Make a list of the ten most influential motorcycles of all time, and the Honda CB750 has got to be on it. But by the late 70s the original superbike had become the two-wheeled equivalent of middle-aged Elvis: slightly out of shape and overshadowed by upstart contenders.
Later versions still have their charm though, especially when given a few tweaks during restoration. Like this 1977 K7 built by the co-founder of the French moto culture site 4h10.com.
“My specification was quite simple,” says John. “It had to be an old bike, 30 years or more. New bikes don’t have enough ‘life,’ and I prefer them when they smell of gasoline and don’t work!”
John’s work has graced these pages before, notably with a custom Moto Guzzi Le Mans. But this time he wanted a classic four-cylinder, and quickly located the low-slung CB750 K7 we see here. “I must admit that the K7 is less beautiful than the K0, K2 or K6,” says John. “It’s more angular and looks very ‘heavy.’ But that means you have fewer doubts when it comes to cutting the frame!”
John’s a fan of the Japanese custom scene, so he wanted to add a touch of Brat Style to the mix when rebuilding the bike. Fortunately the engine was strong, and did not require a complete teardown. A light ‘refresh’ and rebuilt carbs had it running sweetly, and John resisted the temptation to fit cone filters: “It rains around here.”
The CB750 tank was ditched in favor of a more compact CB450 unit, which shows off the engine better. “I love it when you can see the engine. It really is the heart of the bike.” John applied the paint himself, and also the gold leaf striping. “It was difficult: gold leaf is very volatile, and its handling requires precision and patience. I had to make it twice.”
John also made a new seat pan, keeping it close to the frame to refine the silhouette of the bike. The upholstery specialist BLG Sellerie then shaped the foam and covered it with leatherette. The side covers were in a bad way, so John had those covered in the same material.
John changed out the 17” rear wheel for an 18” item, to balance out the 19” front a little better. He resisted the temptation to fit Firestones: “I want the tires to grip, so there’s an Avon Speedmaster MkII on the front and a Bridgestone Accolade AC04 at the back—a good solution.”
The front fender didn’t quite look right, but there was no way John was going to run without a fender. And he’s partial to riding on the occasional forest track, as the images show. Raising the fender was the solution, from both a practical and visual perspective.
The exhaust system, the visual signature of the CB750, was a tougher nut to crack. The pipes were pierced with rust from inside and out, and John decided repair them as best he could, removing what was left of the baffles along the way and finishing them off with pipewrap. “I didn’t want to wrap them at first,” he says, “But it became a win-win solution. And the sound is just beautiful.”
The wiring loom was completely shot, so it was despatched and John hooked up new wiring to a Motogadget M-unit. “This box is really amazing and made it possible to do a brand new harness in a couple of hours. I also moved the ignition key to under the right side cover, and fitted a Motogadget Motoscope Tiny speedometer and turn signals at the front.”
The result is a revitalized CB750 K7 with an offbeat, quirky style, like many of the customs coming out of Paris these days. “I’d define the bike as a mix of Brat Style and scrambler,” says John. “So a kind of ‘Bratster’ I guess.”
Whatever it is, it sure looks good.