final Drive: Chain
    • Transmission: 5-Speed
    • Frame: Single Down Tube, Steel
    • Suspension: Hydraulic Fork / Swingarm, Dual Shocks
    • Brakes: Disk Front / Drum Rear
    • Wheelbase: 54 Inches
    • Wheels / Tires: 3.25 x 19 / 3.50 x 18
    • Weight: 449 Pounds
    • Top Speed: 102 MPH
19 replies
  1. Novak, Clayton
    Novak, Clayton says:

    I owned 2 450’s for for about 20 years. A new one in 1971, and a 1972 that I bought in 1995. (Sold it in 2008). Great machines. I still have 2 complete engines if anyone is interested.

  2. George Grauwels
    George Grauwels says:

    Nice article on the evolution of Honda’s 450 series. I recall the introduction of the 450 series and as you mentioned it was a love or hate relationship with it’s looks but the performance
    from 444cc Put a smile
    on many faces.
    A more close engine comparison to the N600 car would be the 350 series as like
    the car they were single overhead cam with conventional coil valve springs

  3. Art Bowman
    Art Bowman says:

    Just bought a 69 cb450. It’s a runner with a little work. Good condition for It’s age, and all original except the mufflers. Always wanted one of these.

  4. Rob
    Rob says:

    I am looking at a ‘74 CB450 that has been sitting at least 10 years. Would this negatively affect the torsion bar valve springs/ valve train. Bike has 9k miles on it.


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