Here’s a poster that was on my bedroom wall for many years. I recently found it in the basement, let’s look at the great Honda motorcycles available in 1984 Canada.
I spent the summer of 1984 on my uncle’s farm near Chatham Ontario. One weekend my cousin brought me to Honda House, at that time a combined motorcycle/car dealership and we each picked up a copy of this brochure.
Here’s the small bike page. Like many, the first motorcycle I ever rode was a Honda Z50. My cousin had one on the farm although it was a 1971 model in very poor shape. Just like this one here (although much worse):
Looking at this photo reminds me that those heat shields were missing from the exhaust pipe, and I badly burned the inside of my calf a couple of times while riding.
After it quit running my cousin sent it to me, I took it apart and found a burned exhaust valve. My dad bought me a new valve and piston rings. I just put them in and reassembled the motor, not knowing about ring gapping or valve lapping and it ran just fine. That sort of set the pattern for fixing old Hondas, just repair what was obviously broken, set what was modified back to stock and they would run perfectly.
Also on that page is the 450 Nighthawk, my first real motorcycle that I wrote about here, Mrs DougD’s first bike was a CM450 and she later had a fantastic 500 Interceptor that I wrote about here. My friend Bill had a 500 Shadow for many years and it gets a mention and a photo in this article. None of those bikes gave us much grief at all, and even on the Interceptor once problems were fixed they stayed fixed.
On to the large street motorcycles. Having had a CX500 SilverWing for a couple of years that we rode to Kelowna in this post, I tried to buy the improved CX650E Eurosport at one point. It’s a rare machine, and I couldn’t find one in good condition.
I never owned any of the really big displacement bikes here, although I once looked at a V65 Magna that was for sale. The owner had painted a Trans Am screaming chicken on the tank with a brush, spray painted the wheels gold, and upholstered the seat with real mink fur! None of this was mentioned in the ad, and the owner was quite proud of his creation so the nicest thing I could say was “It certainly is furry.” Needless to say I didn’t buy it.
This generation of Gold Wing are the last ones that look like motorcycles to me, after 1986 they reminded me more of 2 wheeled diesel locomotives. I did have a 1978 Gold Wing for about 6 months, complete with ugly Windjammer fairing.
Unlike all my other Hondas it defied fixing, everything was broken and worn out.
Fixing the initial problems just revealed the next set of problems, and then the next, and the next. Eventually I gave up and sold it at a loss.
This is the one I should have kept, the Nighthawk S. Note that we Canadians got 750cc whilst Americans got only 700cc due to protectionist tariffs. This was a GREAT motorcycle, shaft drive and hydraulic lifters made it virtually maintenance free, it was large enough to be comfortable and sporty enough to carve up a twisty road.
This is the bike I rode on my second trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway with my friend Bill, although by that time he had a CBR929 sportbike and I still had the slower machine. Despite being 16 years old it was in fine original shape, with low kilometres, original mufflers and seat cover. It even had an LCD display to tell me what gear it was in. The only issue was that there weren’t a lot of tires available for it due to the tiny 16″ front rim.
Despite my enjoyment I sold it when the kids were young, I had no time to ride and the money was more useful elsewhere.
I don’t have much experience with anything here, my generally suburban existence hasn’t given me much opportunity to ride off road. I did get to ride a 200cc three wheeler once, like most motorcycle riders I found the handling extremely spooky.
Two wheel riders like me also tended to put their foot down in a corner, where the rear tire might catch it and you could run yourself over. The owner had heavily cautioned me against this so I did not pull that embarrassing maneuver.
I sure had a lot of good experiences with 1980’s Honda products, after all this time I would still like a CX650E or a Nighthawk S again. Are there any here that you know and love too?
Here’s the links to my other posts with motorcycles seen here:
Nice trip down memory lane, when Honda was at the top of it’s game. I don’t think Windjammer fairings are ugly, and are quite nice to ride behind, especially with the optional taller windscreen. And us eagle eyed Honda mini experts will note the blue Z50 you posted has a manual clutch, which is not stock. Thanks Doug, makes me want my ’84 ATC 200X back!
It’s interesting what’s in that catalog, and what was still showing up at the Richmond Honda House repair shop when I retired from there last year:
Nighthawk S – A bike that still has a very good reputation amongst sport bike aficionados, and I never hear of one being sold as a parts bike. If it’s still together and rolls on it’s wheels, somebody is going to take the time and effort to get it inspectable and back on the road.
