- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

The 1971 Honda CB750 fires up on Jim Williams' fourth try.
Sputtering slightly at first, the in-line, four-cylinder engine quickly shakes off the chill, warming into a midtone resonant idle. The sound is somewhere between a purr and a growl punctuated by the syncopated mechanical clattering of valves.
"Mesmerizing," motorcycle journalist Phil Schilling exclaimed at the time it was built.
That the bike runs so well today is part easy life, part skillful ministrations of a local mechanic, but mostly an underlying strength to the original design.
The model was first announced in 1968 at the Tokyo show, hit showrooms in 1969 and won the Daytona 200 in 1970.
"The CB750 is designed especially as a high speed touring sport motorcycle," the owner's manual says. Whatever it was designed for, it became the motorcycle to have.
"I feel kind of guilty owning it," Mr. Williams said recently.
If it were a 1969 CB750, the first model year, the bike would be worth a mint, particularly given its excellent condition. But still it represents a turning point in the development of the modern motorcycle, Mr. Williams explained.
"Eventually, I'll either cover it in oil [to preserve it] or give it to someone who would appreciate it," Mr. Williams said.
By no means was the CB750 the first in-line four, but coupled with the performance provided by overhead cams, the meticulous reliability of the oil-tight engine, the first commercially available front hydraulic disc brakes, and decidedly civil handling, the bike was the best.
Other Japanese manufacturers quickly followed Honda's lead, leaving the once dominant British push-rod twins in the dust.
The five-speed, 750 cc engine breathes through four 28 mm synchronized carburetors and exhales through four exhaust pipes. The bike has a relatively anemic 9-to-1 compression ratio, but the relatively lightweight overhead cams gave it a then-impressive redline of 8,000 rpm.
The bottom line: 68 horsepower pushed the 480-pound bike through the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds.
The bike also has a claimed top speed of 125 miles per hour. While it handles well, after a quick test ride I couldn't imagine pushing it past 100 mph.
The bike's previous and only other owner bought it new for $1,610 in March 1972 in Evansville, Ind., according to the receipt still tucked in the owner's manual. That's about $6,900 today after adjusting for inflation.
The man rode it regularly for a while, but grew tired of it as its performance began to wane, Mr. Williams said.
Still the owner kept it in a dry barn, changed the oil periodically, waxed it's candy red paint regularly, and generally treated it well.
Fast forward to 1993. Mr. Williams helped the first owner secure a good deal on a Harley-Davidson and Mr. Williams got the CB750 for $350. The bikes typically sell for $2,000 to $3,000 and some for as much as $6,000.
"I bought it as an opportunity, but have kept it because it is so much fun," Mr. Williams explained.
"It really is amazing, when you consider how old it is," Mr. Williams said of the bike's performance.
He rode the bike home, but again the sickly bike languished in a garage.
A dealership took his money, but failed to fix the bike and finally, this summer, Mr. Williams turned to local mechanic Dennis Ferm who for about $400 got the bike up and "running like a charm."
Mr. Ferm said his garage, Crossroads Cycle, is "the Ellis Island of the motorcycle world" taking the bikes that dealerships either cannot or will not fix.
Mr. Ferm said tuning up older motorcycles takes experience and just a little extra time.
On the CB750, Mr. Ferm got the bike running first, to knock the rust off valves that have been open for years, free piston rings that might be stuck, and generally get it loosened up enough to get accurate measurements. Then Mr. Ferm went back to check the carburetors' synchronization, valve gaps, compression, fuel-air mixture and the like.
Mr. Williams puts it more simply. "Dennis worked his magic."


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