450's won't kick your seat the way 750's can, but not everyone can afford the cost of that kick. Or wants it. Honda's new CB450SC has the Nighthawk look with the power to outspeed traffic and easily violate legal speed limits. Honda enlarged its 395cc engine for 1982 to 447cc by increasing the bore size 4.5mm. This makes the bore/stroke ratio of the 75.0 x 50.6mm engine a remarkable oversquare 1.5:1. There are updates beyond the displacement increase. Oil is now pressure-fed to the cylinder head through an exterior oil pipe rather than through internal passages. Oil passages in the camshaft holding block and in the rocker arm spindle feed oil directly to rotating parts; the older 395cc engine depended on camshaft lobe splash for lubrication. The top piston ring is a better GL1100 part, and the piston, pin and connecting rod have been strengthened to deal with the increased displacement. Honda hardens the 450's transmission gears by a liquid nitrogen
treatment which, according to company spokesmen, increases durability.
All 1982 450-series Hondas feature the engine-mounted oil cooler formerly reserved for the Hondamatic. All have the modified Power Chamber exhaust connector to flow the larger engine's exhaust more easily. And all, except the sporting T-model and the Hondamatic, have a new six-speed transmission. The added top gear is an extraordinarily wide-ration jump from fifth to provide an "overdrive", reducing revs at cruising speeds.
This much-modified engine resides in a longer, more spacious chassis. Compared with the nimble CB450T Hawk, the Nighthawk has a kicked out fron end: 30, not 27 degrees, of rake; 5.1 inches of trail rather than 3.9 inches, and a bridge-spanning wheelbase of 57.1 inches--the same as last year's CB650. the 450 Nighthawk looks and feels like a larger bike-more like a 650 than a 450.
The 450SC responds to rider input without the snap reactions of something like a Seca 550; high-speed steering feels more like that of a bigger bike. The 450SC weighs 425 pounds fully gassed; as a relative lightweight, the Nighthawk retains its low-speed in-town agility in tight quarters.
The ride is firm and well controlled. The fork has a small amount of stiction, but even our lighter, 140-pound tester didn't complain. The Variable Hydraulic Damping (VHD) shock absorbers have reasonable damping rates and control swing-arm movements well. The bike doesn't wallow over bumps in fast corners; only the most severe bumps jounce the rider.
The SC's ergonomics are more successful than most 450's, and, surprisingly enough, miles better than its 750 counterpart's. The 450's straighter and flatter handlebar explains much of this ergonomic success. The bar is about right for confronting 70-mph wind, but for our testers the footrests remain too far forward and too high. The seating better suits the under-five-ten crowd; taller riders feel cramped. Overall, we rate the Nighthawk slightly less comfortable than the T-model, yet superior to the CM450 Custom and the economy E-model.
The slim-line seat, despite its lack of depth, has comfort that's several hours deep. The Nighthawk's cruising range discourages long forays; our test bike managed only 115 miles before going onto reserve. Average fuel mileage during the 450's stay at our offices was 46.4 mpg.
Many qualities make the SC an ideal beginner's mount: the bike has a nicely balanced feel; the clutch, a smooth, positive engagement; brakes are strong and easily controllable; shift throw is short with well-defined stops; instruments are readable, and switches are easily reached. Simply nice.
The first five speeds, with their closely spaced ratios, provide useful gears for squeezing maximum acceleration from the 27-cubic-inch engine. Upshifting to sixth at 60 mph drops the revs from 6000 rpm to 4800 - a rather cavernous gap. Passing traffic requires a downshift or two unless you've got the space of Texas ahead. With a 140-pound rider aboard, the 450 redlined its tach in fifth gear, but after shifting to sixth the bike lost speed - sixth is a good cruising gear.
The Nighthawk wears a $1998 price tag, the same tariff that the Kawasaki KZ440 LTD commands. That's $350 more than the economy Suzuki and Yamaha, and $300 more than the E-type Honda. The extra money buys Comstar wheels and tubeless tires, a hydraulic disc front brake, air-adjustable fork, VHD shocks, the long wheelbase, raked chassis and, perhaps just as significant for many, the Nighthawk visuals. If sheer performance is your buying criterion, you'll want to look closely at the sporting CB450T; but if you want sporting performance and the custom look, the Nighthawk gives a measure of T-model function and a custom look that's not an imitation of anything else. (From a magazine article on the newly introduced 1982 Honda Nighthawk 450."A Smaller Bird")
Year by year changes to the 450...
· 1982- In its debut year, the CB450SC came in two colors; Candy Wineberry Red, and Cosmo Black Metallic. The Wing tank emblem was gold. The gas tank and side cover stripe was chrome. The front fender was chrome. It came with an 85 mph speedometer. The wheels were highlighted black Comstars. Read the article below for a description of the engine, and the rest of the machine.
· 1983- Only cosmetic changes in 1983. The Cosmo Black metallic was dropped, and a regular Black replaced it. On the Red machines, the striping was black, and the Black machines were adorned with gray striping. The Comstar wheels were replaced with a slightly different Cast Alloy wheel. The speedometer was upped to 105 mph.
· 1984-CORRECTION: In the past I've said that there were no 450 models produced in 1984, until Barry Bender read that note and sent me a digital picture of his Nighthawk 450 with a clear sticker on the frame which read: "1984" in pretty bold letters. Thanks Barry. I stand corrected. (updated July 2004)
· 1985- 2 Nighthawk 450 models were produced in 1985. The regular CB450SC, and the "enviro-nazi" model, the CB450SCL (California only). Two striking new color schemes were introduced; Candy Empire Blue, with light blue pinstripes, and Candy Andromeda Red, with red pinstripes. The Honda Wing tank emblem was changed to silver. The Nighthawk 450 side cover decal was silver & red.
· 1986- In its last year of production the changes were minor; The blue 'hawk got silver pinstripes, and the red 'hawk came with black stripes. The Nighthawk 450 side cover decal changed to silver, and last but not least, the fender was changed from chrome to "body color". Available options were: Nylon luggage (saddlebags, trunk bag, tank bag), leather saddlebags, engine guard, luggage rack and backrest.
· 1986 was the last year the 450 was produced. Unfortunately, it was not resurrected in the 90's. Maybe it's time?