The Honda CB400F — aka the Honda 400 Four — was a lightweight inline four with 37 horsepower, a 6-speed gearbox (Honda’s first), svelte cafe racer styling, and one of the most beautiful factory exhausts ever produced. An evolution of the earlier CB350F, the 400cc four-stroke was smoother, quieter, more refined, and more economical most of the two-stroke competition — however, it wasn’t as fast in a straight line and never sold well in the USA, where straight-line speed and fury remained king.
However, it seems that today’s enthusiasts have rediscovered Honda’s lightweight four. Says Toby Jones of North Georgia’s Chattahoochee Skunkworks:
“In recent years however, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts are discovering the joys of the refined little jewel and the model has developed a cult following second to none.”
Toby is one such devotee of the CB400F. We first discovered his work at Florida’s annual Riding into History event. Now that he’s moved to North Georgia — a riding Valhalla for the moto-minded — the CB is even more at home:
“It’s almost like Honda was thinking of where I live when they designed this bike. On the mountain roads, where the curves come at you quick and you never stay in one of the six gears for very long it always leaves me grinning at the end of a ride.”
Toby restored this CB400F you see here with great care, attention to detail, and a few choice updates and modifications:
“My goal in building this one was to keep it close to showroom, but change the things that the owner of a new one back in the 70’s might have changed.”
A huge congrats to Toby, as this bike won Best in Class at the 20th annual Riding into History Vintage Motorcycle Concourse d’Elegance earlier this year! Below, we get the full story on this blue beauty.
Honda 400 Four: In the Builder’s Words
My name is Toby Jones and my little hobby shop, The Chattahoochee Skunkworks, is pleasantly hidden up in the foothills of North Georgia. Over the past few years the shop has turned out several, mostly mild, customs. We’ve worked with everything from a BSA Lightning to a Trail 70 Honda, but the CB400F is by far my favorite platform to work from. Not a big seller when new, the little four wasn’t as quick as it’s two stroke competitors, was more expensive and it’s styling didn’t really “push the right buttons” for the American market. In recent years however, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts are discovering the joys of the refined little jewel and the model has developed a cult following second to none. As for me, it’s almost like Honda was thinking of where I live when they designed this bike. On the mountain roads, where the curves come at you quick and you never stay in one of the six gears for very long it always leaves me grinning at the end of a ride.
This particular bike is the fourth CB400F we’ve done and actually remains closer to stock than any of the others. It was missing a lot of its original parts, but over the years I had managed to collect several parts from other builds and was glad to put them to good use. We did make some changes (some of us just can’t behave) and the project was fitted with shouldered alloy rims, aftermarket turn signals, a smaller tail light, upgraded electrics and we polished some pieces that were originally painted. My theory on vintage bikes is: Keep what ya’ dig, but don’t be afraid to change what ya’ don’t.
As with all our projects, this one was completely disassembled and the frame, swingarm and a few other parts were sent off to our friend Rocky Webb for sandblasting. Rocky is the best I’ve ever used for blasting. Powder coating master Monty Turner laid on the sweet black powder. Nuts, bolts and brackets went to Texas Precision Plating for their zinc/clear chromate process.
The rest of the build was done in our little shop and involved, as always, countless hours of cleaning painting and polishing. We laced up new shouldered alloy rims to the stock hubs and shod them with our favorite Avon Road Rider rubber.
For paint the Toyota blue that was supposed to match Honda’s original Varnish Blue just didn’t get it so we applied a couple of coats of House of Kolor’s Oriental Candy Blue over the base to wake up the dull blue. The stock seat pan and foam was in surprisingly good shape so (with the help of my lovely wife) I installed a new reproduction seat cover. To insure the project ran as good as it looked we rebuilt the carbs, added new coils and a Dyna S ignition.
My goal in building this one was to keep it close to showroom, but change the things that the owner of a new one back in the 70’s might have changed. We’re happy with the results and excited that in its first showing the bike won Best in Class at the 20th annual Riding into History Vintage Motorcycle Concourse d’Elegance. I really intended to make this bike a “keeper” but well ya’ know I found another rough CB400F that was homeless and in desperate need of some café racer love so this bike is currently for sale.