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CB700SC NIGHTHAWK S AND ASSOCIATED MACHINES: by Gregory Schmitz

This started out as a write-up on the NighthawkS, but I keep coming up with references to co produced motorcycles, and there is a significant amount of reference here to those machines. To not do that is really foolish, , as the reality is, the CB700SC, was actually a takeoff on other motorcycles, not the other way around.

NOTE: I have attempted to be accurate in all this, there may be mistakes, I welcome any constructive input as to correcting details.

I am open to discussion on my opinions, but some are very solidly based. Be polite in any response, or come see me in person and we will have a good shouting match (and if you are nice afterwards I will invite you in for a beer, and if I really like you afterwards, let you ride my NighthawkS).

There are a number co produced models, that shared the same engine. A very close relation is the RC17 (CBX750F) sold in Australia, Britain, Europe and Brazil (Britain and Europe are listed separately, as the Brits do not think of themselves as Europeans!)

Most of the RC17 information comes from the Australian RC17 site (thatís a frame code). The connection is the engine which is virtually identical, except gear ratios and a slightly different clutch assembly. I am going to generically refer to the 84-87 CBX750F and some of the latter variants as the RC17, as there are far more variations under that model than the shaft drive NighthawkS group. The frame configuration does stay the same throughout, what was hung on it changes.

I think its a fact that the engine they share had to be designed as both a shaft and chain drive. There is the Japanese market shaft drive 750CC machine, and the manufacture dates are identical, so it was not released and then modified, all the versions came out in 84. The Canadian version came in as a full stroke 750CC machine. Other than the loss of 50cc, The US model is identical to the Canadian model. Also keep in mind, the immediate parent to the 750CC mill they all share, was a shaft drive bike with an almost identical if smaller engine design and size.

While it is obviously conjecture, the group that developed the CB650 layout, and got approval to do a 750CC engine, may have realized they had a really potent combination if put into a chain drive, and made sure that it got co designed to ensure that it was in as many platforms as possible. Corporate Honda may have gone along with it to be sure they had a competitive in line 4 in case the V4s flubbed.

I believe there is more connection between the NighthawkS and the RC17 (despite one unkind remark that the CB700SC is a bastardized RC17!) than there is between the NighthawkS and the 750 Nighthawk still being made. Philosophically, the NighthawkS and the RC17 were a statement. The NighthawkS was a naked hot rod idea (though you have to wonder about the up-right UJM seating fitting that image). It certainly was given the hardware to back that up, (not just looks). Frankly I think its the greatest Sport Touring bike ever made, it being right in the middle for handling and the ability to haul lots of stuff long distances comfortably.

The RC17 was a more dedicated sports bike, the result hit the target right on the head, style wise and performance wise. Todayís Nighthawk 750, is a low level entry bike, with as inexpensive components as possible, and considerably reduced performance.

To try to separate them out I believe is a mistake, they were obviously co-designed and launched with specific if somewhat odd (NighthawkS) and differing purposes at times in mind. The CBX750F actually makes sense for what its market was, the Nighthawk S is more the head scratch.

You can visit the excellent Australian based, though not just Australian members, of the RC17 group at

http://replicant.apana.org.au/~viking/index.html (be nice and they may let you join)

THE FAMILY

The original progenitor of course was the very famous CB 750, it launched the Japanese into the big bike era, not just Honda, but all of them. Today you read somewhat ho hum comments about it, but I owned two, my brother (a truly expert rider) owned 3 (he bought the two of mine!). They were incredibly reliable, they handled well, maybe even phenomenally for the state of tires and suspension, and power was really good. I had three complaints, the suspension lost it on bad roads, not a problem in the states, but on the harsh road in Alaskaís it was a serious problem. Braking was not all that great. And the chain always needed attention. O ring sealed chains were just available, but wickedly expensive, and you could tear one up on dirt roads, which you find in Alaska, and I did. It still was a terrific machine.

CB550/650: Led to the Nighthawk S and RC17 variations. The engine used in these pioneered the layout of alternator/starter behind the cylinders, the use of hydraulic lifters originated in this model, as well pioneering of the shaft drive used in the NighthawkS. Single cam engine.

