“I was disappointed with the power of the standard CBX.”
These were the words of one Colin Baker of Cheltenham, UK, when asked why he built his Honda CBX turbo in the 1980s — the original iteration of the Honda CBX turbo you see here. Now, while many have scorned the handling of CBX1000, few decried the power coming out of the 1047cc, 105-hp six-cylinder engine. In fact, Cycle Guide called it the “Vincent Black Shadow of 1979,” and after an intensive four-day test, the editor of Cycle stated:
“The objective — to build the fastest production motorcycle for sale anywhere in the world — has been met.”
But there are those who hold to the credo that if fast is good, faster is better. Colin Baker’s CBX turbo was built according to that principle, and it made quite an impression on young bikers in the 1990s UK — especially when it arrived in a small booklet of “Britain’s Most Outrageous Motorcycles,” packaged with Performance Bike magazine. In fact, our friend Dave Solomon of Butchered Classics remembers seeing this very CBX turbo wheelie down the Cheltenham high street when he was a middle-grader.
Then there’s our new friend Colin Sycamore, who’s been obsessed with motorcycles since he was boy, riding a Triumph Tiger 100 around the local farm tracks:
“Personally, when I had my first CBX at 19 it was all I ever wanted UNTIL I first saw a feature on Colin’s CBX Turbo — it just looked so right, so raw and purposeful like it would want to kill you. It’s hard to explain it, but take a look at it and you either get it or you don’t.”
Colin is a diehard biker who owns quite a stable of bikes, including a Honda C90, restored 1979 Suzuki GS1000S, Yamaha RD350LC, Bimota 500 V DUE, and a Kawasaki H2 — the supercharged one, not the two-stroke! In fact, it’s taken nearly four decades for Colin to get around to driving a car, so focused has he been on bikes:
“I’m now 57 and passed my car test three months ago and now have a 5.0 V8 Jaguar as my first car (quite an interesting chat sorting out insurance), but still use my bike for commuting every day.”
Back in 1988, Colin was perusing the MCN classifieds when he came across the bike of his dreams, Colin Baker’s legendary CBX Turbo, advertised for £3,750. He immediately emptied his bank account of all the money he had in the world, got his buddy Piff, and they headed across the country to purchase the CBX.
“Colin the owner needed the money for a deposit for a house or flat and it boiled down to me offering everything I had £3,160, I even took my bank book showing my depleted bank balance of zero pounds, zero pence (I still have the bank book).”
Fortunately, previous owner Colin took the offer, and new owner Colin loaded it up and took it home.
“I used the ‘turbo’ for a few years and it built nicely on the reputation I had acquired as a ‘nutter’ with my Yamaha LC and other CBXs doing wheelies and wet weather fishtailing wheel spins going lock to lock down the high street.”
Colin has now owned the bike for more than 30 years, in which time he’s done a number of upgrades: JMC swingarm, Works rear shocks, shortened seat, and Cosworth pistons connected to the original 1980s alloy rods, bored off-center to lower the compression by 1mm. He says the CBX turbo is still an exhilarating ride:
“It’s still very impressive, as I’m running 15 lbs of boost and it’s 1200cc. This draw-through turbo setup is prehistoric. It takes a sophisticated and refined CBX and turns it into an antisocial monster that sounds like a droning Doodlebug when on part throttle and gives out a blood curdling scream when on full chat.”
Probably our favorite moment in our interview was near the end, when we asked Colin what he’s most proud of:
“Not killing myself.”
He said to remember he bought this bike in his early 20s, in the 1980s, when it was faster, madder, and badder than just about anything else on the road at the time. Below, we get the full story straight from Colin about this incredible machine.
Honda CBX Turbo: Owner Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I have always been pretty much obsessed with motorcycles, probably triggered from memories of my dad bringing home an old BSA M20 and letting me and my brother ride an old Triumph Tiger 100 around farm tracks before I could take to the road on my FS1E at 16. I progressed onto a Yamaha 250 at 17 to pass my motorcycle test, and then to my first HONDA CBX at 19.
I’m now 57 and passed my car test three months ago and now have a 5.0 V8 Jaguar as my first car (quite an interesting chat sorting out insurance), but still use my bike for commuting every day.
I have a real mix of bikes including a Honda C90, a 1964 CB77, 2 x CBXs — one standard and my turbocharged one — a 1979 Suzuki GS1000S that has just been fully restored to showroom (actually better than factory if you know what I mean ), a Kawasaki H2 (supercharged, not a two-stroke), a Yamaha RD350LC, and a Bimota 500 V DUE.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
A 1980 HONDA CBX-Z.
• Why was this bike built?
This bike was originally build by Colin Baker from Cheltenham, and to quote him, “I was disappointed with the power of the standard CBX.”
Personally, when I had my first CBX at 19 it was all I ever wanted UNTIL I first saw a feature on Colin’s CBX Turbo — it just looked so right, so raw and purposeful like it would want to kill you. It’s hard to explain it, but take a look at it and you either get it or you don’t.
I never got why Kawasaki turbocharged the GPz750 and gave it the power of the GPz1100 — why not turbo the 1100? Kawasaki finally got it with the H2. This CBX is why certain types of people still turbocharge Suzuki’s Hayabusa today, but it was just done twenty years earlier, making the fastest faster.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Ultimate 1980 cafe racer.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Turbocharged, forged pistons, heavy duty engine studs, wired cylinders with copper head gasket, alloy con rods, dropped handlebars, wheels CMA (heavy as hell but three spokes in 1980!), rear sets, seat, swinging arm, side panels painted, boost gauge, Lockheed brakes, rear shocks.
The weakest feature of the standard CBX, which is easily overwhelmed with the standard engine, is the puny diameter front forks with pen springs for damping, so these were retained for excitement.
In my ownership I’ve changed the swinging arm to a JMC unit, the rear shocks are from “Works,” the engine now has Cosworth pistons made for a GSX750, and I’ve shortened the seat, as to my eye it was too long for a cafe racer.
It still has the original alloy rods from the 80s, but they have now been bored off centre to lower the compression by 1mm. This was achieved by taking advantage of the Cosworth pistons’ 17mm gudgeon pin. The MTC pistons were 15mm; the rods were large enough to do this and make a phosphor bronze bushing for the little end.
The paint is standard as I want it to look like a CBX. That candy apple red with black central stripe is so iconic that I’ve never seen it improved. In fact, I would say that it’s easy to make a CBX look like a giant Super Dream with a clumsy paint job — very few if any CBX’s, Yamaha LC’s, or 1980 James Bond XT500’s look better than the original design in my opinion.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
It’s still very impressive, as I’m running 15 lbs of boost and it’s 1200cc. This draw-through turbo setup is prehistoric. It takes a sophisticated and refined CBX and turns it into an antisocial monster that sounds like a droning Doodlebug when on part throttle and gives out a blood curdling scream when on full chat. It makes full boost at around 6000 RPM as the Rayjay turbos are large, but it’s still mad fast. Just imagine how much faster this was than just about anything else when I was riding it back in the 1980s.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Not killing myself. Remember I was in my early 20s when I brought this — young, dumb, and full of cum describes not only myself but almost every biker I remember in the 80s. The 1970s and 80s were just so different in the U.K. The average age of bikers was so much younger — you left school, you bought a sports moped, then a 175 or 185cc, maybe a 250 on L plates, then whatever you could afford that was fast. God knows what the average age is now, but there is a lot less hair about whenever crash helmets are removed.
I’m also proud of owning something for over 30 years, I see that as an achievement in itself.