Actually, there are probably hundreds of models, especially in the 50-250cc range, which many Honda enthusiasts have never seen or heard of, at least in America. There are some variations of the larger bikes, as well, which wound up in many countries, except the USA. Here are a few examples of bikes that I have seen or owned personally.
Actually, my very first bike was a black/silver CL90, which was a local trade-in at a car dealership by a navy serviceman. It was the only one in town, as Honda was just releasing them to the US dealers about that time. Looking back at the only photo I have of the bike, it was not equipped with winkers and had a mph speedometer, even though it was brought in from outside the normal Honda sales channels.
Personally, I have owned a few non-US models through the years, including: a 1967 SS50, a 1977 CB125T, a 1964 CBM72, a 1965 CB93, a 1965 CP77 (non-Police), a 1965 CYP77 Police bike and currently a Japanese- domestic CL72 with a Type2 engine. There were also a couple of 1950s Benlys and an F-Cub bicycle model, in the mix, as well. My 1953 Benly J made the trek from San Diego to St. Louis, to the UK and finally out to Holland, as an award-winning machine, but it didn’t look like that when it left my garage.
I landed one of the 25 copies of the original 1965-6 CB450P 4-speed Police models, shipped to the US as test units for the local Police departments, so that makes two factory Police models in my history. I did come close to buying a CP750 model, once, but the timing wasn’t right so it got away from me.
The cute little SS50, purchased new in Japan in 1970, turned out to be a leftover 1967 model! No matter, it only cost $176 new. That bike was a pocket-rocket with a 5 speed gearbox and a 60mph top speed right out of the box. I sold it to a friend in Sacramento and we lost track of it after that. I thought it was much more attractive than the later ones, though.
A CB93 (CB125) version of the CB96 (CB 160) showed up in the late 1970s, which had a CA black plate, but apparently was brought in from Japan by a serviceman and then resold at a Honda shop. Same chassis as a CB160, but different top end; carburetors, pistons, rings, cylinder and cylinder head. I had some foam filters on it for awhile and the engine backfired once catching the engine on fire. We doused it and repaired the damage but sold it soon thereafter.
The CB125T was a new model in 1977 and I happened to be in England when they hit the market. I was already roadracing CB125S models, so thought this might be a worthy competitor in the 125 Production Class racing. The bike was not light, but the redline was up about 12k and capable of 80mph in stock condition. I had the head ported and was able to get Kenny Harmon (Harmon-Collins fame) to regrind a camshaft for me. In one race the bike was caught in a draft from a larger machine and I let it have its head until I saw 13k on the tachometer and 88 mph on the speedometer. I was all tucked in with my hand on the clutch in case of disaster happening beneath me, but it never phased the engine at all.
In the early 1980s, I was working at a local Honda shop when a customer called to find out if he could get parts or service for his CB135 Honda twin. Seemed like a joke or someone messing with me, but sure enough he brought the bike by and it had CB135 on the side covers! You have to dig deep to find anything about that particular model, which apparently was made for a specific region. In past conversations with a man from Bermuda he told me that the cc limit for motorcycles on the island was 140cc and that Triumph (or some Brit manufacturer) had made some sleeved-down 200cc models, just for import to Bermuda. Bear in mind that this was a conversation from 20 years ago, so it could be a bit inaccurate. Honda’s home website does mention the model in passing with some dimensional drawings, however. There is a photo of one in Thailand on the web, which accompanies this story.
My first CP77 (non-Police bike) came from a collector in Irvine, CA. I stripped it down, powdercoated it black and rebuilt the engine, all in the stock OEM configuration, complete with winkers, sidestand, high bars, early-style tail light and solid footpegs. The bike was sold to a gentleman who sent it back to Japan, then got broad-sided by a car, damaging the bike extensively. He loved the bike so much that he chose to rebuild it again.
The CBM72 was another puzzler, bought from a local San Diego area owner who had it shipped back from Germany, where he was stationed in the service. I didn’t realize the significance of the CBM-72 serial number until I brought it home and began doing a tune-up. It was surprising to discover just one set of points beneath the point cover for the first time. After a good tune-up and carb clean, it ran like a little watch and was surprisingly peppy for a 250cc Super Hawk. I think that one went back to Japan, as well.
Back in the 1980s, I picked up a CB77 chassis from a seller in LA and it turned out to be a Type 2 CB77. It was just a rolling chassis, but in hindsight it must have been a CYP77 model, because those are about the only 305cc versions with a Type 2 engine supplied from the factory. That bike got a 337cc big bore kit and some YB kitted chassis parts. Again, it was quick and torque-y to drive with a much different feel than the “normal” CB77s I had ridden before.