Make no mistake, the engine for the following models was a complete from the ground up design, with all the forces and stress of a full 750CC mill designed in. It was not a modified 650 engine as some press reports indicate. Heads, block, casings, you name it were all new design. No parts were modified and used. If anything crossed over it may have been nuts and bolts that just happened to fit.

While the NighthawkS got caught up in the successful Harleys tariff efforts, we at least lucked out that Honda elected to de-stroke the 750 into a 700CC mill. With the shorter stroke, they were able to up the RPM, so overall, I donít think that much was lost.

NighthawkS: CB700SC: 84-86: US only, (R20 Frame) Number produced, unknown, (would like to find out.) This was designed as a shaft drive machine, and while the rear shocks were conventional, extremely well done. Along with a very good front shock system, very good handling. I have yet to find a single article that wasnít highly impressed with it. Redline is 10,750, Rev limiter reported to kick in at 11,500 (yee hah)..

I havenít verified it, but as the rest are 750CC machines, I believe the redline is 10,000 for all of these, and supposition is that they rev limit at 10,700.

CB750SC Horizon: Japanese home market, with 18 inch front tire, (police versions, dated at least to 1988)

RC18 Frame code: On a couple of site, there are pictures of a police version (cannot read the frame code, looks like its got RC18(something). Appears to have been a variation made or imported into Thailand. Also a variation with a full fairing.

I doubt we will get full details, but this has to be a significant versions (going by frame codes, it obviously

led to the 750/700cc variation, not the other way around. http://www.hiho.ne.jp/1-maeda

,

CB750SC Canadian, full stroke mill, shaft drive with 16 inch tires fore and aft, identical to US, (more accurately, the US model is identical to this model, as this is actually the configuration that would have been imported into the US. Believe frame code is RC20.

CBX750F: RC17: at least 20,000 produced, Australia, Britain, Europe and Brazil

Different frame, with a mono shock, chain drive, same engine, same gearbox, albeit with different gearing, slightly different clutch., all with various types of fairings. Front end appears to be identical, specs say that the brake disks were bigger (makes sense as its more sports bike). Same front tire as the NighthawkS, fronts suspension close if not identical.

Particular note, that this machine has a completely different frame, but it used the frame tubes to move the oil to the cooler in the same manner as the CB700/750SC types.

Variations: (all with RC17 frame code I think)

CBXFE and FG (semi faired machines)

CBX759FL (fully faired)

CBX750L BolDíOr: Fully faired (I think) Reported that it was made in Brazil till 1994, lot of local components used, mostly with 18 inch front tires.

CBX750 INDY: Brazil per above.

CB 750 Nighthawk: 1990 to present, Chain drive, many engine parts in common with NighthawkS, an inexpensive suspension, not nearly as much horsepower, poorer brakes. Call it a neutered cross between a NighthawkS S (upright unfaired riding style) and a RC17 (chain drive.) It has the 750CC capacity, but its targeted differently, if you move up to a performance cycle, itís not a souped up version of this machine.

Good news is that is also the reason components are still available, though ironically the crank and con rods are not going to fit the NighthawkS.

My Thoughts and observations.

I have always been curious about this very curious machine that I came to own when I returned to cycling in 1986/87. While I considered other makes/models, my choice came down to the NighthawkS and the V45Saber, and the NighthawkS came up for sale fist (and was my first choice as well).

What attracted me to it were the fact that it was a Honda (which I had owned before and liked) and the maintenance free features (the self adjusting valves and shaft drive in particular), and the fact that they rated extremely well against the dedicated pure sports VFR machines, including the 750cc size. I could not afford a new machine, and while I would have taken the Saber V45 as a great choice, I really wanted the NighthawkS (but used machine purveyors in small markets canít always be choosy).

Now, I have nothing against adjusting valves, but the shim and bucket nightmare that developed, I wanted nothing to do with. There was no way I was going to pay a shop $250 to adjust my valves (and at 5,000 miles not the called for 12 or 14k. To top it off, cycles were sitting at the dealers for months trying to get the right shim package, because they didnít think they needed them. The hydraulic lifters were just the ticket, and they had proved they would live on the 650 just fine, and all reports indicated no problems on the 700cc engine.

