1982 Honda NS750
Remember how Honda came to dominate dirt-track racing in the mid-1980s? Remember how Bubba Shobert and Ricky Graham took the AMA Grand National Championship four years in a row on Honda RS750s?
This isn't that bike. This is the bike that preceded the RS750. The bike Honda didn't win with. The bike Honda learned on.
Honda decided to join the dirt-track wars in the early 1980s, and the prevailing theory, then as now, was that V-twin power won on the dirt. The shining examples were Harley-Davidson's V-twin race machines that won 20 of the first 27 Grand National Series titles.
Honda would eventually build a highly competitive dirt-track V-twin from the ground up. But at the beginning, the company looked at its product lineup for a base machine to turn into a dirt-tracker. And its engineers found the CX500, a four-valve, shaft-drive, 80-degree, 500cc V-twin with its cylinders sticking out to the sides.
From there, the project proceeded like a pet transformation in a Monty Python bit: Chop off the shaft, spin the engine 90 degrees, tack on a chain drive, bore the cylinders out as far as the castings will allow, and install a spacer to allow a longer stroke. Then, when that puts the carburetors right in the way of the riders right leg, swap cylinder heads to splay the carbs wide enough to create a little knee room.
After all that, Honda had the NS750, a bike that was eventually coaxed into making competitive horsepower on the dyno, but was a bit underwhelming on the racetrack.
A few riders tried the NS, including a young Freddie Spencer. But in 1982, Honda got serious about its dirt-track effort and hired the reigning Grand National Champion, Mike Kidd, to ride this particular NS750, owned by Al Bergstrom and previously displayed at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
Even with the No. 1 plate-holder on board, though, the NS didn't set the world on fire. Kidd never won a race aboard the bike, although Scott Pearson took the victory in the '82 Louisville Half-Mile on one.
That marked the NS750's only National win. By the end of the season, reports were circulating of a new, improved Honda dirt-tracker, incorporating everything the company learned from the NS. And when Hank Scott won the '83 Du Quoin Mile on an RS750, it was clear that a new age of dirt-track brand warfare had begun.