The Best Motorcycles from the 1970s Are A Blast From The Past
The 1970s was a starting point for a new league of bikes. In the 1970s buyers and riders would start seeing some of the seeds of motorcycles that we have come to know today.
Some motorcycle trends from the 1970s include vintage styling making a comeback as well as highly specialized motorcycles. The 1970s saw one of the largest spikes in riders to this date and even faced some of the declines that came in the later years when vehicles and other modes of transportation became popular. Here are some of the best motorcycles from the 1970s.
Kawasaki H2 750
First on this list is the H2 Mach IV which was a 750 cc 3-cylinder engine production bike built and manufactured by Kawasaki from 1971 through 1975. Straight from the factory, the H2 was able to race a 1/4 mile in just 12 seconds and had upgraded handling compared to its predecessor the Mach III.
Kawasaki was inspired to build the H2 Mach IV after the success of the H1 Mach III from the late 1960s. The H1 had a 500 cc engine and had 3,500 rpm and redlined at 7,500 rpm.
Moto Morini 3
The Moto Morini was an Italian motorcycle manufactured by Alfonso Morino since 1937. Over the span of the decades, the Morini saw a lot of updates to its body style and engines.
The Moto Morino 3 1/2 was the model that housed Morini’s brand new V-twin engined motorcycles which were more powerful and aggressive. Even today, the Moto Morini 3 1/2 is a fan favorite and is highly sought after. At the time of its release, the Morini 3 1/2 cost the same as a Honda CB750.
Hodaka Super Rat
During its life span, hundreds of thousands of Hodaka Super Rats would be sold all over the globe. The company that made the Hodaka was located in the state of Oregon and had been previously owned by Shell Oil Company from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s.
The company’s mission statement read, “Motorcycling is fun. No one should have to strain their budget to enjoy it.” With that in mind, the company built bikes that were simple, with low maintenance costs, that anyone on any budget could enjoy riding.
The Suzuki RE-5, sold and built from 1974 to 1976, had a liquid-cooled single-rotor Wankel engine that was known for being uniquely designed.
Wankel engines had components such as a smooth rotary engine, they were overall lightweight but were powerful and could produce a lot of power with even a smaller displacement. Rare then and even rarer now, the Wankel engine in the RE-5 was barely used in other motorcycles and is used even less now today.
MV Agusta 350B Sport
Debuted right at the turn of the decade, the MV Augusta 350B Sport was manufactured by Agusta during the early 1970s. It came with a new sporty updated look and design as well as a larger and faster engine.
Though not too impressive today, in 1970 when the 350B was manufactured and tested, it had a top speed of 96 mph. In the decades to follow, Agusta would upgrade the engine and test out different body types.
The Suzuki GS750 was part of Suzuki’s GS series which had a full range of 4-stroke powered road bikes after selling only 2-stroke bikes up until the 1970s. The first bike that Suzuki designed with a 4-stroke engine was the Colleda COX in 1955 that had 125 and 93 cc engines.
After more research, Suzuki designed the GS series and perfected the 4-stroke bike while still selling popular 2-stroke motorcycles. Sold along with the GS750 was the GS400 which debuted in 1976.
Benelli 900 Sei
Designed by Alejandro de Tomaso, the Benelli 900 Sei was sold and manufactured from 1972 through 1978. The Benelli 900 Sei was an Italian bike that stood out in popularity from other Italian bikes on the market in the mid-1970s because of its speed and design.
Upon release, the Benelli 900 Sei had a top speed of 120 mph. One of the 900 Sei’s lasting impressions was sparking the trend of angular designed motorcycles versus round forms.
1970 Triumph Bonneville
Though the 1970 Triumph Bonneville wasn’t a special standout motorcycle, it was a standard motorcycle that had a parallel-twin 4-stroke engine. It took over 3 generations for Bonneville to perfect the engine that was used in the 1970 model of the Triumph.
The name Bonneville came from the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah where Triumph raced along with other manufacturers to break the motorcycle speed records. In 1970, the Triumph Bonneville had a 650 cc parallel-twin engine.
Released in 1972 following the Honda CB750, the Kawasaki Z1 was a Japanese motorcycle that was one of the first Japanese models known as the Universal Japanese Motorcycle. Universal Japanese Motorcycles were motorcycles that followed the regulations and guidelines of governing bodies from throughout the world.