While I was not after a pure sport machine, I wanted at least good riding and handling. For a cycle that was intended more as a hot rod, to be considered a really good handler seemed to make it an excellent choice, (and its proven to be). For $1500, I got a top of the line, low mileage great handling all around performance cycle that had just gone out of production, what a strange world. It has proven to be comfortable to ride all day long without crippling you up.

What was needed was a faring, and that took a long time., one that fit the odd NighthawkS headlight setup and its integrated bikini fairing nose (a Rifle Sport,) albeit with a lot of mounting work, more due to the poor nature of the hardware mounting kit sent with it, rather than the basic adaptation). It has proven to be an excellent sport touring platform, a lot of multi day camping trips on it, soft luggage on the sides, a duffle bag on the back with tent and sleeping back strapped on, it handles well, plenty of get up and go, you can ride all day long and it doesnít beat you up.

I strongly suspect that to understand where it came from, and why it went away, you would have to go back to Japan, not just because that was where they were made, but in those days, thatís where the American interest was interpreted. Add that into the war (Japanese style of course) that had to have been waged between the rage at Honda of the time (V4 water cooled machines) and the old guard UJM in line fours that had launched Honda onto the world stage.,.

I would guess that while the inline four group was loosing ground rapidly, they still had enough clout (upper management had to be from that group) to be able to pull off an occasional counter move. I think that is where the genesis of the NighthawkS came from, and the hedging of the bets had to be a major factor. No company ever really wants to bet everything on one throw of the dice. Honda had done it once with the original CB750, to do so again on the V4s would have been foolish (if they didnít have to). Cyclists have proven to be a strange bunch, some times leaping on a advance with no qualms, other times sending them to the scrap heap of history. Honda certainly had the money to cover its bases (I think the fact they also did the chain drive version further confirms, this, as both had conventional, but very well done frames.

Harley certainly has had a tough time breaking out of the tradition of what is an extremely dated configuration. BMW tried to discard its history when it came up with the flat 4s to replace the Boxers, today they have both, but the K model has been moved up into the stratosphere with the Goldwings (or whatever they call them these days) and the full dress Harleys.

Head scratching is what the strategy was. You would think that a shaft drive would have been a more logical choice in Europe, where it had much stronger adherents, a full 750CC shaft that performed as well as the NighthawkS would have been a killer machine against the sloggy BMWs of the time.

A destroked RC17 would surely have been the delight of the crowd in the US, maybe more so in the Western US where high speeds and the hot rod revs would be more the norm than in the East.. The shaft drive does seem to have taken a hold in the Eastern US, with a lot of the NighthawkS groups and references from there.

Maybe only in the Japanese mind was there some sense to see if they could force the V4s onto the top selling US crowd, hedge their bets in Europe, and bring to the US shores the shaft drive concept, just in case it took off big time.

Another guess is that the shaft drive RC18 model was already determined for Japanese production, and it was easy to take the 16 inch front wheel from the VF series and put it on the NighthawkS bound US model, giving it a bit more of a hot rod image (as well as RC17).

Looking at the frame codes, the progression would appear to have been definitely a chain drive design, with the Japanese market 750 shaft drive next, and the NighthawkS a variation with the 16 inch front.

Really confusing to me is the handling issue, the VFR was 16 inch tires, but RC17 got the 18 inch rear, and Brazil went to 18 inch on both ends! What in the hell was the best handling setup? I could see the NighthawkS being a street hotrod with a front tuned more to that, frankly none of it makes sense, and maybe it just doesnít matter, what you do with the frame and suspension that matters, and tire size, as long as they are good tire, is just a side issue.

ENGINE AND DRIVE

The true heart and soul of this machine, shaft drive or chain. What should be kept in mind, THIS IS NOT A MODIFIED CB650 ENGINE as some articles allude to.