1200 Gold Wings – The extent people are willing to go to keep these bikes on the road was always a source of frustration to those of us in the parts department. Gold Wing owners are insane optimists regarding parts availability (coupled with an innate ability to make the Buffalo scream as they pull a nickel from their purse), and we’d get tired of the inevitable berating as we try to explain why that part hasn’t been available since 1998. Then one day, one of our better customers who was restoring an ‘83 tossed me the keys to his and invited me to try it out. Half an hour later, I stopped complaining, and started developing alternate parts sources.
Elite (aka Devo) Scooters – I’m amazed how many of these are still around, invariably battered cosmetically, but with four figure mileages. And they keep on running. As long as we can find parts.
Those three wheelers – How many people keep the because they’re a huge poke in the eye to the safety nannies? I swear most owners revel in the knowledge of their dangerous reputation.
Sabre’s, Interceptors and Ascots – Rare as hen’s teeth anymore, but the ones that do show up are usually mint and well cared for.
Shadows and Magnas – Their exact opposite. Still common for their age, invariably hacked with bad amateur customizing, rattle can paint jobs, and the admission that the owner really wanted to be a biker but couldn’t afford a Harley.
Amazing to see the sheer variety of models that Honda offered.
I love all the scooters except for the Spree, that year must have been one of Honda’s “golden years” for the genre.
A neighbor in college had a Nighthawk like yours and he too would go on and on about how great it was, I can’t say I disagree, while I never rode it the specs seem to back everything up.
At the time I probably would have wanted any of the Interceptors, nowadays of the mix I’d likely want the CX650E to mostly look at or the Passport (SuperCub) followed by the Elite to actually ride around. Priorities change!
This takes me back. As a teen in the late 70s and early 80s I was more interested in bikes than anything else and had motorcycle posters all over my room too. I still have an XR200R and an XR185 (bought new 40 years ago) that are ridden occasionally.
I agree about the 3 wheel ATCs. I owned a Honda 200 ATC for a while and found it to be almost unusable for general trail riding, even for an experienced rider. They’re lethal for beginners and were banned accordingly. It was okay in the snow, and was the best option for a couple of weeks in late fall when the snow covered the ground but wasn’t thick enough for a snowmobile.
I was so jealous of the bikes you got in Canada vs the US. Were safety or emissions refs that different, or just cultural or perceived market differences? We never got the CX 650E here; in fact I’m not sure if we got any CX by 1984. And a few years later the Honda 600 TransAlp was unobtanium here for the first year (1987?) though in the end it was imported – and didn’t sell any better here than in Canada. 20 years before its time. Other Canada-only bikes I recall were the RZ500 Yamaha 2 stroke four, and the Suzuki GSXR and Yamaha FZ fours which Canada got a year or so before the US.
I had two friends that ended up with Nighthawk 650s as their first bikes in college. I started riding on cheap old UJMs in highschool and got all my buddies into bikes, even did some longer camping trips with them. Bought for $800-1000 as solid runners. The 650s are a fantastic package, plenty of real world performance (12 second quarter mile), low maintenance touring friendly shaft drive. Cheap to buy, easy to find parts and parts bikes for. We found that out after my buddy randomly went into a ditch one morning riding back from the Adirondacks. He was unhurt thankfully but the bike did some tumbling end to end. We parked the bike in the trees with a note, and he rode pillion on the back of my ’78 GS1000C. In a stroke of luck, he found a parts bike on craigslist literally less than half an hour from where he wrecked. Brought up a uhaul trailer the following weekend, scooped up both bikes, swapped the front end over in a few hours and he was good as gold. Downsides? Kind of ugly and a bit harder to work on than the 70s Jap bikes, things are kind of crammed into that smallish frame. The biggest downsides (IMO) are the unfortunate 80s square headlight styling, and the fairly small size. I had a friend who was 6’1″ and he looked a bit like a circus bear riding his, and the ergos for long rides weren’t great due to that.
What a massive selection of offerings! Out of them I have only ridden the Aero 80 scooter which had more torque than I suspect. It gave off the impression of being a quality machine. My Nighthawk 250 is pretty darn similar to the CM250 Custom. Mine was a well worn example and a little spooky at highway speeds.