The Z1 was also the first large-capacity 4-cylinder motorcycle to have a double-overhead camshaft system on a production bike. The Kawasaki Z1 paved the way for more imported motorcycles that would come after it.
A mid-sized motorcycle made and sold by Yamaha Motor Company, the Yamaha XS650 debuted in 1968 and was manufactured through 1979. Eventually, in the late 1970s, Yamaha would go on to make a “Special” cruiser model that it would run through the mid-1980s.
The first designs of the XS650 started back in the mid-1950s with the Hosk single overhead. After a few ownership changes, the XS650 was eventually owned by Yamaha who took over its design and the engine was upgraded to the 650 cc twin. The XS650 was manufactured until the mid-1980s.
Initially, the Yamaha YZR500 was made as a racing bike and represented Yamaha during various 500cc Grand Prix from the 1970s to the 2000s. The YZR500 picked up public interest and motorcycle enthusiasts who were in search of a bike that was faster than any of the ones on the market.
Most racing bikes don’t meet regulations to be driven on the road but due to demand, Yamaha decided to make a YZR500 to be mass-produced.
With three models made; the R69S, R69US and R69, buyers interested a cool looking luxury sports bikes in the 1970s had options. Designed and manufactured by BMW out of Munich, Germany, all three models were fitted with 594 cc boxer twin engines.
From 1955 to 1969 just over 15,000 models were built and sold. Designed as high compression sports bikes, BMW varied some of the components depending on where in the world the bike was sold.
One of the bikes on this list that is still being produced today, the Yamaha YZ 250 has been around since 1974 when it debuted to the motorcycle scene. Not only is the motorcycle really popular among drivers, but it was also made to be a really good racing bike as well.
The Yamaha YZ 250 won numerous racing awards and championships over the decades including 5 AMA National Motocross awards and 9 AMA National Supercross titles. Buyers can get one today for a little over $12,000.
A single-cylinder, air-cooled, two-passenger motorcycle, the Yamaha SR500 was manufactured by the Japanese Yamaha Motor Company starting in 1978. The motorcycle sold through the year 2000 and was considered the street version of the Yamaha XT400.
Over the course of its lifetime, the bike would be sold all across the globe and in various markets ranging from North America to Europe and Asia. The designers and engineers of the Yamaha SR500 wanted to build a bike that was “easy to use” and while the bike was discontinued in the US in 1981, it spent another 18 years being sold across the globe in other markets.
One of the most iconic motorcycle brands in the world, Harley-Davidson FL came from models and inspiration dating all the way back to the early 1940s. The FL in the name comes from Harley’s applied to the bike’s size which was largely framed like the current Touring and Softail series.
Harley-Davidson released a Confederate Edition of the FLH Electra Glide in 1977 that included commemorative paint and decals though it was a limited run with only 44 units built and sold.
Moto Guzzi V7 Sport
The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport was the first bike manufactured by the Italian manufacturing company Moto Guzzi. Based on the V7 Roadster, the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport came with a brand new design that included clip-on handlebars.
Compared to the previous model, the V7 was lighter, had better handling and was generally more well received and popular than its predecessor. In 2008, Moto Guzzi unveiled the “V7 Special” which paid homage to the 1970’s model.
Kawasaki wanted to design a motorcycle that didn’t only produce on the track but that would also make everyday riders happy as well and came up with the KR250. The KR250 was sold and manufactured out of Japan for almost a decade between 1975 to 1982.
Not only popular among buyers, the KR250 won world championship races as well. The Kawasaki KR250 went on to win medals in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.
A 2-stroke motorcycle manufactured from 1973 to 1975 by Japanese company Yamaha, the RD350 was a five-speed motorcycle that was popular during its time on the market. The RD350 had a piston port and front drum brake.
It was air-cooled with a parallel twin 6-speed transmission reed-valve 2-strike engine but was most commonly referred to as a sports bike. Every Yamaha RD350 model that was sold had an automatic oil injection called the “Autolube” which eliminated the mixing of gasoline and oil. In 1976, the RD350 was upgraded to the RD400.
One of the duller and safer bikes on this list, the Honda CG125 was a safe and reliable option for those who wanted a bike that was easy to drive and that would last a lifetime. Honda, known then and now for producing top-quality motorcycles and vehicles wanted to make a motorcycle for the everyday rider who didn’t want much from a bike.