While the CB650 engine pioneered the layout that allowed the narrow bottom end, as well as hydraulic lifters (and the shaft drive), for the CB700SC (or what would have been except the Harley tariff), it was designed from the ground up as a 750CC engine, with all the components engineered and manufactured with the requirements of a 750CC mill. There were modifications of the basic design elements that improved or corrected on those on the CB650 engine. If there is any doubt of its ground up design, this engine has a reputation for being extremely bullet proof and reliable. You are extremely hard put or impossible to do with these engines. What weaknesses were exhibited in the CB650 engine, were eliminated in this one. The new engine had dual overhead cams, another extremely unlikely modification.

.While not impossible, it would be expensive to convert a shaft drive to chain, but the other way around would be relatively easy and inexpensive Its been done (thanks to Rod at RC17 for setting me straight) but you have to wonder on the economics of it. I have no doubt that this engine was designed from the outset to be both a shaft drive and chain drive.

The funny thing is that over time, the inline design has come back big time. Slightly over half of Hondas street models are in line 4s (most with water cooling). Itís a natural design that canít be beat, except for models that require a completely different dedicated engine to fulfill their function, like Goldwing, ST1100 and cruisers. ) The V4 street design has advantages, but you have to be pretty far out on the edge of riding to actually be able to use those (and how many of us really are?)

What I think is obvious, is that with what had to be limited financial resources, there was a tour de force of making what they had go an enormously long ways (maybe a lesson in this, we should have to work at something, not be given it). They took the in line concept, and probably made it as good as it could possibly get without liquid cooling. If you are going to compete with a narrow V4, then moving all the parts that hang out gets you a long way there, ergo the mounting of the starter and alternator behind the cylinders (tested on the Nighthawk550/650 shafts, and then improved what little was not working well (better oil supply and purging of air from it), and updating to the dual cam design.

If you canít afford a full water cooled engine design, then use that time honored way to keep heat down, put on an oil cooler, and take advantage of that existing medium with a minimum of extra work. Save weight, minimize complexity, get a lower profile with almost no oil pan, and use the frame to flow the oil to the cooler (and gain an bit of extra oil capacity as well).

Perhaps the most brilliant, and there has to be a huge story behind this, is the use of the hydraulic lifters, in the 550, 650, 700 and 750cc. That indeed had to be a ground up effort, as that has not been used before in this kind of high revving performance engine. (to my knowledge.). This had to be an in your face effort, getting to valves on V4 is not easy, let alone adjusting them (can anyone say take bucket and shim and stick it where the sun donít shine?)

So, a marvel of compactness, allowing all sorts of latitude with frame geometry. Engine could be mounted forward, which led to the ability to minimize shaft jacking via the simple solution of a long shaft without making a long cycle (Eventually BMW conquered shaft affect completely with the Paralever design, but its not simple or inexpensive!).

But with this design, at no additional cost, and that had been done for all sorts of other good reasons, they got a shaft drive that so minimized the affect it had no affect on the handling. You have probably taken yourself off the road for other reasons before you reached a point in the handling envelope where this would have affected the ride). Thatís brilliant engineering.

The engine was in more ways the heart and soul of the NighthawkS, not just because of its performance, but what it allowed for the rest of it to become what it did.

That over square piston allowed some other interesting variations, within the engine. With a lot of circular area to work with, you can put in more and bigger valves, ergo more airflow, ergo more fuel, ergo lots of hp, so in came the 4 big valves. There are quotes of 90 hp at the engine output with 700cc (I donít buy that, mid/low seventies at the rear seems closer- but you get that up over 7 grand and you wonder). So, while the engine was wide, it was wide up high, and you got the ground clearance where you needed it for cornering down low (not much wider than the V4s where it counted.

There is almost always some kind of price to pay, in this case, the price is the need to rev extremely high. At almost 11,000 rpm, thatís race cycle territory, not what one is used to. To get the serious power out of the machine, you have to live up over 7 grand, not hard to do on the straight, drop a gear or two and launch. Much harder to do in the twisties, as you are shifting a lot to keep it there. Probably not distracting for a racer, much more so for the more common types. And its unnerving to have the machine spinning that hard. Its not quite a two stroke mode, the power bands are wider, and you can often find a combination of two gears that covers it, but one is going to be up at 9 to 11 grand, and that is funny rev range to be in for an old low revving cycle rider (you just want to shift up all the time)

Whatís interesting, that while the press blithered about it being over square, the VFRs were far more so (1.44 stroke to bore) vs. 1.26 for the CBX750 and 1.35 for the CB700SC. The only reason the NighthawkS looks as over square as it is, was the de-stroke that took place. If it had been brought in as its intended 750CC configuration, it would have been the same 1.26 as the CB750SC and the RC17!