I have a 1985 VF700c Magna, bought it new when I was a senior in college. It never ceases to amaze me the variety of motorcycles that Honda offered back then. 3 sizes of V4’s, 3 sizes of twins plus all the inlines, their offereirngs today are but a fraction of what they had then. Oh, to be back in college again…
Yeah, the amount of overlap is amazing. Really how much different can a V30 Magna be from a 500 Shadow from a 550 Nighthawk? Not that much, not enough to justify all the design and tooling.
I guess it was doable when the market was growing fast, but not sustainable over the long term.
And don’t forget this was just what Honda offered in America. In the UK I owned three Hondas from this era, and none of them are on here! They were the CB125TD (twin), the CB250RS (awesome single cylinder scratcher) and CBX550F2.
And I’m sure that the JDM range was very different again. Plus all the other markets that Honda was in – who knows how many models they offered in total!
The C70 Passport caught my eye. I briefly owned an ’80 model. Everywhere else in the world, it was a Super Cub, but in the US, Piper Aircraft had a lock on that name.
I am not a cyclist, but a kid poring over and over a dog-eared brochure is something I can relate to.
And this reminds me when the “three wheeler” was popular on every farm – before it was eventually replaced by the “four wheeler”.
I’ve still got my ’83 Magna V65, it’s the now the longest serving vehicle I’ve ever had. I plan on paying the annual registration today and have to swap in a new fuel pump relay this weekend and I should be good to go. At around 65 000 kms it’s showing no signs of slowing down although I’m finding the suspension increasingly difficult to tolerate for long stretches as I age.
Since they really aren’t worth anything and parts are a real pain to obtain, I plan to just keep riding it.
I came of age riding the classic Hondas of the 1960-70s. After a couple of CB750s I moved into the Harley camp for the late 1970s and up. I always admired certain middleweight Honda models though. The 500 Interceptor, The Ascot, and the Nighthawk S. It is notable that one was a V4, one a V Twin, and one a transverse four cylinder. I always respected and appreciated a balanced machine that could combine speed with handling ease and compact size. That was why I primarily rode Sportsters, Harley’s most compact, and in many ways most compromised, bike. I even bought a new XLCR Cafe Racer, but that’s a topic for another time. I’m from the generation of motorcyclist that thought that Honda could do no wrong.
I hope you still have that XLCR. I’d kill for one, but they’ve been out of my price range for decades.
The reason for Honda’s wide range of different style motorcycles: Having popularized the transverse engine four cylinder motorcycle, Honda then watched all its main competitors adopt the same design to the point that it became the Universal Japanese Motorcycle. So, Honda’s next strategy was to make the UJM obsolete.
Their main sports bikes became V-4’s, the engine then was detuned for muscle cruisers, and of course they brought out a V-twin because the Japanese were “going to teach Harley-Davidson how motorcycles were made” (ha!).
In the end, all these designs had a major Honda failing: Compared the the UJM competition, they were too expensive. Honda brings out a new clean sheet design, and they always seem to overprice it. The biggest reason for the Nighthawk S’s popularity was that it was the cost effective bargain. No, it couldn’t handle a track day or B-route like an Interceptor. So what? The average American rider never developed the skills to get past a Friday night stoplight drag, and compared to his British counterpart who was forced to learn to ride on a 250 with screaming “L” plates, he was a hack rider.
Proud owner of a 1982 XR100 here. Amazing how many people comment on it and share their fondness for this bike.
The 700/750 Nighthawk S seems to have been a fine machine. Honda missed an opportunity to capitalize on that reputation. If I’d been Honda, I’d have offered an 1100–1200 Nighthawk S using similar technology in a bigger package and wider bore spacing.
But this is coming from the guy who bought the CB1100F the year before. Very similar styling; the CB was chain-drive while the Nighthawk was shafted. The Nighthawk had a more-modern engine than the 11F. The 11F was based on the ’79 750 DOHC and was decidedly at the end of it’s development.
My 11F had clutch and carb problems from Day 1; Honda hung me out to dry in terms of getting warranty repairs; they couldn’t even diagnose the clutch properly (kept blaming the cam chain tensioners.) Haven’t ridden that bike in years; and I’ll never buy another Honda. (Had Sudden Terminal Disassembly on a 1980 Civic, too. Again, no help from Honda.)