Sometimes it feels like Harley-Davidson gets all the attention when it comes time to vintage choppers.
Sure, we know that there are legions of fans out there that love Harley-Davidson choppers, and an entire subculture exists to support the iconic American brand, but they weren't the only ones out there. When choppers came on the scene in the late 1960s, due in no small part to the iconic film Easy Rider, everyone from bankers to tradesmen wanted in on the action.
Although most people instantly associate choppers with Harley-Davidson, the reality is those motorcycling enthusiasts we're also buying and chopping up Japanese bikes of the same era. Among the most legendary Japanese motorcycles of the era is the Honda CB750, and whether you’re looking at the 1970s, or the 2020s; it still has plenty of fans.
Yes, that's right, motorcycle enthusiasts we're skipping right over Harley-Davidson V-Twins for a 4 cylinder superbike that was a barnstormer of a performer. Why? Well, it was just that damn good, so why not!
We're going to cover why the CB750 was a popular option for creating the ultimate chopper build, and what some of the most common modifications were to this unique Japanese performance bike.
Let's do it.
We don't really need to tell you that the Honda CB750 was a legend in its day, but we’ll go ahead and say it anyway.
Considered one of the very first superbikes, this high-performance monster could run circles around nearly anything else on the road. To boot, it was also hellaciously reliable and could run, and run, and run.
Its look personified the Universal Japanese Motorcycle, or UJM, which stood in contrast to the chopped-up, ape hanger appearance of Harley-Davidsons from the same era. Personally, we don't think there's anything better looking than the Honda CB750, but we're also not against the idea of customizing this unique bike to fit in with a unique niche of riders who want something just a bit different.
Many of the Harley-Davidson choppers from this era were based on much older designs, including motors from the Knucklehead and the Shovelhead era. As these designs aged, fewer and fewer parts were available to chop up and create brand new bikes. On the contrary, Honda had sold a ton of the CB750 since 1969, and there were plenty of those laying around for builders to pick off of and customize. Plus, the frame was well designed and incredibly solid.
One of the coolest elements of the Honda CB750 was the design of the iconic exhaust pipes. Remember, this performance motorcycle came packed with an in an inline 4-cylinder engine with four individual carburetors. This unique design element let's create builders sculpt and move around the four exhaust pipes into an unbelievable variety of configurations.
Continuing with the design elements, the CB750 also has a very wide engine, again can be emphasized by builders who are looking to take on the challenge. By comparison, Harley-Davidson bikes were much more narrow and didn't have quite the width of the big inline-four in the Honda.
Although some builders have minor difficulties with the four individual carburetors, most Honda CB750 engines are rock-solid reliable. We've done interview after interview and I've heard from the mouths of builders themselves that these engines just keep going, and provide little issue on long road trips. After all, this is what Honda is known for.
Lastly, the CB750 was an is just really fast. For the day, it was one of the fastest things on two wheels and builders looking to tweak the choppers into even faster rides found plenty of opportunities to upgrade the punchy inline-four.
Intrepid builders of the day realized that they could have the look of a Harley-Davidson chopper, with the reliability and speed of a Honda.
Seems like a match made in heaven? Trust us, it is!
To meet the needs of a growing aftermarket, several iconic names jumped in feet first.
One of the most popular CB750 chopper build-outs starts with the infamous Savior frame, from the now-defunct legends at Amen. In fact, Amen invented the plunger-style rear suspension design that was so popular on CB750 chopper builds. Amen also made a rigid frame that was perfect for anyone looking to build a hard-tail chopper. Today, the Amen frames are highly sought after in the open market and can go for some serious coin.
At the end of the day, building a CB750 chopper is a much more affordable affair than more popular Harley-Davidson models of the same era. Call it brand marketing, call it foolish stubbornness, call whatever you want. The reality is riders with an open mind could have one hell of a cool motorcycle for a lot less cash than a Harley if they just open their minds to the CB750.
Today, brands like Paughco and Rawhide Cycles offer CB750 frames that are the perfect starting point for the modern rider who wants to build a classic CB750 chopper. In fact, we've seen a huge resurgence in the popularity of the platform and more riders than ever are looking to jump into Japanese vintage motorcycles for everything from flat track racing to cruising.
We've had the opportunity to see some incredible builds based on the CB750 over the years here at Old Bike Barn.
From turbocharged monsters to true barn finds that started on a wing and a prayer; you'll find every type of enthusiast out there interested in CB750 choppers. Sure, you may get a little bit of flack for riding a Honda and not a Harley, don't one you fire up that fire breathing inline-four and take the bike to redline, all preconceived notions and brand arrogance go out the damned window.
If you've got a CB750 build, we want to know about it! Drop us a line so we can feature your bike right here at Old Bike Barn.