Vintage Ad: 1976 Honda 750 Automatic – The Two Speed Hondamatic on Two Wheels

The Hondamatic is an interesting design, as Honda went a quite different route in designing it to avoid paying any license fees. As a result, it does not have planetary gearsets, but sliding gears on parallel axes. This has been the case with all subsequent Honda automatics ever since, which explains their more mechanical “feel” in certain operating parameters.

It was a two speed transmission, but some versions, including the one adapted to several of Honda’s motorcycles, did not shift automatically. One either started (slowly) in Drive, or shifted up manually. Since the torque converter locked up at higher speeds, Honda sometimes called it a three-speed automatic. The elimination of the clutch and the possibility of driving without shifting was obviously designed to attract new riders to bikes. But it just didn’t quite pan out that way.

The Honda 750A was the first one to get the Hondamatic. But in that class it was anything but a hit, and it was withdrawn by 1978. But the smaller 400A and 450A were built from 1978 through 1983, so presumably some commuters were drawn to it.