Stored 34 Years: 1975 Honda CB 550

A few weeks back, we covered this 1973 Triumph Bonneville. We had a pretty lively discussion around not only those that owned one but what was responsible for essentially knocking Triumph out of the marketplace. Most seemed to agree that it was the rise in popularity of Japanese motorcycles and today we are going to cover just such an example in the form of a 1975 Honda CB550. It is located in St. Joseph, Missouri and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $2,550, with 31 bids tendered so far.

The CB 550 (some say CB stands for “City Bike” while others say that it has no meaning at all) was the little brother to the better-known Honda CB 750. It shares similarities in design but is more compact and lighter in weight (about 400 lbs.). It actually started life in 1971 as the CB 500 and grew to 550 CC displacement in 1974. By 1978, the 550 was history as it was replaced by the CB 650.

The seller tells us that this 5,200-mile example sat for 3o years and was made operational about four years ago before being stored again. All in all, it presents itself pretty well, strong chrome, intact seat, and no evidence of a lay-down or a knock over though the seller mentions that the left side cover is cracked. There may also be some surface rust brewing on the lower edge of the fuel tank but it appears to be minor.

The engine employed here is a 50 HP, 550 CC, in-line, SOHC, four-cylinder, air-cooled arrangement working through a five-speed manual gearbox that is chain connected to the rear sprocket. The seller recently started it and apparently it kicked to life on the second attempt. But he admonishes, “Starts but will obviously need gone through to be roadworthy. Great candidate for restoration or cafe build. Don’t expect to hop on this thing and go down the road, needs tires/brakes bleed… needs gone through“. It apparently “needs gone through” twice!  At least he didn’t claim that it “has been gone through” which many sellers use to describe their sale vehicles. I don’t know what that really means, it seems like a throw-away line for something that they may or may not have done to their sale candidate.

As for the seller’s suggestion of performing a restoration or building a cafe race, I think I would “go through” this bike, make it safe, reliable and just enjoy it as it is. We lose track of time and it wasn’t too long ago that 1975 seemed like yesterday, but it wasn’t, 46 years have passed since then! And this 1975 Honda is just old-school enough to be a simple and pleasant reminder of a less hurried past, wouldn’t you agree?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. 370zpp

    Rust on the outside of the gas tank.
    Guess what’s lurking inside?

    Like 5
  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    If the gas tank has the rust dripping down to the crankcase I don’t think it could be salvaged even with “Kreem”, which is a last ditch fix in my experience.
    If the other rust areas are just surface rust then yes maybe judicious application of naval jelly in the appropriate places and 4ought steel wool elsewhere AFTER replacing ALL the rubber bits. It’d be a fun and capable bike at that point!

    Like 3
  3. CraigR

    So many of these were hacked by cafe racer wannabes. Finding one unmolested and not as far gone that you can’t make a rider out of it is not easy. Nice bike.

    Like 12
    • Ray

      These we great bikes for rebuilding. A yoshimira 590 kits gets all sorts of fun out of it. Anyone who calls people who tweak and rebuild smaller vehicles of any kind a “wannabe” couldn’t be much fun around motor tune up enthusiasts. How big do they think the original cafe bikes were?

      Like 2
    • Mark

      I have a ’73 500 four I’ve owned since 1975, put it away when I found myself going a hundred on a country road and was the father of a couple young sons. It became my someday project to be a cafe racer cause they are sweet. Have a ’75 BMW now and the Honda still sits in the garage, someday came and went. I’m thinking my 8 year old grandson will appreciate it in a few years, he’s a motorhead alredy.

      Like 3
  4. Mackey914

    I have a factory sissy bar (backrest) for this exact bike in the shed…. and the carbs.

    Like 1
  5. Mark Geyer

    A 40+ year old 4 or 6 cyl Honda has infinite character, wonderful sounds and just makes you smile, grin and or hoot out loud which an overly powerful fuel injected new bike seems to lack in a big way. Old Honda’s once they are dialed in and made roadworthy are trusty steeds!

    Like 5
    • 370zpp

      Mark, yours is the most relevant comment among these.

      Cranking on my CB-750K7, watching those two needles rotate to the right as the ground became a blur, that would be smile time.

      Like 3
  6. Larry W

    I had a 1981 CB750. Super fun bike and minimal maintenance. Had 5000 miles on her when I sold it in 1989 for $1200.

    Like 3
  7. TBAU Member

    Get it to a road-worthy status and ride it as is.
    I have a 1974 CB500T in original condition ( including points ignition) and it is a joy.

    Keep the Bikes Coming..

    Like 6
  8. Pit stop Pauly

    I had a 1969 750 Honda, paid 300$ for it in 1982(?ish). I loved that bike, but I just couldn’t keep it even close to the speed limits, so I sold it for 750$, didn’t realize until years later that it was a first year import or I would have hung on to it.

    Like 3
  9. Howard A Member

    The 550, I feel, was Hondas perfect bike. I had a dear friend that had the “500” version of this bike. It was a great all-around bike. Not blistering performance, but 4 cylinder smoothness, and dependable as a refrigerator, unlike a certain “modern” DRZ. There were so many of these, many bike “piles” have several of these, way at the bottom, probably. I’ve decided, the heck with the Jeep baloney, and may go for a vintage bike. My only concern is parts. While there may very well be “piles” of these, most have problems relegating them to the “pile” in the 1st place. Some disagree, but I read on vintage Honda forums, electrics are in short supply( get it, “short” supply?) They say, even NOS parts in the box are bad. Still, a great find.

