The Honda 305

Interview with Bill Silver

This 1963 Honda Superhawk is typical of the interest being shown in smaller classic bikes. Having been produced in large numbers, parts for the Superhawk are generally still available. John H. Glimmerveen

As the Japanese manufacturers began to make inroads into the marketplace for motorcycles, their product range evolved from small capacity commuter type bikes to sportier middle size machines.

By 1959, Honda had both a 250-cc and 305-cc machine (the CA71 and C76 respectively) available in the American market. The mass produced parallel twin-cylinder 4-stroke was a highly advanced motorcycle for its time. Standard features such as electric starters and OHC gave the Honda a unique specification, one the marketing department made full use of. Before long, the Honda was selling well and had a strong following, so strong in fact that eventually Honda sold some 250,000 of the 250 and 305 variations!

(Note: The electric start system had been previously introduced on the Honda C71, a 250-cc version.)

To get some insight into the Honda 305, we recently interviewed Bill Silver a well-known writer and author of two books on Hondas: History of the Honda Scrambler and Classic Honda Motorcycles.

The Honda models that make up the series include:

Dry-sump models (produced between 1957 and 1960):

C70 (a 250-cc machine–introduced in 1957)

C71 (Electric-start versions with pressed-steel handlebars)

C75 (a 305cc version without an electric start)

C76 (a 305cc version with an electric starter)

CS71-76 (Dream Sports with high-mounted exhaust pipes/mufflers)

CA76 (a 305-cc version, early examples had the pressed steel handlebar. This machine was produced between 1959 and 1960)

CS76 (a 305-cc sports version with high pipes sold in 1960)

Wet-sump models (produced between 1960 and 1967):

CB72 (250-cc Superhawk, sold between 1961 and 1967)

CB77 Superhawk (a similar machine to the 250-cc version, both had the forward kick start lever)

CA72 CA77 (US market models, sold between 1960 and 1967)

CL72 250-cc (a Scrambles version sold between 1962 and 1966)

CL77 305-cc ( a Scrambles version sold between 1965 and 1967)

Note: “A” in the serial number indicates an American-spec machine, delivered without turn signals. Most US models had tubular handlebars instead of the pressed-steel versions used in Japan and Europe.

Codes 70/71/72 are 250cc models

Codes 75/76/77 are 305cc models

The Honda 305

The wet-sump 250 and 305-cc machines had many interesting features, in particular within the engine. The parallel-twin engine had an oil system unique to this Honda range; with extensive use throughout the Honda engine of ball bearings (outer main bearings and camshaft in particular), the oil system could rely on a low pressure oil pump. This worked well and helped to give the Honda a reputation of being oil leak free (something that its American and British competitors could not claim).

As with any new machine, some buyers would commit immediately (they wanted the latest technology) while others wanted to see if the Hondas proved to be reliable. The good news was that both the 250 and 305-cc versions proved to be very reliable with few known problems.

Bill Silver

Known as "MrHonda,” Bill Silver has been around Honda motorcycles in general since 1967 and the 305s in particular, since 1985. His relationship with Honda motorcycles began with a CL90, and he has owned most of the "significant models" from this manufacturer including a several CBX-Sixes.

His involvement with the range started in 1985 when he purchased a red 1966 CB77 Super Hawk. In Silver's own words, he became "enamored with these 60s icons of performance and style. Once I worked out the few problems in the Super Hawk (owing to long-term storage), I began to experience the amazing 'soul' of these machines and from then on began to collect, repair and eventually write about them."

Classic CA77 Dream

Fast forward to today and the CA77 is again a popular machine, this time with classic owners, and the reliability shown early is still there.

Over the years, one area to show a weakness was the primary chain. Prior to 1962, these engines did not have a primary chain tensioner. Needless to say, the chain would ultimately stretch and, without a tensioner, the chain would hit the inside of the primary chain case (causing small pieces of aluminum casing to be ground away which and deposited into the oil system).

Along with buying and selling some Honda parts, Bill Silver tried to get some new primary chains made in China, but the minimum order of 1,000 items made this a non starter. British company Nova Racing Transmissions offer a duplex conversion, but the bigger sprockets require some machining of the casings to give adequate clearance.

For enthusiasts considering buying a classic Honda, the CA77 is a good choice. Not only have these machines proven to be reliable, the parts’ availability is good too. In addition, the seat height is relatively low at 30.9" (785-mm) which makes these bikes very popular with smaller riders. 

Parts Suppliers:

Nova Racing Transmissions (primary drive chain kit, and gears) UK

Western Hills Honda, Ohio (general Honda parts)

Tim McDowell Restoration (restorations and some parts)

Charlie's Place (restorations and various vintage reproduction Honda parts)