The Honda CX Turbo MotorbikesHonda CX500 Turbo
In 1982 Honda released the CX500TC, the world's first turbo-charged production motorcycle. Based on the successful CX500 released in 1978 Honda was making a real technical statement, proving that if anybody could produce a usable turbo-charged motorcycle with a V-twin pushrod engine, they could. The CX500 was a reliable 497cc liquid-cooled 80 degree V-twin shaft drive motorcycle that produced 50hp and was a favourite of despatch riders throughout the UK.
Although the engine of the CX500 Turbo looked the same as it's older brother, there were many differences and the bike was very complex for the time. It featured an onboard computer which controlled the fuel injection system, taking information from many sensors around the engine including air pressure, and contained multiple redundant fail-safe systems. The computer also included on-board fault diagnosis by lighting LEDs and lights on the dash whenever there were any errors. The engine had a reduced compression ratio (7.1:1) and the turbo charger provided 19 psi at peak boost to increase power output of the engine to 82hp.
The bike itself had a many differences to the old CX500, a strengthened frame, improved brakes, Pro-Link rear suspension and TRAC (Torque Reactive Anti-dive Control) forks. It also sported a half fairing which protected the rider and gave the bike a futuristic appearance to match it's technological cutting edge. Although still a very heavy bike this motorcycle was capable of reaching 125mph very quickly.
Honda only made the CX500T for one year but produced 5400 units worldwide.
Honda CX650 Turbo
In 1983 Honda released the CX650TD, a refined version of their turbo-charged motorcycle with an increased engine size of 674cc. The 650 was slightly lighter than the 500 but the whole package was actually simpler, with fewer sensors and removal of the bulky resonance chamber. The engine was completely reworked with larger valves, increased compression ratio (7.8:1) and reduced peak turbo boost of 16 psi. The changes resulted in a very quick 140mph bike that produced 100hp.
The famous turbo lag of the 500 had been completely smoothed out making for a more predictable, less frantic ride (500 owners would say "less exciting"), but the performance was outstanding for the time. From a standing start only the largest sports bikes could beat it, but for roll-on accelleration it was simply unbeatable.
However, the CX650TD was still very expensive and the motorcycling public were still not ready for the unproven high technology, so Honda only made 1777 worldwide with the majority going to the US. Buying a new Honda CX Turbo was only for the rich as they were expensive to insure and required Honda dealer servicing at regular intervals. Many of the bikes that went to the US were given to colleges for students to dismantle and work on. As directed by Honda, they were supposedly all destroyed after the colleges had finished with them, but some parts and bikes did find their way onto the open market. In the UK many bikes remained in showrooms for over a year before they were sold at discount prices.
Today these bikes are an iconic reminder of the early 1980s technology and are proof of the technological excellence of Honda. Nearly all the bikes running today still have their original turbos, computers and sensors. They are fantastic bikes to ride, reliable, comfortable and great fun. The only thing which the modern rider should be aware of are the brakes which never matched the bike's performance.