Rockstars' Garage: Elvis Presley's Honda 350 SuperHawk "Roustabout"

"Few motorcycles changed the face of motorcycling as much as the Honda CB72 and CB77 Hawk and Super Hawk, which were introduced in 1961. With these models Honda changed the public’s perception of motorcycling. Its catch-cry of the 1960s was, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." The reliable, clean and smooth CB72 and CB77 were the right bikes for these nice people.

While the British industry hadn’t felt threatened by Honda’s earlier efforts – 50cc step-throughs and unusual looking bikes with pressed steel frames – things changed with the CB72 and CB77. The parallel-twin 250cc and 305cc engines featured wet-sump lubrication and were incorporated as stressed members of the tubular-steel frame.The 305cc CB77 could humiliate British 500cc twins, and run harder all day long than most 650s.

These overhead-camshaft Hondas had short 54mm strokes. With 180-degree crankshafts vibration was not such an issue and these little twins revved safely to over 9000rpm – the key to their success.

Despite small carburettors the power was more than adequate for the day.The four-speed CB77 produced 21.0kW (28.5hp) and was capable of around 160km/h. New and convenient features included electric starts and neutral lights.

Early Japanese motorcycles were hardly known for exceptional handling but with not much power and a weighing only 159kg, the CB77 handled just well enough. While early versions had single-leading-shoe drums, later versions had double-leading-shoe front brakes. The CB72/77 continued basically unchanged until 1967, when the five-speed CB250 and CB350 twins replaced them. Although these would be significant, if somewhat unexciting, models for Honda, it was the CB72/77 Hawk and Super Hawk that provided its first great technological leap.

Honda always envisaged the production twins would evolve into racing machines and had CR71/76 production racers approved by the AMA in the US in 1960.

The release of the CB72 and CB77 coincided with racing success at the Isle of Man; Honda offered YB race kits to upgrade the CB72/77 into road racers.

During 1962 and 1963 Honda produced limited numbers of production racing versions of the CB72 and CB77 twins. These were primarily provided to Honda team riders to race in non-international events, and at the season’s end they were sold to privateers.

Alongside the Dream and Hawk was the CL72 Scrambler from 1962. As Honda’s first serious dual-purpose design, in many ways the Scrambler was even more significant than the CB72/77, as they were more popular than the Hawks and Dreams in America.

The CB77 appeared in the 1964 Elvis Presley movie Roustabout, his CB77 fitted with braced CL77 handlebars and crash bars."