1975 Honda CR750 Yoshimura Lemans Special
Preserved and Dry Stored in Art Collection for 37 Years, Custom-built to Endurance Race the 24 Hours of Lemans and Bol d'Or, Multitude of Rare and Weapons Grade Period Parts, National Show Winner with 1st in Class at Mid-Ohio 2012, Recently Acquired by CB750 expert, Original Title
Racing machines are rarely preserved as new, having never seen the track they were destined for. They are built as a means to an end, a utility, and used as such. They are beaten up, repaired, rebuilt, reskinned. Only a few become truly sought after, the ones that made history through their victories. Ford GT40s, Ferrari Testarossas, Porsche 908s. The Honda CR750 was also one of those machines. And this example has been preserved almost exactly as it was built in 1975, believed to have only ever been ridden a few test miles.
In the early 1970s, Honda had its sights set on the US Market. Although the CB750 had been released in 1969 and received acclaim as a technical tour de force, it had not yet achieved the sales Honda desired. Bob Hansen, the American service manager for Honda, told HQ that they’d have to go racing to make a real impression. Honda had already won the 24 hour Bol d’Or endurance race in France in 1969, but it did not register on the American motorcycle radar. Given the huge popularity of roadbike racing in the 70s, manufacturers were truly experiencing the “race on sunday, sell on monday” phenomenon.
Honda took Hansen’s advice and immediately built 4 individually unique CR750 race bikes in an effort to win the Daytona 200 mile race. They chose 3 British riders and 1969 AMA Grand National titleholder Dick Mann as their pilots. The bikes were equipped with magnesium crankcases, and a broad spectrum of bespoke and lightweight Honda race parts created specifically for them.
During practice, the team suffered numerous mechanical issues. The magnesium crankcases were expanding under high temperatures and the teams worried about total engine failure as a result. To remedy the problem, 4 completely stock CB750 motors were sourced from local dealers. They were modified with the existing CR750 internals. Dick Mann’s team then spotted a weakness in his cam chain tensioner. The team promptly replaced it with a tensioner from a CB450.
The CR750s lined up with over 60 other bikes, including the newest triples from Triumph and BSA, as well as the first XR750 Harley Davidsons. From the drop of the flag to the first corner, Dick Mann shot from his fourth place grid position to a fifty meter lead, using all 93HP he had on tap. He never looked back, and although Champion Gene Romeo was gaining quickly by the finish, Mann crossed the finish line in the lead. It was his first win of the Daytona 200 after 15 attempts.
The win gave Honda the boost they needed. The fact that they did it on stock CB750 cases only helped their case for the road bike. In fact, it created so much demand that Honda released a short run of CR750 kits and parts which they supplied to a select group of dealers. The kits were used to convert a stock CB750K into a race-ready machine using specially designed parts from the CR750 that could simply be bolted on. Today very few of the original kit bikes still exist in complete form with all the original parts.
The collector who owned this bike for the last 37 years related to us that it was professionally built in 1975 from the frame-up by Yoshimura North, with no expense spared. It is believed that it was built on commission for a privateer race team that wanted to compete in the Bol d’Or 24 endurance race in France, as well as the Lemans 24 hour race. But the team’s efforts never materialized and the bike never went to Europe. Instead, the bike was immediately purchased by the aforementioned collector and drained of all its fluids. It went directly into his extensive art collection and was stored in his living room as a prized piece for the next 3 decades.
From what we were told, Yoshimura built the motor to their full race specs. They fitted their aluminum racing tank and racing saddle. They equipped it with authentic Honda CR750 CR31 carburetors, the CR750 megaphone exhaust and CR750 tachometer. They fabricated a custom aluminum oil tank, used aircraft style oil lines and a heavy duty oil cooler, and fitted an ARD racing magneto. They chose Ceriani forks and triple trees up front, and a Dresda swingarm with Koni air shocks in the rear. The bike rides on amazing Kimtab magnesium wheels and Goodyear racing slicks. Stopping power is provided by Hunt plasma-cut triple discs. Many of the parts on the bike, especially the carburetors, tach, and magnesium wheels are now extremely hard to find and worth quite a large sum in their own right. The bike is fitted with high powered Marchal headlamps, as well as a low-mounted Cibie spotlight on the right front fork.The fit and finish is exquisite, down to the perfectly braided safety wire on various nuts and fasteners.
The bike was recently acquired by a long time friend of mine, who also happens to be a CB750 expert. He has owned over 60 Honda CB750s, including 15 sandcasts, and has won first place at Mid-Ohio for a perfectly restored CB750 that he restored himself. Our CR750 was shown to the public for the first time at the 2012 Mid-Ohio Vintage Motorcycle Days, where it won 1st Place in its class with motorcycle hall of famer Craig Vetter judging. The bike still retains its original 1975 title.
This bike is a moment in time that has been captured and preserved. It was the often short-lived moment after its birth but before its use as a racing machine. It exudes a seriousness and sense of purpose. The Goodyear racing slicks are hard as a rock, no longer race-worthy, but true to the bike’s racing heritage. The ARD magneto eliminates the need for a battery and is set at full advance, and the CR31 carbs have no idle circuit- and yet there's never been a dead bug splattered on it! The tank hasn't had gas in it for 37 years. The mufflers do not even appear to have carbon deposits inside of them. The bike is a testament not only to precision engineering but to careful preservation. Rarely do we see a beautiful piece of racing machinery in this condition, before it goes through the inevitable deterioration. There are only a few minor imperfections, a small chip in the paint or a few rub marks in the aluminum due to it being moved every once in a while.The bike has not been started in 37 years so if one wishes to get it running, it will take a bit of work, or it can be left as is, as we have chosen. It still has incredibly high compression.
The bike still transmits the same feeling of excitement that its builders and its owner must have felt at the moment it was completed. And one can look at the bike, enjoying light’s reflection off its surfaces, and wonder about what might have happened. Could it have fought it out for the closest finish in Lemans history? Perhaps it would have been part of a bad accident. Would they have won first overall? Would they have experienced mechanical difficulty and managed a heroic repair? Would they have beaten the factory teams? Or would they have simply finished respectably and went home to their wives and children?
We will never know the answers, but the bike’s condition and thoughtful design more than speak for themselves. This is an excellent opportunity for a collector, museum or enthusiast to acquire a unique and rare piece of Honda history. It is a national show winner, built to the nines with a multitude of rare and weapons grade period parts. We doubt there are very many, if any, bikes of this caliber that have been so well preserved.
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