With all the VFR had going for it, water cooling with fan, to not really blow away the in lines had to have really ticked some people off.

Unarguable the engine was a tour de force, and stands up well even today, add fuel injection and the latest combustion chamber designs and a sophisticated oil cooling system with thermostatic control, and I bet it would rule again!

And last, if you need any proof, drop 50CC, add in 750 rpm to compensate, and it still lives just fine. There may even have been some efficiency gains, as the fuel mileage seems to be a bit better than the 750s talk about (I get 45 to 50 mpg ). It was so close to the VRFs in performance, it would seem that only the absorbing of a bit of power in the shaft (and some extra weight) was the difference

More Performance: If you can stand the noise, its as easy as bolting on a 4 into 1 exhaust system. Mine came with one. I couldnít stand the noise, it burned the glass packing out in a couple hours. I traded straight across for a set of OEM pipes, which I like better, but the 4 into 1s sure gave you an extra kick in the butt. I would guess 10 to 20% more, lot of get up and go for an easy add on modification.

SHAFT DRIVE?

Was there a group in Honda that came to believe in shaft drives? It seems like it, that being the other totally non standard component of this machine. They were certainly around with the Sabers and Magna, did that hardy group of in liners grab this and why?

Maybe, the interest was not so much to dethrone the V4 sports group, but to see if they could carve out an inline niche. Where in the world did they get the notion to make it a custom hot rod with a shaft? Or, was this a stealth project, that was sold on that basis, but targeted more at the Touring/Cruiser groups?.

Did they surprise themselves and have the factors come together? Honda had the Goldwing (which if anyone remembers started out as a naked hot rod, that was for a very shot time, the machine to beat. Other shaft drive machines were out there, so having a shaft drive division within Honda made sense (what if it became the rage, better be ready and have some experience.) Again, cover the bases, even if you didnít believe in it entirely, and maybe a long term twinkling of taking on BMW (we did get the ST1100 eventually, as the Goldwing had moved up into the boat class by then).

I certainly could see an interest in the Japanese domestic market, which has to be nothing close to the balls to the walls go fast sellers for the rest of the world.

The wonder of it was, even with the shaft drive, they had a machine that was incredibly close to the performance levels of the V4 sports bikes, you have to wonder if that isnít where they met their demise, getting too close for comfort to someoneís turf.

It was one of the main selling points for me. I hated having to adjust the chain on my 750s all the time, not to mention wondering if was going to come loose and tear through the case or lock up. They did do that occasionally. I was recently given a 72 CB450, and found that it had thrown a chain and tore stuff up under the sp[rocket cover. So a shaft drive that had that kind of performance level and no maintenance, not to mention a lot of saving on future expense in buy new chains, really got my interest. I have never regretted it.

. If you put the best rider on a NighthawkS, I think he could beat a slightly less capable one on a VFR (of the same manufacturer era!)

The chain drive versions of course did not have to worry about it, ergo, more sporty nature of those. All in all, I would give up the advantages of the chain, for the maintenance free (and non recurring costs) of the shaft, but I am also not a serious sports rider.

FRAME

Another interesting bit here, in order for this all to work, it had to have a good frame. This was not put into another frame, or a modified frame from another machine. Both the CB750SC shafts and the RC17, got from the ground up designed frames. Neither machine got the latest state of the art advanced frame they were putting into the V4s, but they did get as advanced a conventional frame as you could design.

The NighthawkS went with an enormously square center tube. They did extremely well, there is no mention anywhere for any of the derivatives of any frame deficiencies, so the goal was accomplished. They came close enough to what they were after, that most people would never be able to tell the difference. If you are like me, and you canít drive well enough to take a corner at 90 in this machine, then you likely shouldnít be taking a corner at 90 in any machine

SUSPENSION

Another oddity in the equation. A very conventional appearing suspension, but equally deceiving, as it had a great deal of adjustment, and basic built in sophistication, and it had non Honda source components (Kayaba, not Showa). Maybe in Honda the suspension group wouldnít give them what they wanted, and they went outside Honda to get it..

