A street-legal 1977 Honda CB500 race bike
This Honda CB500 race bike was built in the 1970s by engineer Brian Brownrigg for Bolton based rider Chris Hawkes, the bike won three separate championships at the time, it was later slightly modified and registered for a road use.
The 1970s was a time when the European old guard of the motorcycle world was being beaten down by Japanese newcomers, upending decades of history and bringing the industry to rapid decline. Motorcycles like the Honda CB500 shown here have been key to that success.
Quick Facts – A Road-Legal Honda CB500 Champion
- The Honda CB500 was released in 1971 as the middleweight sister to the larger Honda CB750. Both models featured inline four-cylinder engines with a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder and an electric starter.
- When released in Europe, the CB500 was praised by the press, its advanced engine producing power comparable to that of a 650cc twin, but it shared none of the leaks or reliability weaknesses of its British competitors.
- For many motorcyclists, the Honda CB750 was simply too big or too powerful, and so the lighter and cheaper CB500 was the ideal solution.
- The Honda CB500 race bike you see here was ridden competitively in the UK during the period, winning three separate championships at Three Sisters and it ran the Ace of Aintree Championship for a time.
The Honda CB750: An Industry-Transforming Superbike
The Honda CB750 was released in 1969 in response to US dealer demand for a larger capacity motorcycle to better challenge the dominant motorcycles from companies like Harley-Davidson, Triumph, Norton and BSA.
Like almost all 1970s racing bikes of this type, this CB500 has a full fairing with windscreen allowing optimum top speed in a straight line.
What no one knew at the time was that this new model would unleash a motorcycle tsunami that would topple many of the world’s top brands, fundamentally changing the motorcycle landscape forever.
Thanks to the incredible success of the CB750, Honda developed a new model based on the same architecture, but aiming to achieve in the middle-duty market what the CB750 had achieved in the heavy-duty market.
The Honda CB500: middleweight perfection
This new motorcycle would be the Honda CB500. It featured a new engine that looked very similar to its bigger brother, but used new block, barrel and head castings, with all new internals.
Like its larger predecessor, the CB500 was an inline-four with a single overhead cam operating eight valves, two per cylinder. It was equipped with four carburettors and the engine was built in one piece, with an electric starter and a front disc brake.
This engine now has a displacement of 550 cc, it is also fitted with a Yoshimura YH-2-1 camshaft, Honda CG pistons, a bank of four Mk2 Amal 20 mm carburettors and a kit of Kibblewhite valve springs.
Power output was a respectable 50 bhp and top speed was 185 km/h, both excellent figures for a motorcycle of this displacement at the time.
The CB500 produced as much power as many larger 650cc engined motorcycles, but without any leaks and without the hassle of using a starter to get it started every day. The model quickly became a best-seller and it wasn’t long before it started being modified for use on the race tracks.
Perhaps the most successful racing version of the CB500 was the one raced by Bill Smith at the Isle of Man TT in 1973, he won the 500cc TT Production race, finishing 8.2 seconds ahead of runner-up Stan Woods.
The 1977 Honda CB500 race bike shown here
The bike you see here is a highly modified Honda CB500, it was built by successful engineer and rider Brian Brownrigg for Bolton-based rider Chris Hawkes.
This bike has a well-stocked trophy cabinet, it won three separate championships at Three Sisters and led the Ace of Aintree championship among many other strong finishes.
Hawkes had some success at Aintree in the Ace of Aintree 500cc four-stroke championship and also raced at Cadwell Park. In 1982 the bike passed to new hands, in the years that followed it won three separate championships at Three Sisters and led the Ace of Aintree Championship.
During the winter of 1982 the bike received extensive mechanical maintenance including a ported cylinder head, white metal shell bearings and the crank stripped so that the connecting rods were polished and balanced.
It is now fitted with 20mm Mk2 Amal carburettors, a high performance Yoshimura YH-2-1 camshaft, Honda CG pistons, Kibblewhite valve spring kit and a 56mm rebore. giving a displacement of 550 cm3.
A few years later, in 1997, the bike was registered for the road for the first time, it retains its UK road registration, potentially making it an ideal weekend bike for B-road adventures.
If you want to know more about this unusual CB500 or register to bid you can click here – it is currently offered for sale in a live online auction by Collecting Cars.
Images courtesy of Collecting Cars
Ben has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the Official Pinterest Blog, the Official eBay Motors Blog, BuzzFeed and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben in 2010, in the years since the site has become a global leader in the alternative and vintage automotive sector, with millions of readers around the world and several hundred thousand followers on social networks.