You can’t go wrong with a Honda. But if you’re looking for something with classic character, nothing says, ‘I’m a badass with great taste’ like a vintage Honda motorcycle.
Ever since the legendary Japanese firm started producing motorcycles back in 1949, Honda has been at the forefront of two-wheeled innovation. The brand is responsible for the foundational styling of many of the modern motorcycles that we know and love.
But if modern plastics and ridiculously overpowered engines aren’t your thing, why not look for a vintage Honda instead?
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The Difference Between Antique, Vintage, & Retro
Before we take you on an odyssey through our favorite vintage Honda motorcycles, let’s define what “vintage” actually means. This word can get bandied about a little too liberally. It all comes down to interpretation, to a degree. But in other industries, there are fairly strict ground rules concerning what can bear a “vintage” label.
We’re going to apply those rules, and not just to be pedantic.
An item labeled “antique” by dictionary definition, and according to customs laws for most national authorities, has to be at least 100 years old. That alone rules out a lot of motorcycles.
As of today, there are no antique Honda motorcycles in existence.
“Retro,” on the other hand, is harder to define. Merriam-Webster has this to say concerning the word: “relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past: fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned.”
With that in mind, something like Honda’s CB1100RS is what we’d call “retro.” It’s something modern designed to look like it was old-fashioned or from the past.
We’re here for vintage Honda motorcycles, but “vintage” isn’t exactly easy to define either. The word comes from the Anglo-French “vendange,” which is described as “grapes picked during a season.”
The modern English word can mean many things, from describing an era, denoting a length of time, or indicating the age of something.
In terms of describing vintage motorcycles, it should refer to a model that is at least 20 years old and that is recognizably attached to an era, like a ’70s Honda or an ’80s Suzuki. A motorcycle described as vintage should be of a certain age and not a modern representation.
A 1971 Ducati Scrambler is vintage, while a new Ducati Scrambler is retro.
What Makes a Vintage Honda Special?
Vintage Hondas are great motorcycles to buy for a number of reasons. They come in sensual, curvy shapes, produce a noticeably classic sound, and, most importantly, they’re pretty damn reliable.
Even if you do encounter problems, there’s no shortage of spare parts, aftermarket solutions, and instructional literature to overcome the issue.
Of course, there’s also the fact that Honda has literally built millions of motorcycles. Even its most sought-after models are readily available and for reasonable prices, too.
10 Vintage Honda Motorcycles You Should Own
A good old Honda might be exactly what you need if you like your motorcycles to feel more analog than digital, armed with plenty of soulful character, and dressed in the charismatic finery of yesteryear. These classics also have more than enough performance and power to wrestle with modern traffic and put a smile on your face.
Below are 10 legendary Hondas to get you started. Fire up eBay, ignore your bank balance, and find yourself one of these vintage motorcycles for sale.
Honda NT650 Hawk GT
The Honda Hawk is a cult bike requiring no introduction. It was first launched in 1988 and only managed to survive for 3 years until it was axed in 1991.
On the surface, it doesn’t have the same romance as a late ’60s or ’70s Honda. But it has a different brand of quality, giving it cult status. The Hawk was affordable, utilitarian, and, above all, an absolute blast to ride.
It might not look like it, but the Honda NT650 Hawk GT is a blinder of a motorcycle and makes for a popular track day motorcycle these days. Equipped with a rock-steady 647cc four-stroke, V-twin engine, the Hawk could produce a claimed 58 horsepower and a tidy 31 pound-feet of peak torque at the rear wheel.
Honda also gave the Hawk a few cool features including an aluminum box frame, a separate bolt-on rear subframe, and a single-sided swingarm. It became one of the first modern naked street bikes to go on sale.
It may not be the first motorcycle to spring to mind when you think of vintage Honda motorcycles, but if you see one up for sale in good condition, don’t hesitate. You can forgive the high mileage on these bikes, and if you grab one at the right price, you will not regret the purchase.
They are by no means exotic, but there’s a good reason why riders hold them in such high esteem; they’re brilliant at whatever task you set them to.
First introduced in the States in 1985, a full year after it made a splash in Europe, the Honda VF1000R might not have been as fast as the Kawasaki GPZ900R or as maneuverable as the Yamaha FJ1100. But it came with head-turning good looks, bucket loads of torque, and the Honda seal of approval.
This classic V4 is often overlooked by buyers searching for iconic vintage Honda motorcycles. Admittedly, it’s not as good as its more touring-savvy VF1000F Interceptor stablemate, but what it lacks in out-and-out power, it makes up for in comfort.