Upshot on the RC20 variants was while it looked conventional, the TRAC anti-dive worked pretty well, you can tune it if you want with air pressure, and the rear adjusts very nicely. It worked, and worked extremely well, without the sophisticated single shock systems. Another lesson in that if you arenít racing, all those razor thin marginal improvements may not be worth the cost. Again, for the type of riding I do, the benefits of a sophisticated rising rate mono shock is wasted, I was happy for the other things I got.

The rear shocks may look normal, but thy handle their job extremely well, there are no reports of this being a deficiency of any kind.

OTHER FEATURES:

Probably the single neatest thoughtful feature are the adjustable handle bars. You donít think this is a big deal, until your ride 600 or a 1,000 miles. It makes the difference between hurting badly at the end of the day, and feeling fine when you hang it up for the night.

Then there is the fun stuff, the digital gear indicator, which you could live without, but at times its handy to have to check in with. The fuel tank level gage is also a help, particularly in the long stretches where you need to be able to monitor fuel and make decisions or bet stuck a long ways from gas.

A feature that not many are aware of, was the move to the single actuation of all four carburetors. On the old 750s you had a cluster of 4 cables, not any fun to adjust. Nicely done, as well as the easy adjustment of the idle, handle bar mounted choke. Thoughtful things that make this long term enjoyment to own and ride (15 year now, and I am still happy with it).

TIRES:

When I got mine, the tires were pretty well shot (it had 7k on it). Further research seemed to point towards Metzlers, and a call to Competition Accessories confirmed it, they had a couple of staff who rode the NighthawkS, and were very happy with them. So I went with the ME33 Laser on the front, and the ME99A on the rear. Inspired choice,. Drawback was that I wore two rears out for each front (14k on the front, 7 on the rear.)

While that may not sound bad, I am not a hard core racer type, so I was disappointed. Also, as you get up to 6500 or so, the disparity in the condition of the rubber starts to show, and handling deteriorated that last 500 miles (or more). You could probably live with it if you ride in a desert, but any rain and with the tread worn, bad news.

I have tried the ME88 rear (touring) badly disappointed, not vicious, but poor handling in the low speed real tight turns, and ho hum anywhere else (might be better in really hot conditions, but that is not Alaska.

So it will be back to the latest (probably an ME550), and maybe an investment in tire removal tools.

Funny, profit margin on tires has to be pretty good, but the local Honda shop wonít throw in tire mounting if you by the tires from them (it would about come out equal, saving in out of shop, add the freight on). So, I buy via mail, and have them mount them. hmmmm.

RAMBLINGS

While the bikini fairing is a great styling touch, it didnít work as a faring.. It also didnít hurt anything, except it was impossible to find a faring to put on it! It took years, but I finally found a Rifle made fairing that had an adaptor that allowed it to work (the bikini fairing comes off). The bikini sure looked sharp though!

Others have taken the clear fairings, and with a bit of carving on the opening, made those work. I prefer the style I have, but the clear does allow keeping the bikini. The important thing, it can be done, and I canít imagine riding long distances without one (my trips seldom are less that 200 miles except a test run or a check it out in the spring ride.

The fake carb stacks (velocity pipes) didnít work either, but if your donít like them (and no one seemed to), just pull them off like I did . I still have them in a box in the crawl space along with the bikini faring and turn signal stalks that came off. I donít ever plan on selling it, but I am keeping those things, I suspect itís a collectors item someday.

So, two cosmetic items that were non functional, but certainly didnít hurt anything, and thatís it? Well if you come up with any, let me know, but thatís a pretty amazing achievement.

Yes I have read a few nit picks, the anti dive mechanism doesnít work as well as its reported to have on some bikes, hmm. One article said if you blow up an engine the frame tubes would get contaminated and you couldnít clean the metal out of them (excuse me, I am a mechanic, I know damned well I could flush anything out of those,) .

