The Motorcycle That Gave Birth to the Nanahan Category
Honda had succeeded again, bringing other Japanese manufacturers into the arena with sports bikes featuring large, 750-cc engines. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to state that the Honda CB750 FOUR was a pioneer model in that regard. In fact, it gave birth to a new category known in Japan as "Nanahan*1." Yet the Honda model, with its decidedly high-performance intentions, also fared very well on the racing circuit.
The in-house racing team at Honda R&D brought their CB750 Fours to compete in the Suzuka 10-Hour Endurance Race scheduled to be held in August 1969, soon after the model's commercial launch. Honda dominated the race with a one-two finish by Blue Helmet MSC. The team of Morio Sumiya and Tetsuya Hishiki took first place, while the pairing of Yoichi Oguma and Minoru Sato came in a close second.
Veteran rider Dick Mann, meanwhile, streaked to victory on his CB750 FOUR at the AMA Daytona 200-Mile Race in March 1970. It was a ride that sent customers throughout the States running to their Honda dealers. In reflecting their conviction that "bigger is better," American riders soon wanted a bigger bike with an engine offering even larger displacement.
The American hunger for large bikes was enhanced with the 1972 launch of Kawasaki's hot new 900 cc ZI. Forced to develop a more appealing sport bike with a larger engine, Honda launched its 999 cc Gold Wing GL1000 in the American market. The units were initially exported from Japan, but as demand grew production switched to Honda of America Manufacturing (HAM). In May 1980, the first U.S.-made GL1100 machine rolled off the line. It was very well received in the U.S., becoming a major force in the growth of local production activities.
*1 Nanahan: Meaning 750 in Japanese, the term was used by the development staff to maintain the confidentiality of their new model. Nanahan later became a popular term, and was widely used in magazine circles.