The Tale of a 1967 Honda CB450D Scrambler
At the 2016 KCVJMC fall picnic held in September of that year, one of our members Jerry Juenemann had several bikes needing restoration in the back of his truck. One of the bikes was an early CB450 Black Bomber in really poor condition. The bike, however, had an extremely rare “D” tank on it. It did not appear to have any of the other 450D Scrambler parts. Jerry is a Honda restoration specialist who does impeccable work. His restored bikes are as good as any rebuilds I have “ever” seen and that’s not an overstatement. Jerry has a keen eye for keeping them original and makes them as clean and bright as when they sat on the showroom floor, perhaps better. The key to his work is in the details. His restored Honda’s could be in any museum!
Jerry and I discussed the tank and decided that I would mention it in a VJMC article about the KCVJMC picnic to see if we could connect with anyone else who might have a “D” bike. The article was published in the December 2016/January 2017 VJMC magazine. I noted in the article, “If you need this rare tank, let me know.” We had assumed that there would be someone interested in the tank but there were no response till the end of February 2017. Several months after the article was published we had someone inquire about the tank which opened the door to numerous other miscellaneous contacts about the D series bikes which make this story unique and interesting!
The first contact which was made about the “D” tank was from a man in Texas who had found and purchased a complete 450D bike which had been stored in a garage. He had been told that it had been stored there for at least a decade or more. The motorcycle was in fairly good shape except that it had a badly damaged tank. He contacted me and was wanting to find out about the tank that I had mentioned in the VJMC article. Genuine CB450D tanks are nearly impossible to find and many who have them do not want to sell their parts. Some “D” parts owners “buy only” and never sell! Occasionally a “D” tank will show up and the price will usually be in the $2,500+ or range. Furthermore, many “D” kits are incomplete with kits being nearly as hard to find as an entire “D” motorcycle.
I am no vintage Honda scholar but have read everything that can generally be found about these early CB450, 4 speed, “D” kit scramblers. I have been collecting documents for several years on the “D” bikes and have talked to many old timers who remember the motorcycles. One man that I have talked to many times is VJMC member Larry Barba who lives in the Chicago area. Larry had both a “D” bike and an original “D” kit still in the box. From my understanding, the “D” kit was made available to some dealers just before the time that the 1968 CB450 5 speed motorcycles were shipped to dealers in the fall of 1967. The plan was to get rid of the 4 speed bikes before the 5 speed models were made available. It could be expected that people would buy a newer bright and colorful (candy blue or red) 5 speed motorcycle rather than a 4 speed black machine. This would be true especially since the price was nearly the same! At that time the 305 Scramblers were big sellers and Honda could expect that many riders would want to move up to a larger scrambler type machine if one were available. I can remember back in 1967 when the local Honda dealer would get in a new shipment of 160 or 305 Scramblers, they would sell as fast as they could be unloaded from the truck. Honda could expect that a 450 Scrambler would also sell fast so this would be a means of getting rid of the less desirable (at the time) 4speed bikes! As we now know, Honda was planning on offering a CL450 Scrambler with the 5 speed transmission after initially unveiling the new 5 speed CB models in the fall of 1967. The Black Bombers were typically not hot showroom sellers when compared to other smaller Japanese motorcycles, but when compared to the then current British 500 singles or twins, CB450 sales were robust. Chris Raiber, who will be quoted again in this article, stated that he has seen VIN’s for the early Black Bombers as high as the 22000-23,000 range which would indicate that the sales of this early bike was in that range, being somewhere around 7,000 Bombers per year.
According to all known records, the “D” bikes were available in the traditional silver or in candy red (more of an orange), or candy blue color. I have seen in pictures mostly silver and black bikes, a few candy red bikes. and fewer candy blue bikes. According to several sources, the colored bikes were factory bikes and the silver bikes were kit bikes. Others have questioned whether there were any factory bikes at all, however this topic will be discussed later. By factory bike, I mean motorcycles assembled as “D” bikes by or for the factory and sent to dealers as complete “D” motorcycles. The kit bikes were assembled at the dealership or by customers themselves. We believe Jerry’s bike is possibly one of the ultra rare factory bikes! I will explain why later.
The 4 speed 450 Scramblers looked much like the other smaller Honda Scramblers available at the time except for the upswept exhausts on each side of the engine. This configuration copies the 1957 and 1958 CS71 Dream Sport models which are almost nonexistent in the states but were very popular in Japan. The 1965 through 1970 Yamaha 250cc and 305cc Big Bear Scramblers (post 1968 models used other names) used the upswept pipes on each side of the engine as well as did the late1960’s Suzuki X-6 Scrambler. I mention this to say that this configuration, pipes upswept on either side of the engine was used on numerous other motorcycles. The Honda,with a revised gas tank, shorter seat, braced handlebars, chrome fenders, extended foot pegs and kick starter, revised side covers, a distinctive streamlined tail light, and the dual upswept pipes as described above (along with a number of smaller generally unseen support parts), gives the CB450 “D” bike a distinctive look.
