750 Racing Type : myth's resurrection
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
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.
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.
An expressly built motorcycle for 1970
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.
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
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.
The expertise of the
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
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
The Hansen team busy doing their
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.
Ron Robbins at work, using his
An extraordinary discovery.
That makes the discovery in France
of a nearly complete CB 750 racing Type all the more
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 !
Yard of the
Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Mark Gardiner, journalist in the U.S. and the Hansen
team in full discussion.