For many, the 1970s was the golden age for motorcycling. The post-war years had given rise to brand-awareness for the likes of Triumph and Norton and the café-racer culture, but it was the tail-end of the swinging 60s and into the new decade that motorcycles took an evolutionary step forward.
Honda launched its ‘King of Motorcycles’, the CB750 in 1969, spurred on by success of not only its smaller commuter ‘mopeds’ but larger models that were beginning to become more popular. The bike used a 736cc inline four-cylinder engine running across the frame with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. It’s performance – both in racing and on the road – led to the creation of the phrase ‘superbike’ and its production spanned five decades.
However, the CB750 was heavy and cumbersome for some riders, so in the early 1970s, Honda launched a smaller version, the CB500. This was styled to match the larger sibling but with a smaller 498cc inline four and with front disc brakes. It looked and felt like the 750 model but on a smaller scale, making it more manageable though just as much fin to ride.
In 1974, responding to pressure to compete against its main Japanese rivals on the racetrack, Honda increased the size of the CB500s engine to 544cc – the largest bore size that block could go to — creating the CB550 in the process. Two versions were available; the CB550K and the CB550F ‘Super Sport’, with lower handlebars, a slightly different fuel tank and exhausts.
The CB550 was phased out in 1979 and replaced with the CB650 model.
This particular bike came into the current owner’s possession in 2013, when he came across it for sale and realised that while it may well become an investment, it would also be an excellent vehicle to ride in summer months. Being a long-time motorcyclist, he originally planned to re-commission the bike and use it himself, but practicalities of everyday life got in the way and it has remained stored in a dry facility since the day it arrived with him, transported in a van. He is now presenting it for sale, as he is losing his storage facility and will have nowhere to store the bike.
The bike has clearly been through some owners, with 11 previous listed on the V5 registration document it is supplied with but it remains in excellent original condition. The owner states that everything works as it should and there is no reason to suggest that the 41,000 miles shown on the odometer is not genuine – the two MoT records available online, from 2013 and 2014, appear to back this up.
Very little paperwork comes with the bikes, much having been lost over the years and between owner changes. There is a V5 registration document but this remains in the name of the previous owner, the current owner never having registered it in his name. There is, however, a receipt for purchase in 2014 and a current MoT certificate which, although the vehicle is exempt, confirms its readiness to be used on the road and the safety of its systems.
The bodywork is in very nice, original condition, with some marks commensurate with its age and use but it is a lovely patina that adds to the bike’s character. The fuel tank is undamaged and undented – remarkable for a bike of this age – and wears its burgundy paint and gold stripe beautifully. It retains the original ‘Honda’ and ‘Super Sport’ decals though the safety sticker on top of the tank has suffered deterioration through age at its edges and there is some peeling lacquer. There are also one or two stone chips in the paint while the gold stripe decal also has damage to some of its edges, all age-related.
The side panels are also in excellent condition, with matching paint and the correct ‘550 Four’ decals. The frame appears in good condition with little evidence of rust and the chassis plate is intact and in remarkably good fare.
The seat was in a poor state when the owner obtained the bike and he has sourced and fitted a New Old Stock seat. However, a previous owner had cut the chrome-plated hoop which runs alongside and around the back of the seat, providing a hand-grip for the pillion. The owner has tried to source a replacement but has yet to find one which he feels is the correct version and quality to match the rest of the machine. In addition, the rear indicators are not the correct versions for the bike – they should be round and match the front items. These were presumably changed when the rear hoop was cut, and they are mounted on cut-down ends of the hoop and a fabricated bracket.
There are some inevitable stone chips and surface rust to the instrument cowls at the front. The seat, rider and pillion foot-peg rubbers and the kick-starter rubber are in excellent condition, as is the rubber grip on the right-hand bar. The left-hand grip has suffered some wear though, with several of the rubber ribs missing.
While the bike is in excellent condition, it seems to have been used or stored in damp or wet conditions in its past, as there is evidence of some corrosion on aluminium components of the engine. However, none of these affect its mechanical operation, which the owner describes as excellent. All elements of the bike operate as they should – the engine starts quickly and runs well, having benefited from a comprehensive service and a carburettor overhaul recently.
When the owner obtained the bike, the front fork seals were leaking oil, which would affect both the handling and the safety and roadworthiness. He had these changed and they have never leaked since. The front disc brake works exactly as it should, as does the rear drum brake and while the tyres have been on the bike for as long as the current owner has had it, they are neither perished not worn – a fact attested to by a recent MoT test pass which the owner had carried out, even though the bike does not require a test. He did this to ensure its roadworthiness.
The bike shows no evidence of having been crashed nor fallen over, with no damage apparent to its extremities. The engine bottom-end case on either side appears to have had relief-paint removed, though traces remain. The bike is fitted with a Motad single-silencer exhaust system after four header pipes meet in a single collector.
The suspension works perfectly at both the front and rear. The front benefits from new fork oil seals and the rear twin shocks have manual pre-load adjustment on the springs, to cope with the additional weight of a pillion passenger, if one is being carried.
In the 70s – as well as today – the CB550F is a lovely bike to own and run. Delightfully bereft of modern electronic intervention (though ABS is never a bad idea), it recreates some of the decade’s style even if you weren’t a fan of flares.
It’s not as bulky as the CB750 yet shares the same DNA and the same bullet-proof Honda reliability. It has the same ethos, the same kudos and the same head-turning ability as its bigger sibling but without the excess weight and power. It's easy to ride for the vast majority of riders and is rewarding and nimble as a result of its lower mass.
This bike is a perfect example of the breed. It's in wonderful, original condition and as the owner readily admits, is no show-queen or museum piece. He bought it with the intention to ride it and although he once rode it home from a workshop, he ultimately was not able to make use of its potential and he knows that the next owner will be able to jump on and ride it where they want.
As a piece of 1970s motorcycling, it's a wonderful example and should not only give the new owner a reason to smile, it should increase in value over time as well.
Notice to bidders
Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description before placing a bid.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.
The max bid process allows you to bid without any hassle.
Enter your maximum bid and we will then bid on your behalf to ensure you're the highest bidder - just enough to keep you in the lead and only up until your maximum.
About Max Bids
C&C prevent auction snipers from bidding in the last seconds to win an auction.
Auctions are extended by 10-minutes if anyone bids within the last 2 minutes to allow other bidders to react and counter-bid.
If your bid is below the reserve price you'll bid that amount if you are the highest bidder.
If you are the highest bidder and place a bid above the reserve we will only go up to the reserve price.
Once the reserve has been met C&C will make sure you are the highest bidder using the bidding increments stated below, keeping you in the lead up until your maximum bid.
£0 to £10,000
£10,000 to £50,000
Automatically outbid immediately
When you place a max bid and are outbid immediately that means that another bidder has placed a max bid limit which is higher than yours.
You can bid again and we will use our automatic bid system to try and get you as the highest bidder.
Matching max bids
When there are two max bids of the same value, the one placed first remains the lead bidder.
Watch this auction
Get notified when the auction is starting, and half an hour before it ends.