Until 1965 when Honda launched the CB450 Super Sport, the largest Honda was only 305cc. With the British 500 and 650cc twins in its sights Honda, its dealers and enthusiasts were hopeful for the new CB450. But for many, styling got in the way; tank and fender styling were not super sport. Some 30 years later the original Black Bomber, a name applied long after introduction, is embraced as highly collectible. But in its time, sales were so slow Honda was driven to ship styling update kits to dealers to convert the machines to sportier high pipe scramblers. Fenders, fuel tank, side covers, seat and the exhaust system were swapped out as the bikes were uncrated at dealerships across America. Soon the CB450 was restyled and by 1968 the refined, well accepted CL450 Scrambler version was launched and sold alongside an updated CB450 Super Sport.
Back in the early 1960’s Honda had good sales numbers with a high pipe street scrambler with both straight pipes up the left side, a skid plate and braced bars, the CL72, Honda 250 Scrambler, launched in 1962. Some would say its formula was taken from the 1958 BSA A10 Rocket Scrambler, a much larger 650cc twin. In 1968 a CB450 Super Sport variant came available, the high pipe CL450 Scrambler 450. It evolved into the subject of today’s featured bike and was manufactured through the 1974 model year.
Compared to about anything but the most exotic Italian machines of the era, the 444cc Honda 450 engine was exotic, a masterpiece. Double overhead cams with its valves controlled by torsion bars instead of typical coil valve springs topped off the 180 degree crankshaft ball and roller bearing bottom end. The primary was gear driven, new for Honda’s big bikes. Though initially a bit problematic, Honda incorporated dual constant velocity carburetors. The four-speed transmission was eventually upgraded to a five-speed. Like most Hondas, as long as its oil level was maintained and it’s given 20 or 30 seconds for oil to warm and circulate, these were bullet proof, torquey engines with a great sound. Until the 750cc Norton Commando arrived in 1968, British bike riders needed to beware of the CB450. Quarter mile performance rivaled the British 500’s and 650s. Elapsed time was up half a second from Harley’s XLCH but the Honda’s trap speed was often higher.
The 450 twin was bumped a few cc’s and became the CB500T for 1975 and 1976 until the 400cc Honda Hawk was introduced in 1978. But if you were into performance in the era, the real successor to the CB450 or the CL450 is the CB500 released for the 1972 model year. This across the frame four cylinder middle weight bike, little brother to the very successful CB750, was very sophisticated, smooth running and handled very well.
This fine Honda CL450 Scrambler will be among hundreds of motorcycles and thousands of pieces of memorabilia offered in the John Parham Estate Collection Mecum Auction at the National Motorcycle Museum, Anamosa, Iowa, September 6 – 9, 2023. Watch for information on the Mecum Auctions website, Mecum.com For schedule information or to register as a bidder for this and all Mecum events, visit Mecum.com, or call (262) 275-5050 for more information.
- Engine: Four-Stroke Parallel Twin
- Type: Double Overhead Cam, Two Valves per Cylinder
- Bore & Stroke: 70mm x 58mm
- Displacement: 445cc’s
- Compression Ratio: 9 : 1
- Ignition: Battery, Points, Coil
- Carburetors: Two Keihin 32mm CV
- Starting: Electric and Kick
- Horsepower: 42HP
- 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: Drum Front / Drum Rear
- Wheelbase: 54 Inches
- Wheels / Tires: 3.25 x 18 / 3.50 x 18
- Weight: 415 Pounds (Est.)
- Top Speed: 102 MPH