    Like 9
    • Terrry

      The 500 was decent, but they did have a weak clutch. The thing to do if you hopped one up back in the day, was to install Barnett discs and springs.

  10. On and On On and On Member

    IMHO this bike is in barely so-so condition…….$2500 seems outrageous ……lots of these still around in repairable condition. It was a good model, powerful enough for the highway, just not a long ride, light enough for around town and the burbs and yes dependable as all get out and cheap to maintain. It’s a ten footer at best, I’d offer $300, sorry to be so crass, but it’s how I see it. BTW, there are several great old Honda parts sources and forums that have everything you need for these bikes………………..strong support and great folks out there…

    Like 5
  11. PaulG

    Had the exact bike in 1982, paid $450 for it and drove the daylights out of it for several years. Took a 700 mile trip around AZ in 7 days, one favorite memory of mine. Would love to restore this one, but not today…

    Like 5
  12. Joe

    Sadly, I’m on pause at present from biking for medical reasons. Regarding Hondas, I owned a CB350 K5, CB750 K8 and a CB750C back in the day. The K8 was the easiest to modify and repair. Out of the two most recent bikes, my Triumph Sprint ST ABS sold last year and I may have a buyer for my Triumph Trophy SE. The Trophy is my favorite of all.

    Unfortunately, I was already in a serious state of deterioration when I bought The Trophy – ultra low mileage as a result. I’m actually hoping Trophy doesn’t sell and I make a full recovery. Downsizing my ‘fleet’ in recent years has been a real education…

    Like 6
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Good bike choices, Joe!
      Keeping our fingers crossed for your recovery so that you may ride again, sir.

      Like 6
    • Terrry

      Those CB350/400 Fours were very smooth yet powerful for their size. I’d like to find one of either.

  13. John

    In my mind, this was the best Honda ever made up until the 599 Hornet came along. I had a 550. I have a 599. Either bike could make a run to the grocery store or up the Alaska Hwy at any time. The 550 ate front tires. This one is priced too high. If the price was right, I’d be trying to call.

    Like 2
  14. Tim

    My Brother bought a ’74 new. Paid $1,750 for it and took it to Northern Canada and all across the country. We put 75000 miles on it and just changed to oil and tires

  15. geomechs geomechs Member

    I was talking to a bunch of guys who rode into Sturgis from BC in Western Canada. They pooled resources and bought one of these so they could use it to take their annual motorcycle license tests. Yeah, they told me that you had to take the test every year. Apparently, if you showed up at the license bureau on a Harley you were automatically failed. So the day of the test you got all cleaned up and dressed like a geek then took your test. Then let yourself go for the next year…

    Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      Hi pal, we did that too. In Wis. there was a 0-175cc class( I think) and then 175 cc and over. Seemed a bit silly, you could take a small bike for the test, and ride a GoldWing that afternoon,( which I did) but that was the deal.I knew someone with a 200cc Honda he let people use for the test. I wonder if the examiner recognized the bike over and over?
      BTW, it’s been said, but when I was told by my 1st semi driving job( 1977) to get a chauffeurs license, I went back to the DMV, said I need a chauffeurs license, after a short written test, that grandma could pass, they asked me, “have you had a road test in the last 2 years”? ( remember, this was to drive semis) I said, well, I took my motorcycle test last year, he said, “good enough, $8 bucks,,NEXT”,, In all my years of trucking, I was “grandfathered “in, and never did any more than that license wise, a far cry from today.

      Like 4
  16. George Mattar

    Great bike but gas that sits 34 years. Guess what. I had five Kawasaki triples since 1975. Always drained the tanks and sprayed WD40 inside. This was long before the modern snake oils like Stabil. Hondas made the best sounds in the 70s. I had the pleasure of riding a then NEW CBX. Greatest sounding motorcycle EVER.

    Like 2
  17. Kevin Mcnamara Member

    The 500/550 fours were smooth running and ultra dependable. This one sold for $2651!! Way too much considering condition, IMO. The rust on the tank, if ‘bubbling’ likely means at least one hole. Rusty wheel rims, too. The most valuable parts on this bike would have been the original mufflers but these have incurred the common rust thru. A nice original set often fetch $800-$1000. Not once have I ever heard of these having generator/electrical problems as they are typical bullet proof Honda quality. The seat looks good and is worth $200+ all day. Currently in my stable of riders is only one Honda, a ’70 CB350 that runs like a top. With proper gearing I wouldn’t hesitate to ride it coast to coast. Or, the scant 450 miles out to Sturgis on the scenic route, not I-90…..if my back lets me, ugh.

    Like 2
    • Terrry

      Your 350 is the twin..great bike, better than the 360 that replaced it (I’ve owned both).

  18. Pete in PA

    I have the rootbeer-color 1976 version of this bike. Bought it from the original owner. It is a VERY fun bike to ride. So light, so nimble, so smooth… It’s almost like riding a motorized bicycle. A totally different experience vs riding my 1978 Yamaha XS750 SE.

    Like 1

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