American Honda was running into difficulties in 1967, at least with the US operations and sales. They had amassed a huge inventory of slow-selling models and financial challenges almost lead to their downfall in the American market. Honda’s engineers were also tasked with working on a new car line (N600-Z600 sedan/coupes) had just pulled out of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and were diving into automobile GP racing, so resources were scattered out everywhere.
Honda had been selling basically the same motorcycles for 7 years, with few updates. The US line-up for 1967 was the whole line-up of now-obsolete push-rod-50cc Cubs (Honda went to OHC engines in 1965 with the S65), a transition from the CA95 to CA160, CB/CL160 twins, 250-305s and the blossoming CB450, which finally got a 5 speed transmission. Honda reportedly had imported 100,000 50cc Cubs during the early years. At $245 the Cubs few out of dealerships initially, but then languished as more powerful machines were offered.
While Honda continued to churn out old models, their rivals were gaining a big foothold in the US. Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Bridgestone (which closed in 1971) all had innovative models, many with 5-speed transmissions and colorful paint schemes. The snappy performance of the 2-stroke engines gained many fans, especially due to their lightweight engines, which had few moving parts in comparison to Honda's more complex but sturdy four-stroke machines.
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Honda began to move in the direction of cosmetic and mechanical upgrades to all of their models. Looking at the 250-305cc models, there were just a few visible changes, like alloy forks on the CB72-77s and restyled seats with upturned forward edges. Honda changed the transmission and crankshaft splines for easier manufacturing and added on some chrome fenders and an oval tail light to the Super Hawks.
Honda Dreams were mostly unchanged after the switch to “late style” models in 1963. Honda swapped out the old, tall, thin batteries for the short, fat CB77 batteries in 1966, which continued until the end of production. The oval tail lights are shown in the parts books for the 1967 models, but few have ever been seen in the US.
The buzzy Honda CL77 305 Scramblers had an engineering makeover, including the transmission splines and a rubber mount update for the seat, rear fender, muffler, fork ears and footpegs to improve rider comfort. The 1967 models also gained the “oval” tail light on the end of their production models, first on the standard silver-painted fenders, then with some late-release chrome fender models which also came out with the first of Honda’s Candy Blue/Candy Orange paint schemes.
There were other little detail changes like cleaned up carburetor bodies which had vestiges of never-used power jet casting features removed. The horns were changed to cheaper plastic versions and even the tappet covers had a different shape but never had a revised part number.
The “041” oval tail light assembly was sourced from a small C50 step-through model, but applied to all of the 1967 machines. For models like the SS125A-CL125A and the new 5-speed CL175K0, which were only sold for 3 years, the shape of the tail light defines whether the bike is a 1967-68 or 1969 which had a new taillight design featured on the CB750K0 machines.
For new models like the CB/CL350s and carryover CB/CL450s the tail light shapes were oval for 1968, then followed by the enlarged CB750 types.
One of the major changes for Honda in 1967 was the switch from JIS tread pitch to ISO standards. This changeover leads to many difficulties for models which were instituted before 1967 and continued afterward, like the S/CL90 models, CT90, and the CL1750K0. When looking at the microfiche parts illustrations and part numbers you see the transitions on fasteners and any other parts with threaded holes during the period.
The JIS to ISO changes affected 3,4,5 and 12 mm screws/bolts
(SIZE OF BOLT OR NUT) PRESENT JIS MODIFIED JIS (ISO)
3mm 0.6 0.5
4mm 0.75 0.7
5mm 0.9 0.8
12mm 1.5 1.25
The size of the bolt heads was also revised
(SIZE OF BOLT OR NUT) PRESENT JIS MODIFIED JIS (ISO)
3 mm 6 mm 5.5 mm
4 mm 8 mm 7 mm
5 mm 9 mm 8 mm
6mm 10mm 10mm
8 mm 14 mm 12 mm
10mm 17mm 14mm
12mm 19mm 17mm
14mm 21mm 19mm
16mm 23mm 22mm
18mm 26mm 24mm
20 mm 29 mm 27 mm
All of these changes affected even the handlebar switch screws, as the transition continued. The rare NOS handlebar switches that come up for sale for most models, including the 250-305s all have JIS-threaded screw threads. Unfortunately, JIS threaded fasteners are quite hard to find anymore, so you are faced with having to re-thread JIS holes to ISO for these parts, as well as the 5mm screws on 250-305 point covers and dyno covers.
Things began to start looking up in 1968, with the release of the all-new 350cc, 5-speed twins, the 5-speed 450s, and even the new CL175s now came with 5-speed transmissions. Most all 1968 models sported metallic paint schemes, more chrome and a new sense of purpose as they moved into the end of the 1960s.
Bill “MrHonda” Silver
Another interesting article Bill. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Thank you for this post, Bill.ReplyDelete
Could we have an oval taillight and a rectangular one on a 1968 CL450 K1 depending if it was produced beginning or later in 1968 ?
Does CMSNL still supply 5mm JIS threaded fasteners ?
CMSNL shows product number: 33700-292-013 oval tail light up to serial number: 1010956. Honda discontinued JIS fasteners many years ago.ReplyDelete