It was produced globally in Japan, Brazil, and Turkey from 1976 to 2008 and had a top speed of 65 mph.
Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor
A British motorcycle manufactured and sold between the early 1960s and 1970s, the Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor was a modified motorcycle modeled after the Constellation.
Every year, Royal Enfield upgraded the motorcycle until they believed they had a bike that was as good as it was going to get on all fronts in 1970. Introduced in 1962, the 750 Interceptor had a brand new 736 cc twin-cylinder engine that had increased torque for more power.
Tunturi Super Sport
One of the more uncommon motorcycles on this list, the Tunturi Super Sport was a motorcycle that was sold and manufactured from the late 1970s to the late 1980s over the span of a decade.
Not many Finnish products were on the motorcycle market, but Tunturi wanted to make a bike that could be sold in markets all over the world. The Super Sport was a success for Tunturi, which was also a company that produced bicycles and other fitness equipment.
Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo
The Suzuki GT750 gets its name for being the first Japanese motorcycle to have been equipped with a water-cooled engine. The GT750 was a 3-cylinder 2-stroke motorcycle built from 1971 to 1977 though it was first unveiled as a prototype to the public in 1970 at the International Tokyo Motor Show.
The bike became so popular that in 1971, the Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo was included as one of the 240 Landmarks of Japanese Technology in the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan.
One of the few Indian motorcycles on this list, the Yezdi Roadking was produced and sold by Yezdi from 1978 to 1996. Almost winning first place, the Roadking was the first runner-up in the 9174 Motorcross World Championship races when it competed.
The Yezdi Roadking had a 250 cc engine that has dual exhausts and a semi-automatic clutch with the Jawa logo integrated within the bike for authenticity and unique styling.
A single-cylinder motorcycle produced by Velocette in Birmingham, the Velocette Venum was a 4-stroke 499 cc motorcycle sold between 1955 and 1970. Over the course of those 15 years, there were a total of 5,721 bikes produced and sold.
In the factory that produced the bikes, a team of riders were racing the models and ended up setting the 24-hour world record driving at 100.05 mph. That time made the Venom the first motorcycle of its size to achieve an average speed of over 100 mph for 24 hours until that record was broken in 2008.
Another racing motorcycle built and designed by Honda, the Honda NR500 was made specifically to race in the Grand Prix Motorcycle Race. Only a few were made and it wasn’t mass-produced for more casual drivers.
Honda had already released a series of faster motorcycles around this time so the NR500 was strictly for the track. Though this bike was fine-tuned to be able to beat out all of the competition, when the Honda NR500 went to race at the 1979 British Grand Prix, neither bike made it to the finish line.
Triumph X-75 Hurricane
Another Triumph motorcycle on this list, the X-75 Hurricane was considered factory special because it was designed by none other than Craig Vetter. It included fiberglass bodywork, a 3-gallon gas tank, lowered gearing and even a triple exhaust system on its right-hand side.
It can be said that the Hurricane started a new class of motorcycle and it inspired and still inspires bike enthusiasts and designers to this day. the Triumph X-75 was unveiled in 1969 and was produced and sold by Triumph from 1972 to 1973.
An insanely popular moped, the Honda MB50 was one of the slower and more affordable bikes to come out of Honda during the 1970s and the 1980s. Mopeds grew in popularity during the 1970s as people were in search of different modes of transportation at lower and lower costs.
Honda, already well known and liked for other models and products they sold, took the opportunity to come out with a moped of their own and it was a big hit not only in the US but also in Europe.
The BMW R90S was a 900 cc sports bike manufactured and sold by BMW from 1973 to 1976. It is easily regarded as the flagship bike for the “/6” range. One of the R90’s distinctions was its two-tone paintwork and new tail.
Over the course of three years during the production of the BMW R90S, 17,455 units were sold. BMW came out with the R100S which succeeded the 90S in 1977 and it had a lot of the same paint styling and design but also included an added 1,000 cc engine displacement for a faster ride.
The 1970s were a great time for BMW as they were releasing bikes back to back and with huge successes. Released in 1978 was the BMW R65 which was also one of the big wins for the company.
The R65 was a variant of R Series of bikes designed by Mercedes which were faster and marketed towards more experienced drivers. The top speed of the BMW R65 was 109 mph which was still somewhat impressive in the 1970s and ’80s. The R65 also had a triangular fairing designed by Hans Muth.