Fuel Capacity: Well that is a minor on going sore point. Certainly where fuel stops are few and far between, you often have to stop a lot sooner to top up, to make sure you get to the next one ok. In recent years though, the wonders of modern fueling have helped I drive up, slide in the credit card, get the fuel, and then go to park or just drive off. On the Nighthawk you can just ride away, as its comfortable enough for 250 miles before a stop.

Still, another half gallon would be nice, and a full gallon would be heaven (buy an old tank and have your welder put a bulge in it? That would be great. Interestingly, I seem to get better gas mileage than most, even with a lot of camping gear, maybe just not pushing it as hard as the magazine writers do.

Kick starter: Well, its not so much the starter doesnít work well, with what I have had happen (twice) with batteries. In both cases when they went, they shorted, just plain went dead (after turning off bike and stopping each time). The first time I was on a hill, and apparently the dead battery sucked all the juice out of alternator, left none for ignition. I was low on the hill before I figured that tout. A friendly Dept of Highway crew gave me a jump, and I got home on that.

The second time was at the Honda shop, and I got a jump from them, unfortunately they didnít have the battery I needed. It would be nice to be able to work it out if needed, but I carry jumper cables now! Note, the BMW has a kick starter, but itís a sidewinder foot killer, so maybe its not so bad!

Loss of Fuel Flow: Occasionally, the fuel just quits flowing, there was a comment on one of the articles that this was due to wind direction and speed forming a vacuum and starting the carburetors. Go figure, but its always come right back after loosing speed down to 40 mph. It could also be a leak around the fuel shutoff vacuum line.

Riding Position:

Other than comments that taller riders are not comfortable, I canít imagine anything much more comfortable for me.. My wife who is almost 6 foot tall, certainly didnít like it, so I can accept that. Me, I am 5í 8 Ĺ", and I find it terrific.

The adjustable handle bars are one of those touches that you donít always immediately appreciate, but I sure do now. It took a bit of playing with them, but I came up with a set up that works great, and havenít adjusted them in 8 years or better, but I did play with them a lot to get them there.

One trip I did was a hard core blitz, the Valdez oil terminal is 305 miles away, a lot of twisty mountain driving, some good straights, but always crack and frost heaves. I pulled out one morning at 6, and just had at it. Cool running to start, when I broke out above it all in the first pass, it was 75-80 degrees all the way. I ran as hard as road conditions permitted (80-95 a lot, and on Alaska roads thatís cooking). I grabbed a couple of meals, hit more than one water pump in a campground to cool off, got into Valdez, putted out to the oil terminal, and then hit the road hard again. Probably 650 miles all told in 12 hours. I donít think there are many machines you could do that on (either that hard and fast, or be able to walk when you got done).

CONCLUSIONS:

So why after what was a substantial effort and expense to design and build these machine, quit after 3 years (except the local Brazil variant)? Maybe itís a combination of you can make a lot more money on a fancy machine, even if most of the people that buy it, canít ride it anywhere nears it capabilities. Put in that you tempt people to buy the less expensive machine if its available, so you just kill the line.

Maybe too, they lost sight of what keeps them in business, and that is lots of riders riding lots of machines, not a few rider buying a few machines. They did bring back a chain drive version of the Nighthawk to act as an entry bike (someone woke up?) but they sure made sure neutered it. While you could probably get it back up to phenomenal performance levels, it would take a lot of parts, and the high performance models are already there with that.

Still itís a shame that it doesnít at least have a shaft drive variation, with a hotter engine, it stiol would be a terrific sports tourer, i.e. a lead into the ST1100. A market I think almost all of them are missing.

I had to laugh at one article on this. They compared it to the VFR700 (I think). The NighthawkS was a better in town machine, better at long distances, better on roll in power moves, and was just a shade slower in the quarter mile, as well as time runs on the road course on the track, as well as on the road with corners.

After all that, the author clearly said the VFR was the machine of choice. I still wonder if that was tongue in cheek, the conclusion was pre-determined, and while he had to say it in the end to keep his job, he sure didnít leave that impression in the writing that went with it!