Not all riders will feel comfortable on the VF1000R. It’s a real pain to steer and turning is a workout. If you can lean it into a fast corner without fearing for your life, you’re obviously superhuman. Cornering aside, for straight-line stability at speed, no other bikes in the VF1000R’s class could come close.
The VF1000R was capable of reaching top speeds of around 149 mph, and its beefy 998cc DOHC, liquid-cooled, 90-degree V4 engine could produce an admirable 117 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and 63.7 pound-feet of torque at 8,000 rpm. That’s quite impressive considering it boasted an overall wet weight of 610 pounds.
Yep, that makes it a full 50 pounds lighter than the Kawasaki GPZ900R. The VF1000R needs to go fast and go straight, which makes it great for highway riding but not ideal if you want to cruise around town.
Honda’s CX series lasted from 1978 to 1983. Though it might not have enjoyed the longest lifespan, the CX500 is still very much alive and kicking on the modern custom scene. It has emerged as an unusual and sought-after donor machine for all kinds of customization, and for very good reason.
On the surface, the CX500 was capable of reaching top speeds of around 149 mph. It’s a water-cooled, shaft-driven, V-twin motorcycle wrapped in an unusual and unattractive frame.
That’s what’s on the surface. In truth, the CX500 is incredibly reliable, laughably low-maintenance, and an absolute blast to ride. And it doesn’t come with the collector’s value like old-school CBs, making the CX500 a very attractive prospect for those searching for an affordable old Honda bike.
The CX500 was powered by a 497cc water-cooled, longitudinal OHV 80-degree, V-twin engine (similar to the configuration used by Moto Guzzi), good for 48 horsepower — unless we’re talking about the beastly turbo variant that reportedly increased the power output to a gigantic 82 horsepower.
Either way, the CX500 came with a number of interesting features, like dual-CV carburetors to reduce emissions and a unique electric start system. Modular rims meant the CX500 was the first production motorcycle to sport tubeless tires.
Of course, it also came with Honda’s world-famous reliability and durability, as well as an affordable price tag. As far as vintage Honda motorcycles go, it’s an oddball, but one that will serve you well in any of its six existing 500cc variants.
Some of the best vintage Honda motorcycles are their off-road offerings. They don’t come with the same romance level that older road bikes do, but Honda’s off-road machinery from the golden age of enduro racing has enormous collector appeal. And they’re great fun to ride, too.
The XL250 is one of the most easily recognizable Honda dirt bikes. It came with a four-stroke 250cc engine manufactured from 1972 all the way up to 1987. In fact, it was the first mass-produced four-valve motorcycle and the first modern four-stroke enduro motorcycle. That helped pave the way for the enduro wave that swept the globe after the model’s introduction.
Thanks to its dual-sport nature, this street-legal dirt bike became an incredibly popular choice for riders wanting to experience the thrill of riding roads without sacrificing the exploratory nature of a dirt bike.
The Honda XL250 came with a powerful 250cc four-stroke engine that could produce 24 horses at the wheel, and 16.85 pound-feet of torque, making quite a potent package for the time. The engine was tucked into an insanely narrow chassis only 12 inches at its widest point. Minus the handlebars, of course.
In total, this dirt bike weighed in at a svelte 288 pounds. Thanks to its peppy engine, streamlined chassis, and light weight, it was a very attractive ride for budding enduro riders.
Unfortunately, the XL series was dropped and replaced with the less-inspiring NX models. Honda saw the error of its ways and eventually introduced the XR series, which was heavily inspired by the XLs but came without the charm.
Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
The Honda Goldwing is one of the most recognizable motorcycles ever made. It’s big, brash, and swollen in every sense. But it wasn’t always such an overweight monster. When the original GL1000 Gold Wing first rolled onto the scene in 1974, it was in a much more user-friendly configuration.
Unveiled at the Cologne Motorcycle Show, the Gold Wing became the blueprint for road touring models, eventually evolving into the hulking behemoths that command legions of loyal fans all over the world. If you prefer your motorcycles with less heft, then the original first-generation GL1000 should be your classic Honda of choice.
The heart of the legendary GL1000 is an iconic liquid-cooled flat-four SOHC 998cc engine. This special engine boasts a gear-driven generator that contra-rotates to offset the engine’s powerful torque reaction, mated to a shaft-driven transmission.
The original Gold Wing came with an electric starter as well as a reserve kick-start option, courtesy of a removable kick-start lever that could be stored in the bike’s dummy gas tank.
