1967 Honda CR450
When you see Miguel Duhamel on his factory Honda at Daytona this year, think of this bike. This is the one that started it all in America.
During the '60s, Honda was well-established in international racing, having won grand-prix championships with the likes of Jim Redman and Mike Hailwood. But Honda was notably absent from the American racing scene.
One man, Bob Hansen, was pivotal in changing all that.
Hansen was a Honda employee, but he also ran his own road-racing team, traditionally using Matchless G50 machines. In 1967, though, Hansen surprised everyone by arriving in Florida with a trio of CR450s to contest the Daytona 200.
The bikes were based on the company's CB450 street-bike engine, but factory involvement was evident in the liberal use of exotic parts. Magnesium carbs provided fuel to the high-compression 444cc vertical twin. Two small oil coolers were grafted into the sides of the fairing. And the front wheel had a factory-supplied 8-inch, four-leading-shoe drum brake.
All those trick parts translated into factory-style speed. One of Hansen's CR450s, piloted by Jimmy Odom, recorded a single-lap average speed of 134 mph around Daytona's 2½-mile oval, used for timed qualifying runs. Swede Savage, later known for his Indy-car exploits and untimely death at the Brickyard, turned in 132-mph laps on his machine. And despite losing his rear brake and tachometer during the race, Savage finished a creditable 10th.
But the best story surrounding this particular CR450 isn't just how it made history, but how it was preserved for history.
The CR entered only one other race that year—the Canadian Grand Prix—where it ran as high as third behind Hailwood and Agostini on their GP machines. Then it was relegated to storage at Honda's home in Gardena, California.
"I never thought I'd see it again," explains Hansen. "Back then, it was just another bike. I never thought it would be something. But years later, I guess you realize it was something after all."
So in 1980, Hansen, the man most responsible for the CR450's creation, purchased it from the company. With the help of restoration specialist Mark McGrew, the machine was returned to the condition it was in on the Daytona grid in 1967.