The quantity of “D” bikes has been a mystery. Several figures have been noted but no figure can be authenticated. Estimates of “D” bikes has varied greatly but the fact is, there appears to be about as many unassembled kits known to exist as complete motorcycles. The real question is how many factory bikes were built and how many kit bikes exist in the mix of all of the known “D” bikes (complete or not)? The national CB450D Registry which is a European link, shows only 23 “D” bikes existing worldwide (www.CB450D.com). One of the bikes appears to be missing the tank and pipes which are the most distinguishing and hard to find parts. A few of the other bikes appear to be in un-restored condition. The site notes only 8 machines which are known to exist in the US and two of those have been sold and have been sent overseas. One of these was sold just this year and sent overseas. This makes only 6 known bikes to exist in the US which are on the international CB450D registry. To understand these figures in a proper context, the 450D site list is located in Europe and includes only those motorcycles in which people have willingly listed them. There are certainly more unlisted “D” bikes in America than the 6 mentioned above but this will be discussed later. If current its were to be assembled, this number could be easily increased. To be clear, factory “D” bikes and assembled “D” bikes dating back to 1967 and 1968, should be considered the most significant and authentic machines. Bikes built during the last few years are certainly historic machines and could often not be differentiated from the original “D” bikes, but should honestly not be considered the same as the original machines as intended to be offered through Honda back in the summer of 1967. This point can be documented time and time again in most collector markets! Whatever the actual number is, the “D” bikes are few and very rare. If you check out the registry, Jerry’s bike is #14 (unless the registry has been updated recently).
Another “D” enthusiast is Chris Raiber, owner of the Double Deuce Speed Shop located in Chaffee, New York. Check out his web site. Chris is also a VJMC member, a Japanese motorcycle enthusiast, and is also very knowledgeable about the “D” bikes. Chris states that he knows of at least 15 450D’s in the US. What is not known is how many of Chris’ 15 machines include the 6 known “registry” machines noted above? Chris and I have discussed production numbers and have come to the conclusion that it is better to not mention specific numbers because any figure quoted would be merely conjecture and would actually mean nothing! What is known for sure is that they are not only super rare but fewer machines are complete and in good running condition. Please do not use the following figures I am going to mention for anything except for the purposes of discussion because the numbers are just hearsay and have no factual basis! I have seen production numbers listed as around 2,000, less than 1200, around a thousand, 973, around 700, and fewer than 100, all being quoted as production figures. Quite a range which in fact means nothing because of the following points. First, Honda has had a number of dealer parts buy backs. At least several by 1980. No one could ever know how many “D” kits or partial kits were returned to Honda! Secondly, many kits were broken up. Apparently some people liked the tank and chrome fenders but not the pipes or other parts. Several old timers mentioned that some individual parts from kits were sold separately. The CB450 that Jerry found in Kansas had only one “D” part which was the tank. Thirdly, I have counted at least as many kits (mostly partial kits and individual parts) as actual motorcycles. If half the existing kits (just an assumption) have never been installed, this would greatly reduce the potential numbers of complete bikes! Again, whatever the case, the “D” bikes are rare, especially the ones which can be proven to be pre 1968 bikes. Just like other collector vehicles, without proof that a machine is authentic for its date, it may be an interesting machine and certainly more valuable than a similar vehicle much like it, but certainly not as valuable as a documented original!
Now to Jerry’s CB450D motorcycle.
The story begins when Jeff Fetta called me from Gainesville, Texas stating that he had purchased a 450 “D” series Scrambler with had been stored for a long time in a garage with a badly damaged tank. The motorcycle had been registered for the first time in 1968 indicating that it was one of the later CB450, 4 speed bikes.. It was common in many places to date new motorcycles when they were first sold rather than the year they were produced. In that his tank appeared to be unusable, he wanted more information about the history of the “D” bikes and wanted more information about the “D” tank which had been mentioned in the KCVJMC article. The bike itself appeared to be in fairly good condition apart from the badly damaged tank. At the time that he called me, he didn’t even know if the bike would run. I invited Jeff to bring the motorcycle to our spring show at Donnell’s, scheduled to be held on May 20, 2017. It was at this time that Jerry and Jeff struck a deal for Jerry to purchase the bike from Jeff. The motorcycle missed our show but Jerry took possession of the motorcycle on May 27th. of 2017.
When Jerry received the bike he could tell that it was in such good condition that a full restoration would not be necessary. I went over to Jerry’s garage and was surprised as to how clean the bike really was. It had 50 years of minimal dust and grime on it but it was actually in great shape. The gas tank on the bike from Kansas was in much better shape than the tank on the acquired bike so it was to become the replacement item (Jerry still has the original tank). The bike was finally completed in early August 2017 and was shown at our VJMC Regional event held at the CAF airport. The motorcycle looked really good and had a great vintage patina. The bike won the top KCVJMC award.