The real gas tank was located under the seat to help improve the bike’s center of gravity. After all, it was a heavy lump weighing in dry at 584 pounds.
Despite the weight, the 80 horsepower and 63 pound-feet of torque were a success. Honda sold over 13,000 units in the U.S. in its debut year, making it one of the most successful vintage Honda motorcycles ever made.
Honda Sport 90
This old Honda goes by several names: the Super 90, S90, or Sport 90. It’s an instantly recognizable classic that first appeared in 1964 and was produced until 1969, though larger engine models and a number of variants continued being manufactured until long after.
The S90 was the fastest model in Honda’s 90cc line-up, making it a far superior sporty alternative to the CT90, CL90, CD90, and the classic C90, despite that they all shared the same engine.
Though the engine might be the same, the riding style and overall shape were remarkably different. The S90 was built for speed, unlike the rest of the 90cc range.
The engine is a 90cc air-cooled SOHC unit with a manual four-speed transmission that can be operated with a clutch, unlike the semi-automatic C90 derivatives.
According to Honda, the S90 has a claimed top speed of 64 mph, though it is questionable if anyone ever achieved that with a stock 8-horsepower S90.
Even so, the S90 was faster than the rest, thanks to its lightweight frame design. It featured a pressed steel one-piece frame instead of a conventional tubular steel arrangement. Coupled with narrow handlebars and a slim profile — along with the small but potent engine — you’ve got a recipe for success.
The S90 is one of many similar sport variants that Honda produced, but it’s arguably one of the most famous.
Honda CMX250 Rebel
The Honda Rebel might have enjoyed a much-needed update, but for the vast majority of its life, the humble Rebel remained largely unchanged. The original CMX250 arrived on the scene back in 1985 and was an obvious game-changer from day one.
Using big-cruiser styling but powered by a laid-back and nonaggressive 250cc engine, Honda used the Rebel to attract an entirely new generation of riders onto two wheels.
America’s youth saw the appeal of a powerful-looking, cost-effective entry-level motorcycle that didn’t come with intimidating performance specs or any alienating jargon and subculture. In essence, the modern beginner-friendly motorcycle was born. And nothing has ever really replaced it since.
So what made it so special? Apart from its obvious cruiser-inspired aesthetic, the Rebel CMX250 packed a bulletproof 234cc air-cooled, parallel-twin engine. It produced a respectable 16 horsepower and 12 pound-feet of torque.
That roughly translates to a basic, no-nonsense motorcycle that can hit a top speed of 70 mph if you really push it. And you’re probably not going to die in the process.
The engine was mated to a user-friendly five-speed transmission which was simple and easy to operate. That made it ideal for learners. It’s still an MSF learner bike of choice.
Though it’s not a style icon, the Rebel is small, durable, reliable, and fun enough. And as an integral part of Honda’s lineup, it’s a classic whether you class it as one or not.
Honda CR125M Elsinore
The early ’70s brought a whole new discipline to the world of motorcycling: motocross. Trail riding, enduro racing, off-roading … You name it; it was happening.
Motorcycles had evolved into more than a simple mode of transport and were fast becoming recreational vehicles. And thanks to movies like “On Any Sunday,” everyone wanted in on the action.
Honda wanted to join the party too. Unfortunately, the best motocross bikes of the day were small-displacement two-stroke machines, and Honda had no experience in engineering two-stroke motors. However, they put their heads down and worked on a two-stroke of their own.
The result was a 250cc that was eventually scaled down, refined, and unleashed on the American public. The 1974 CR125M Elsinore had arrived.
The new 125cc version had a bore and stroke of 56mm x 50mm and came with a cool two-ring aluminum piston etched ever so slightly to retain oil. The engine cases were made from magnesium alloy which helped keep the overall weight down.
The Elsinore’s frame was also made from chrome moly tubing for further weight savings, and the body was plastic.
When all was said and done, the Elsinore could produce a peak power output of just under 17 horsepower and hit speeds up to 60 mph. It was fast, powerful, and incredibly maneuverable thanks to the Showa suspension system’s exceptional travel.
And guess what? Small scramblers are back in fashion, making the Elsinore one of the most sought-after vintage Honda motorcycles today.
The world’s first superbike had to make this list. For many, this isn’t just one of the most important vintage Honda motorcycles; it’s one of the most important motorcycles ever. The CB750 arrived in 1969 after Honda guessed that a large-capacity motorcycle modeled on their already successful CB450 unit would be a hit.
