This is one of many illustrated classic motorcycle guides I've created for the community. I hope you enjoy it. If you wish to find out more about the classic 1970's motorcycle art featured in this guide please click here.
This guide features several classic motor cycles of the 1970s.
Benelli 750 SEI
The Benelli 750 Sei was launched in 1975. With smart styling, Italian racing red paintwork and the unique attraction of its six-cylinder engine, emphasized by an array of gleaming chromed exhaust pipes, the Sei looked to be a world beater. Sadly its engine turned out to be softly tuned and the bike was no faster than Honda's CB750-four of six years earlier. On the plus side the Sei was supremely smooth and comfortable and was commendably narrow for a six. Its air-cooled 12-valve SOHC transverse six engine produced 71bhp @ 8,900rpm and gave a top speed of 118mph (189kph).
The introduction of the /5 series in 1969 marked a new era for BMW with new machines, such as the R75, marking a radical departure from previous BMW practice. Bright colours, a splash of chrome, light frames and resolute engines all added up to quick, good handling machines that retained the reliability and quality of the previous models. In 1974, to keep pace with the competition, the R90/S was introduced. Its 900cc engine fed 9.5:1 pistons through 38mm Dell'Orto pumper carbs and it used a new five-speed transmission to propel its 500 pounds (wet) through a quarter-mile in a mere 13 seconds.
Ducati 750 Sport
Ducati had been building single-cylinder bikes with shaft driven camshafts for fifteen years when they decided to move into the bigger bike market. The 750GT, announced to an impressed public in September 1970, was effectively two singles mounted in a 90 degree V, a layout that was to become a Ducati trademark. There were plenty of other V-twins around, but the Ducati was different from all of them. Moto Guzzi's transverse vees (Le Mans apart) were more touring biased and Harley-Davidson's twins, although longitudinal like Ducati's, were worlds apart in terms of character and intended use.
In 1969, Honda changed the face of motorcycling forever with the CB 750. The CB750 Four offered a combination of hardware never before seen on a single machine. For the first time, four cylinder power and smoothness were joined by a five-speed gearbox, an electric starter and a front disc brake (the first ever on a street machine), and all at a reasonable price. The CB750 was the firm's first attempt at a big bike and it set new standards for performance, practicality and reliability in the big bike class - the era of the production superbike had begun.
Kawasaki 750 H2
In 1969, Kawasaki launched the Mach 3, a 500cc no-holds-barred speedster with exceptional performance, it was capable of a quarter-mile run in under 13 seconds and a maximum 120mph (193kph), flat-out. When therefore, they showed the seven-fifty version (Mach 4) in early 1972, the motorcycling world gasped in disbelief. Crammed into the lightest motorcycle in its class was the most bristly engine ever seen from Japan. There were three 250cc air-cooled cylinders sitting side-by-side across the frame with a claimed output of 74bhp at 6,500rpm. A surprising example of the early seventies superbike.
Laverda's reputation as a builder of classic superbikes began with an 80bhp machine in 1972. A twin ohc 1000cc triple powered it to 125mph (201kph) and not only was it faster than the Japanese superbikes, it had handling to match. Known as the 3C, it spawned the UK only, Jota (developed by Laverda importer Roger Slater), the 1200cc Mirage and the later more civilised 120-degree crank versions. Released in 1976, the Jota was just about the fastest production machine of the day. Capable of almost 140mph (225kph) and coupled with well proportioned, yet racy lines, it is no wonder the Jota soon became a motorcycling status symbol.
Moto Guzzi 750S
The Moto Guzzi 750 S was one of the most eye-catching machines of its era. Finished in all black with violent red, orange or green flashes across the tank and side panels, it used the familiar Moto Guzzi 748cc V-twin ohv engine mounted in a twin-cradle frame. Producing 53bhp @ 6300rpm, top speed of this highly desirable superbike was 123mph (199kph). By the seventies handling was an Italian speciality. Firms such as Moto Guzzi were showing the Japanese that there was more to motorcycle design than simply putting a potent engine between two wheels.
MV Agusta 750S America
The name MV-Agusta is a legend in motorcycling, for the company from Gallarate in northern Italy won no fewer than 37 World Championships and over 100 National titles. They produced their first sporty four-cylinder road bike in 1971, which used the shaft drive of their touring 600 but with increased capacity and compression. The 750 S America was produced in 1975 and, as its name suggests, was aimed purely at the American market. It was finished in standard trim. Extras available included gold magnesium alloy wheels, a disc rear brake and full fairing.
Norton Commando 850
The 850 Commando was launched in 1973 and this was to be the final incarnation of Norton's classic vertical twin. The 828cc engine was a solid design although by now was approaching thirty years of age and consequently competing with more sophisticated Japanese four-cylinder power, was a difficult taks. Power output had risen to 60bhp @ 6000rpm but there was no significant improvement in performance over the 750, with a top speed of 115mph (185kph). Nevertheless, the 850 Commando found a loyal following for those motorcyclists looking for torque and generally unfussed cruising.
Introduced towards the end of 1976, the GS 750 was Suzuki's first large capacity four-stroke motorcycle. Needing something special to replace the three-cylinder two-stroke GT750, which had become a victim of rough emission control regulations in America, the GS750 proved to be not only the fastest seven-fifty on the market but the most compact and best mannered big bike to appear from Japan to date. The company realised that what was needed in the 750 class was a machine with superior roadholding and manageability as well as more power and the GS750 had all of these attributes.
Triumph Trident T150
The Triumph Trident, when released in 1968, made a genuine impact on the motorcycling world. It was fast, storming up to 100mph (160kph) quicker than the competition and unlike some other "superbikes", it also handled well. The sound of its three-cylinder engine howling its way up to 8000rpm was unforgettable. It is sad that Triumph's industrial troubles kept development of the Trident to a minimum. The T150 ran until 1975, with various styling upgrades until the final Trident, the T160, appeared in 1975. Potentially a great machine, it was sadly let down only by sloppy production quality and faded from the scene after 1976.