I have always liked the Black Bombers and was vaguely familiar with the “D” bikes which Honda advertised as the “The Honda CB450 Super, Sport.” The “D” bikes have also been referred to as the “D Kit,” the “K0” series or the CL450K0 bikes. I personally refer to them as the early 450 4 speed Scramblers so there is no confusion! In Bill “MrHonda” Silvers book titled “History of the Honda Scrambler” (a must have book), Silvers notes that the kit included some 50 replacement parts (p.127). The list actually includes around 64 individual pieces if you add every nut, bolt, washer, and screw!
Here is what can be determined about the “D” bikes”
- They were intended to be a transitional model till the 1968, 5 speed CL450’s were available at the dealerships.
- They were available in 1967 only .
- Most dealers never received one (known by virtue of bikes vs dealership numbers).
- The price of a kit remains unknown. No document or person I have spoken with has any idea as to the price of a kit. One dealer who had purchased several in 1967 suggested that they were around $100 which would be around $750 in 2017 dollars. He clearly stated that he could not remember the actual price.
- Some have suggested that kits were given to high volume dealers with an overstock of Black Bombers as a means of selling the old stock. No resource stated that Honda ever gave away free kits!
- Honda lists the parts for the “D” bikes as “optional parts. The front bumper (part 62501-283-810) did list the part as being used after a specified CB serial number.
- The “D” model is a very rare motorcycle and factory bikes even more obscure in numbers. Several have referred to these bikes as one of the most rare Honda motorcycles which can be found.
- During my research many old timers had never heard of a “D” Scrambler and many more had never seen one. A number of the connoisseurs had only seen one or a few. One of the major auction houses stated that there were only 3 known to exist in Europe and another 10 throughout the world!
- There is a great deal of contradictory information about the “D” bikes.
What is not known:
- How many bikes were available as complete motorcycles and who received them? Check out Mr. Paddock’s article in the VJMC magazine dating from April/May of 2015,
- Were the colored bikes factory bikes and the silver bikes were kit bikes. All of the known kit’s (so far) have been silver unless you have additional information.
- “D” bike production figures. What was the number of complete motorcycles and the number of kits which were made available? This number is not particularly valuable in that no one knows how many “D” kits or parts were returned to Honda through their parts buy backs.
- How many “D” bikes were sent to the US and how many to other countries?
Proof that there were factory assembled motorcycles:
- They were listed as a specific model in Honda’s model lineup (The Ultimate Guide: Honda Motorcycles by Doug Mitchel, KP Press).
- Honda had an ad for the model listed as the Super Sport.
- Serial numbers and the model release date have been published. A Honda Identification Guide lists the release date as 6-24-67.
- Numerous experts believe that factory models existed.
Why Jerry believes that his bike is a rare factory model:
- The original owner of Jerry’s bike purchased the motorcycle as a complete “D” model in southern California. It was claimed to have never sold as a kitted Black Bomber. This information comes from the second owner who knew the original owner well.
- The way the tank was painted indicated that it was originally candy orange (called red), not a repainted silver model. All of the kit’s known to exist have been silver.
- Jerry’s bike was originally sold in 1968 as a new motorcycle which would make it a left over 1967 model. The “D” bikes would have been at the last of the model run making it a good candidate for being a factory “D” bike.
Whatever the case, Jerry’s bike is a very rare machine and fully documented. Jerry’s bike is also completely original except for the tank. Jerry has kept the original dented tank which came with the bike. Thirdly, Jerry is only the third documented owner of the motorcycle. Jerry’s CB450D is a rare, unique, and really special motorcycle which is one of the most collectable Honda’s. How he got it is also very unique! What are the chances that a junked Black Bomber found in rural central Kansas would have one single rare part, the “D” tank. This obscure find would lead to a non VJMC member to be contacted by a current VJMC member several states away who read about the tank in the club magazine. From this contact, various people got connected and the bike is now a really clean unmolested motorcycle listed on the national registry.
The following is a list of resources and contacts which provided information for this article. I want to mention that I have not listed all the web sites in which information was gleaned because of space and one individual did not want to be listed, however note the following: Larry Barba, Mark Bayer, Bonham’s Auctions, Claude d’Have, Jeff, Fetta, Charlie Hanlon, Jerry Juenemann, Robin Marky, Paul Paddock, Chris Raiber, Bill Silvers, David Silvers, George Williams, Michael Vandamme, and the VJMC magazine issue dated April/May 2015 (p.42-46). Make sure and check out the official CB450D Registry: www.CB450D.com.
If you have specific knowledge about the “D” bikes, please let me know. Jerry and I are attempting to get as much information about them as is possible. If you know an old time dealer, please contact them and ask them about the model. Please pass any information along. We are attempting to collect as much verifiable information about the “D” bikes as is currently available. Check out the CB450D page at www.markbayersvintagehonda.mysite.com. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any new information, Thanks.
Mark Bayer President KCVJMC 816-454-2891 (if you call me leave a message or text)
E-mail me at: email@example.com