ACCESSORIES:

You could get luggage and fairings for it, Honda factory offering, though you donít see much of it. I suspect its nicely done up variation from the Asian police line.

TARIFFS AND HARLEY DAVIDSON

There is some myth about Harley Davidson and the tariffs that were imposed in 84 on bikes OVER 700CC. Feeling about Harley motorcycles need to be separated out from the tariff situation.

There is an American law that you cannot sell something for less than it cost to produce, other than promotional periods. (obviously difficult to prove). Its referred to as "dumping". American steel producers have used the law in the past, as steel is a bootstrap industry that is prone to do that. Foreign manufactures will do it in an attempt to stay in business in periods of distress, or to break into a market.

Harley Davidson used the law on the books, and proved that the Japanese motorcycle industry was warehouse and dumping motorcycles into the US market under cost. When it was said and done, they were given a tariff that amounted to 48% cost increase (there was around 5% in place on all cycles). While motorcycle enthusiasts lost out, it was appropriate and legal, no under handed dealing was involved.

At this point, any importation of motorcycles into the US was NOT PROHIBITED under the ruling, it was just expensive. I.E., Honda could have brought in any bike they wanted to, including RC17 variants, they decided it was cost prohibitive for certain models that they felt would not sell. Two solutions were come up with, one was to de-stroke the CB750SC/VFR700 and come in under the 700cc line, the other was to actually develop a competitive class of 600CC in line fours. Also keep in mind, from time immemorial, for whatever obscure thinking drives the Japanese mind, certain models were NEVER brought to the US, some of which would certainly have sold well. Go figure, the inscrutable Japanese mind, and you will never see an expose of what Honda was thinking or why they were doing it, so wonder on, I certainly do for whatever good it does me.

I have a love hate relationship with Harley Davidson. As an American, I am proud of what they have accomplished, as they did use the tariff period wisely (and took off the last 2 years). Whether you like Harley Davidson motorcycles or not, they turned the company around, leveraged their image into a highly successful motorcycle manufacturing (and apparel) company again.

I suspect all of us in this community think they are big, heavy, outdate, poor handling machines. I also have a relation who is quite the motor cycle enthusiast, who wound up buying a 883 Sportster and loves it. Two years ago, I took a long trip into Canada and Southeast Alaska (Whitehorse Yukon territory, Haines and Skagway Alaska. 60% of what I saw on the road out there were Harleys, talked to two of them while waiting for the ferry, one on a 70s vintage and one on a new one. These guys were doing at least what motorcycles are about, they took them for an adventure. And while the Alcan (Alaska Canadian Highway) is now generally paved, keep in mind, pavement up here is not pavement anywhere eels. Lots of broken sections from frost heavy, damaged sections from rain, sections that are torn up for re-paving, and never ending stretches under construction.

HD has also recognized the corner they are in, and bought out Buel, done some great racing machines separate from their usual, and are working on others. The VROD is another huge move in that direction.

What they have done is come back from the rink of complete collapse, and carefully nurtured it into a huge success. And while others deride their caution, others are not in charge of taking the risks that are entailed in taking a one product image driven company, into a broader more successful enterprise. YOU live through the depression, and tell me it didnít scar you (I have talked to enough people that did, and it doesnít, no matter how good your latter life turns out. HD lived through their own, and rightfully, are not forgetting the lessons.

I think what they did was carefully leverage what they felt they could, that includes all sorts of apparel and licensing of the HD label ((I was given a can of Harley Davidson coffee!). They have a little know division that does small batch prototype casting for air cooled engines (lawnmowers, snow blower etc). That took advantage of their facilities and expertise in that area.

So say what you want, they have been and continue to be successful, and its good to see an American motorcycle company (now 3, but two probably would not be on the road if not for HD making that segment live again), not to mention a plethora of Japanese look a likes.

CB700SC (84-86) GENERAL SPECIFICATION (not all, just the mostly interesting basics)

Engine:

Tires:

Dimensions:

Front brake swept area: 904 cm/140 sq in

Drive Train:

Electrical:

 

Gregory Schmitz/1503 Turpin St./Anchorage Ak. 99504