In the late 1980s, I hit a vein of vintage gold when about 6 different CB92s showed up, at different times in a 2-year period. The CB92s were limited edition models, with just over 1,000 sold in the US between 1960 and 1962. The first one I discovered was WAY UP in Washington State and I made a 3,000 mile round trip to fetch it, along with a CB77 roadracer and a load of NOS parts, all of which came from different sources up there. Then, I owned CB92 #28 from the first 1960 production run, which came from a local San Diego owner. Another one came my way when a long-time owner of a bike, built in the 1960s and then stored after it seized, called me from a little ad I had posted in a newspaper. It was in LA, but worth the trip as it came with boxes of spare pistons/rings and a CR93 megaphone stashed in a box along with CB92 megs and mufflers. A few months later, a friend called and wanted to know if I wanted three more CB92s, in varying states of repair, along with a load of CYB92 racing spares. How could I refuse? As I went through the bikes and engines, I learned a LOT about the progression of the CB92 engines (especially crankshafts) and other features that changed through the years.
As I was on the hunt for CB92-related parts, an ad for a domestic C92 chassis appeared which required me to drive to Riverside, CA to have a look. It wasn’t much of a parts bike, really, but it shed more light on the differences between the CB92s and the domestic C92s, especially the 2 main vs. 3 main bearing crankshafts and engine cases. One other lead took me all the way out to the Salton Sea area on the hunt for another Benly model, which was another shipped-in C92 domestic bike that had a CA “black plate” on the back, having been registered in the mid-1960s. The Salton Sea is not a friendly environment for machinery and I decided to pass on that one, even though it wound up being about a 250 mile round trip for nothing. All part of the vintage bike adventure, isn’t it?
Locally, a 1965 C77 Dream floated around between a couple of friends, here in San Diego. I was asked to do a tune-up and carb clean on it, back in the early 1990s and only discovered the “rotary gearbox” function by accident when I took it out for a test spin. I was totally confused by the gearbox as it shifted back and forth between 1st and Neutral, then into 4th gear before I realized what it was and started shifting down, down, down and down again in order to make forward progress.
It was a “black plate” CA bike, but apparently brought into the country by a serviceman in 1966 and ridden intermittently for about 30 years. The current owner had a transmission failure about 4 years ago and I was called upon to rebuild the transmission. The shift drum was still okay, but one of the shift forks was broken/worn out. Rotary gearbox shift forks are unique and nest inside of each other on the shift drum. I must have bought the last two in regular circulation, from CMS in Holland. Thankfully that is all that it needed, once I shimmed up the gearbox with offset cotters.
Again in the 1990s, someone found my name in a publication then called to see if I wanted to buy some kind of old Honda 125cc single motorcycle that they found leaned up against the side of a garage. I asked more about it and was told that the tank badges said BENLY on each side, not Benly 125, just Benly. The earlier of the CB92s and C92/CS92 models had “Benly” only badges, but those bikes are twins, not single cylinder. When I went to see the bike, it turned out to be a JC75 Benly! The bike had been found disassembled, but they managed to piece it together and get it started up and running. I bought it and then flipped it the next day for a $300 profit, but knowing what I know now should have held out for more money. At that time, those bikes were so rare and no one was making any parts available for them, so I was happy to have owned it for a moment and then let it go again.
My biggest blown deal was missing out on the chance to buy a CR93 Honda racebike for $1800, back in 1982. The bike was featured on the cover of Motorcycle Mechanics magazine and was owned by the editor, Bob Braverman. Somehow it turned up in a collection in San Diego and was offered for sale in the daily newspaper along with a number of other rare bikes from a collector who was getting divorced. I went to see the bike, having brought along the magazine which featured it and verified that it was the same machine. I was in the middle of a building project and had to choose between digging up a spare $1800 and keeping my focus on the house. The next day, when I called back to talk to the owner I was told that the bike was already sold and on its way to the UK. That one still stings a little bit, even today.
So many bikes were brought over by servicemen and enthusiasts during the 1960s, that even today new bike surprised pop up unexpectedly, just like my newly-acquired CL72 Type 2 Scrambler. That bike was listed on Craigslist by the son of the owner who bought the bike in 1966 from a fellow Sailor buddy. The son only knew that it was a 250cc Scrambler, but didn’t realize the significance of the “Dream 250” tank badges and the Type 2 points cover. He talked his dad, who lived in Indiana, to ship the bike out to San Diego after it had been sitting in the garage for the past 30 years. The CL posting was confusing to the locals, as it has “big brakes” and the “Dream 250” tank badges, which normally don’t go together in US- spec machines. Replies to the posting were accusing him of selling some kind of a “bitsa bike” made up of various parts bikes. When I asked for the serial numbers and he read back “CL72-150xxxx” I knew that it was a domestic Type 2 Scrambler because that second digit in the VIN is the “Type 2” designator. As we spoke, it became clear that I knew a lot more about the bike than he did, so we agreed that I should probably become the next owner, which is exactly what happened!
I’m sure that many of you, out there, have your own tales of unusual Honda finds that were not originally destined for the US market, too. Feel free to share your finds with me and the various forums on the web. I am always glad to help support the body of knowledge that is the history of vintage Honda motorcycles. There were so many different models, produced world-wide, that new discoveries continue to be part of the big vintage Honda motorcycle adventure which we all enjoy so much.
Bill “MrHonda” Silver