There were plenty of reasons for the world to be excited about the CB750. It would become the first commercially available, modern four-cylinder motorcycle from a major manufacturer.
The CB came with more modern features than the public was used to including an electric start, flashing turn signals, advanced brakes, and more. And it performed far better than anyone could have dreamed, trouncing any competition from Europe.
The engine was a fearsome 736cc air-cooled inline-four producing 68 horses at 8,500 rpm, 44 pound-feet at 7,000 rpm, and could hit top speeds of 125 mph. The specs were mind-blowing.
But the secret to the CB750’s success came down to its user-friendliness. It wasn’t hard to ride, everything worked, and it was comfortable.
Of course, it also looked exceptionally good and was relatively affordable. Many consider the CB750 to be one of the greatest motorcycles ever made and a fine example of what a vintage Honda should be.
Normally, that would be enough to catapult it into the number one slot. But there’s another Honda out there that has never gone out of fashion and never failed to impress us.
Honda Super Cub
The greatest motorcycle platform ever made is easily the Honda Super Cub. Manufactured with displacements ranging from the original 49cc to the more advanced 125cc, the Honda Super Cub is responsible for more riders getting on two wheels than any other motorcycle in the world. It’s the bestselling motorcycle of all time.
Many historians liken the little Cub to the Ford Model T, Volkswagen Beetle, or Jeep, calling it an icon of the 20th century and a design landmark. And they’re correct. The little Honda Super Cub is nothing short of exceptional.
As far as vintage Honda motorcycles go, this is the one you want in your garage. It looks cool and is always fashionable. In a nuclear/zombie apocalypse, this is the most reliable and indestructible mode of transport at your disposal.
The original Super Cub rolled onto the scene in 1958. It came equipped with an air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder 49cc engine producing 4.5 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and enough torque to carry a water buffalo. It reached speeds up to 43 mph — if you’re going downhill with the wind behind you.
You could kickstart the Cub without putting in much effort. Changing gear was a clutchless affair, with a semi-automatic three-speed gearbox, making it so simple to ride it literally took the “terror out of motorcycling.”
The Super Cub spawned more than six variants. All told, more than 100 million were produced. And sure, for many, the lowly Cub isn’t motorcycle-y enough to get top honors. But in our opinion, this little bike turned more people on to two wheels than any other.
It might not have the status of a bike made by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company or the feisty continental nature of an old Ducati, but there’s no doubt the Honda Cub is one of the most important Honda motorcycles ever made.
Enjoy These Vintage Honda Motorcycles for Years to Come
Plenty of other models could have made this list. What about the plucky Honda Dream? Or the celebrated Africa Twin? Or even the lesser celebrated cafe racer-inspired GB500? There are loads of options that could be counted as the best vintage or classic models. These 10 are our favorites.
If you purchase one, rest assured they aren’t going to go out of style.
Where Do I Buy a Vintage Honda Motorcycle?
Buying vintage motorcycles of any brand can be a struggle. Sometimes, you need luck. The best places to search for old motorcycles are online using sites like eBay or Craigslist or hunting around old scrap yards.
One of the best ways to find undervalued classic bikes is to ask around locally. There are plenty of old classics tucked away in barns, hidden away in garages, and forgotten about by their owners. Ask around and keep your ears open. You might strike gold.
Where Do I Buy Vintage Honda Motorcycle Parts?
The best resources for sourcing vintage motorcycle parts can be found online. There’s no shortage of quality online stores with huge catalogs of parts for classics. However, if you prefer to go old school, there are plenty of vintage salvage yards that specialize in older motorcycles. We recommend shopping online for the best results.
How Do I Estimate the Value of a Vintage Honda Motorcycle?
Start by searching for the relevant model and model year using resources like the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA Guides websites. These resources are excellent starting points. But when it comes to vintage models they can only offer a guideline for vintage motorcycle prices.
Classic motorcycles have several factors that can affect their actual value, from their condition to the number of original parts still intact. Start with the above guides, and move on to niche forums to get a better idea of what something is worth and how much you should be paying.
What Should I Pay for a Vintage Honda Motorcycle?
The price will vary greatly depending on the condition, the number of original parts, and how comprehensive the paperwork is. For example, an original Honda Benly may be advertised for a low sale price, but it might be a Honda Benly restoration that only runs thanks to the use of modified or aftermarket parts.
When it comes to buying vintage bikes of any make, do your research. Find out what they’re worth and decide how much you’re willing to pay.