A Japanese model produced and sold by Honda from 1979 to 1983, the Honda CY50 was a popular moped. Picking up on the moped hype during that time, Honda designed the CY50 to be affordable and reliable like all of its products.
Upon its release, the Honda CY50 had a top speed of 25 mph and was marketed as a clean engine bike that didn’t need a fuel-oil mixture and ran off of gasoline. Today the CY50 is a popular collection item.
Sold and manufactured by Bimota in the 1970s through the early 1980s, the Bimota KB1 was the first bike model that was equipped with the Kawasaki powerplant. Aimed at Kawasaki owners who were unhappy with their current bike, Bimota offered an upgraded solution that featured new technology as well.
Mostly sold in kit form, the Kimota KB1 eventually went out of production in 1982 after selling only 827 units which made it the most produced Bimota model to date.
Debuted in 1976, the Yamaha XT660 was marketed to consumers as a multi-purpose bike that could be driven on and off of the road. It was released as a replacement to the Yamaha XT600 and was more lightweight and faster than its predecessor.
The bike handled so well on the road that even the US Military decided to use the motorcycle for various purposes. Though the XT600 was popular as well, the XT660 was better received because of its versatility.
One of the sports motorcycles manufactured and sold by Honda from 1978 to 1982, the Honda CBX was fitted with a 1047 cc in-line 6-cylinder engine that produced 105 horsepower.
In the 1970s and ’80s, the CBX offered buyers the latest and greatest that Honda was able to offer at that time and for that, it was donned as Honda’s flagship motorcycle. Though it was loved by the media and press and sold well in its time, the Honda CBX was eventually outsold by Honda CB900F.
Made and shipped from Shizuoka, Japan, the Yamaha XT500 was another one of Yamaha’s popular bikes that were sold in the 1970s. A hugely popular bike in Japan, the Yamaha XT500 was also a motorcycle that was sold in North America where it was also well received.
One of the best things about the XT500 was its power to weight ratio which was close to perfect during that time. The XT500s creation was believed to have inspired the power to ratio bike movement up through today.
Part of a series of air-cooled 4-stroke V-twin motorcycles, the Ducati 750SS was released in 1973 and started the SuperSport Series. The prototypes for the 750 Sport and 750 GT models were styled alongside Imola motorcycles and had similar bodywork.
During the 750SS’ production cycle, the 750SS was produced alongside Ducati’s 900SS model so only a few 750 motorcycles were shipped and sold making the original bike a rarity today.
Ducati 860 GT
Engineered by Fabio Taglioni and designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Ducati 860 GT was released to the public in 1974. Upon release, the Ducati 860 GT was tested and had a top speed of 109 mph.
Giugiaro credited the look for the bike from inspiration he got from a folded paper and wanted it to have straight lines and hard edges. This look would go on to be adopted by the 192 Lotus Espirit and the Volkswagen Golf along with a few others.
Norton 850 Commando
A British motorcycle that had an overhead valve engine, the Norton 850 Commando was produced by the Norton Motorcycle Company from 1967 to 1977. Over its 10-year production run, the Commando became very popular all over the world and sold well.
The Norton 850 Commando would go on to win the Motor Cycle News “Machine of the Year” award 5 years in a row. Inspiration for the Norton 850 Commando can be found tracing all the way back to the late 1940s when the Norton Model 7 Twin was designed.
Sold and manufactured for only one year out of the entire decade, the Honda CL200 was a motorcycle that could often be compared to the CB200. The CL200 had an exhaust system that was mounted above the gearbox and had both of its pipes aligned to the left side.
Honda released the CL200 at a time when smaller motorcycles were losing popularity and sales were slowing so the CL200 was almost doomed from the start. The CL200 was discontinued just only one year later due to poor sales and decreased interest.
A motorcycle from the 1970s, the Harley-Davidson XR750 was built primarily for racing on both dirt and the road and for the XRTT variant. Some of the famous racers who have driven with the bike are Mark Brelsford, Cal Rayborn Jay Springsteen, and even Evel Knievel.
Thanks to its popularity amongst racers, the rarity value of the XR750 skyrocketed and today it is a must-have amongst collectors. In 1998, an XR750 model was included at the Art of the Motorcycle and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on the Move.
Produced from 1972 to 1981, the Ducati Super Sport was a popular sport bike that paved the way for Ducati Super Sport models that came after it.
