Bob Hansen, American Honda’s former national service manager, remembers very well the frst time he heard about Honda’s CB750, then called “Project 300.” It was 1967, and Hansen was in Japan to discuss products being developed specifcally for the American market. Hansen’s visit began at Honda’s Wako R&D facility, where the group had lunch with Soichiro Honda.
The day began with a tour of Wako. Hansen says the group saw the entire facility except for a test block in a darkened corner. “I can’t take you over there,” the guide explained. “We’re testing a new engine for a big motorcycle.” Hansen wondered about this new machine. He guessed Honda was adapting the engine from its N600 automobile—a 598cc, 45 horsepower vertical-twin that was then Honda’s biggest—to a motorcycle.
A pre-production CB750 undergoes high-speed stability testing at Honda’s Yatabe oval.
Lunch was served in a conference room. Mr. Honda sat at the head of the table and Hansen, who knew Mr. Honda well from previous meetings, was seated directly to his right. Midway through the meal, Mr. Honda leaned over and said, “Mr. Hansen, we are hard at work on a new motorcycle, a big motorcycle, the King of Motorcycles.”
“Like a typical, brash American, I said, ‘Great—I just hope it’s not a twin!’” Hansen remembers. “This went through the translator, then Mr. Honda looked worried. ‘Why would you say that?’
” Hansen said twins were outdated, and even old-fashioned Triumph was developing a three-cylinder. If Honda wants to build the king of motorcycles, Hansen explained, it should build a four-cylinder. “’We have experience racing four-cylinders,’ Mr. Honda said. I said, ‘Exactly.’” Hanging on Hansen’s wall today is a framed letter from Honda R&D, dated September 16, 1968. It reads: “Because it was your idea to Mr. Honda to build the four cylinder CB750, we are sending you the very first pictures of the production version.”
Honda Japan called Hansen in fall of ’68 and asked for two American Honda representatives to assist with final validation testing of the CB750, to make sure the new bike would satisfy American expectations. The plan was to take bikes directly from the U.S. dealer show at Las Vegas and conduct reliability testing in the Nevada desert, then return to Japan for a full battery of performance tests. Hansen nominated Bob Jameson and Bob Young.
Jameson and Young left the dealer show with three pre-production CB750s and a van loaded with tools and Japanese engineers, including engine designer Minoru Sato. “They were all named Sato,” recalls Jameson, laughing. “M. Sato did the motor, C. Sato did the chassis—there were something like four Satos in the 750 program!”