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Honda CB 750 Racing Type

Honda CB 750 Racing Type : myth's resurrection

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

Historic motorcycles.

There are motorcycles, and then there are historic motorcycles .

There are sought-after motorcycles, and then there are unique machines, long lost, but thought or imagined to survive somewhere. These machines become obsessions for collectors, museums, and seekers of fact.

There is, or at least, there was, the Honda with which Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 mile motorcycle race in 1970.


Honda CB 750

Tokyo, motorcycle show in October of 1968 : a mythical motorcycle.

When Honda unveiled their CB 750 motorcycle at the Tokyo motorcycle show in October in 1968, an entire industry gasped; so too, did every motorcyclist.
With its four-cylinder engine, five-speed transmission, and disc brake, its level of sophistication was unprecedented. The CB 750's engineering brilliance, immaculate fit and finish, breath-taking performance, and extraordinary value for money were about to position Honda as the world's biggest motorcycle market : the United States.

Race : the Racing Type.

Some CB 750s were converted from road specification and raced with success in France in 1969, most remarkably winning the Bol d'Or 24 hour race at Montlhéry that year. The earliest racers were essentially prototypes which would lead Honda to craft the four factory racers destined for Daytona in March of the following year. After Daytona, it appears two of the bikes were shipped to France where they were utilized in endurance races in the early '70s.


Daytona 1970

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

The victory, 200 Miles s Daytona race, march 1970.

There was no faster or better route to that goal than to put one of America's most illustrious racers on the motorcycle and have him ride it for 200 miles at top speed to win America's most prestigious motorcycle race.
That's exactly what Honda did.
In March of 1970, Dick Mann won the Daytona 200.

Honda to the lead in the U.S. market.

Honda won immediate credibility.
The old edict, Win on Sunday, sell on Monday  never proved more true. Now, against the backdrop of 100 years of motorcycle history and the production of 10 million CB 750s, it can be argued that Honda's victory at Daytona in 1970 was the most important single race victory, ever, for any manufacturer.

Ironically, Honda had not thought of the CB750 as a potential Daytona winner. But Bob Hansen, well aware of what was involved in adapting the CB 750 to race readliness, warned Honda management in Japan :  If you don't build a CB 750 for Daytona, there will be other people who will. And they won't win.  Although, it was created almost begrudgingly, the Honda CB 750's Daytona victory propelled Honda to the lead in the U.S. market. The victory also reverberated around the world and had similar effects on Honda's position in the global market.

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

An expressly built motorcycle for 1970 Daytona race.

Mann's Honda was anything but standard, of course. The bike had been specially engineered and hand-built in Honda's Grand Prix race shop in Japan. When American Honda's race team opened the crates at Daytona, they found the most exotic, and most expensive, motorcycle ever raced in the United States.

Hundreds of racing privateers bought CB750 street motorcycles and converted them into racers, often with CR 750 parts supplied by Honda' subsidiary, the Racing Services Club.
But Honda built only four trues factory racers .
These machines were radically different from privateer converted street bikes. The Racing Type  versions were expressly built for the 1970 Daytona race. Originally, they were to be ridden by four British riders affiliated with Honda's European-based Grand Prix racing effort. Later, one bike was assigned to Mann. The three British riders  bikes all experienced mechanical failures, while Mann wont on to victory.

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History
Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History
Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History
Tommy ROBB, DAYTONA 1970 riding the #28.

Vanished

Most remarkably, its legendary status was enhanced because Dick Mann's Honda CB750 Racing Type  after running at a record-breaking pace for 200 miles at Daytona in 1970, crossed the finish line first, rolled into victory circle ... and was never raced again.
At some point in time, the bike was lost, abandoned by an industry too young to grasp the value of its early history. Incredibly, the Dick Mann 1970 Daytona winning motorcycle simply vanished.


Resurrection

The expertise of the founded machine

Found.

The story of the machine's creation, its epic victory, its disappearance, and its discovery spans three countries and three decades. The story unfolds from Japan to America to France. Over thirty years have elapsed since the victory at Daytona, but fortunately, nearly everyone who had direct involvement with the bike's evolution is still alive. This story was about convening these men to determine the provenance and authenticity of the Honda CB 750 Racing type which has recently been resurrected in Paris.

Where is the sole known surviving example of the Honda CB 750 Racing Type, now ?

In a tiny workshop, at the end of a back garden, behind a very ordinary-looking house, in the suburbs of Paris, France. Recently, it has been lovingly restored by its owner of 25 years.

The Musée des Arts et Métiers : the experts

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

Whereas the motorbike is still in its transport container, Ron Robbins is already busy with his expertise work.

A unique machine.
The story explains that the four original hand-built prototypes  manifested slight variations; a fact which suggests it is theoretically possible to determine whether or not the one known survivor is the  motorcycle.

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

The Hansen team busy doing their expertise work.

Balanced against this, is the bête noire  of motorcycle history : the truth of the matter is that racing motorcycles exist in a constant state of flux. In the relentless pursuit of speed, parts are exchanged or modified; crash damage is repaired. Race teams are inevitably focused on the future; the moment a machine stops being competitive, it is thought of as a casualty of war to be stripped of parts, trashed, or unceremoniously abandoned. Despite the clarity of hindsight by the time such motorcycles are perceived as valuable historical artifacts, they are difficult to identify, if not unrecognizable. Consider too, that in order to guarantee trade secrets, many factories systematically destroys obsolete racing machines.

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

Ron Robbins at work, using his magnifier.

An extraordinary discovery.

That makes the discovery in France of a nearly complete CB 750 racing Type all the more extraordinary.

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

Most importantly, the discovery of a Honda CB 750 Racing type has involved assembling the definitive jury of experts on this rare machine, the men who prepared and raced the machine, both in the United States and in France, to determine exactly what has been found in the Paris suburbs. At the moment, the authors are already certain of this much : they have been led to the only surviving CB 750 Racing Type and that it has survived intact to a degree that is rare among such motorcycles. And what a motorcycle it is !

Daytona70 - Honda CB 750 CR - History

Yard of the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Mark Gardiner, journalist in the U.S. and the Hansen team in full discussion.