Primarily used in the Imola 200 Race with Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari who won both first and second place on these motorcycles. The Ducati SuperSport 900 featured a twin-cylinder engine, upgraded handling that made it easier for racing and everyday driving, and a new body style.
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
This series of touring motorcycles released by Honda in 1975 first premiered to the public in 1974 at the International Cologne Motorcycle Show. The 1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing also achieved making it on the 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology list.
Honda started selling the GL1000 in Europe and eventually branched out to the US a few months later on in the year. Over the course of its production, Honda would sell over 640,000 units of the Gold Wing, mostly in the US alone.
Yamaha designed the TX50 in the early 1970s and sold for three years from 1972 to 1975. It was first showcased at the International Tokyo Motor Show only a few months before its release in 1972 and received positive feedback from the press and public.
One of the best features of the Yamaha TX50 was its smooth handling which was often noted during reviews of the motorcycle from media outlets and drivers.
Honda CB 750
The Honda CB750 was considered by the Discovery Channel as one of the greatest motorbikes ever for good reason. The Honda CB750 had an air-cooled transverse in-line 4-cylinder engine that had been perfected over years of making configurations and changes to the original engine model.
Often hailed as one of the original Universal Japanese Motorcycles, the CB750 set the standard for manufacturers all over the globe and was popular amongst buyers, riders, and the media.
With a 4-stroke single-cylinder engine the Honda CL100 was a pretty average bike but one that was popular because it was easily accessible and affordable.
Built off of the same technology as Honda’s other models, the CL100 had a 99 cc engine that had a top speed of 50 mph. One of the prominent features of the CL100 was the fact that it was a dual-sport bike so it was good to good on or off-road.
Harley Davidson XLCR
A racer-styled motorcycle built by Harley-Davidson in the late 1970s was the Harley-Davidson XLCR. Designed by Willie G. Davidson from an existing XLCH Sportster, it was rumored that the motorcycle was originally intended for Davidson’s personal use and was never meant for mass production.
The Harley-Davidson XLCR was sold between 1977 and 1979 and between that time 20,000 units were sold. Collectors can find some models available today for sale at auction.
1973 BMW R90S
Another one of the BMW R90 models from the 1970s, the R90S model was the fastest of the R90 models and it had the highest top speed and horsepower. Designed by Hans Muth as part of the flagship of the boxer engine “/6” range, the R90 models were some of the best that Honda had to offer buyers at that time. T
The specs on the R90S included 67 horsepower, a top speed of 124 mph, the R90S could run a 1/4 mile in 13.5 seconds and went from 0-62 mph in just 4.8 seconds.
1971 Yankee Z
Founded in Schenectady, New York by the Yankee Motor Company, the Yankee Z was a motorcycle that was equipped with an air-cooled, 2-stroke engine configuration.
It was designed by Eduard Gir and produced by Ossa Manufacturing which was located in Barcelona, Spain during the 1970s. Still, some of the components were made and assembled in the US. The Yankee Z’s engine was a combination of two Ossa cylinders that had an almost 500 cc capacity.
1977 Kawasaki KZ1000
Released in 1977, the Kawasaki KZ1000 was a motorcycle that was considered one of the fastest production bikes of its time. The Kawasaki KZ1000 had an in-line 4-cylinder engine that was configured and paired with a 5-speed transmission which put out roughly 90 horsepower.
At the time it was released in 1977, Kawasaki was already working on the models that were set to be released after the bike was already on the market including the Z1300 which had a 6-cylinder engine configuration and was much faster.
1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans
The 1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans marked the first sports motorcycle to be manufactured by the Italian company Moto Guzzi. Named after a 24-hour endurance race that takes place annually in France, the 850 was also a bike that was good for making long trips.
It has clip-on handlebars and a nose fairing and eventually, Moto would go on to add a three-quarter fairing. The Le Mans would wind up going through multiple series over the years that went under the names Mark I, Series I and Series II though in total less than 10,000 units were produced.
1975 Laverda 750GT
The Laverda 750 GT got its name from the size of the engine which was a 750 cc. A successor to the Laverda 650, once the 750 GT was released sales for the 650 ceased and came to a stop.
Though the terms 750 S and 750 GT were coined right before the turn of the decade in 1969, the usage of these terms sparked the ultimate discovery of the motorcycle that took off in the 1970s.