Would you believe this sleek-looking road rocket started life as a pedestrian Honda step-through?
Underneath this conversion is that most basic of bikes, the Honda 90—just the ticket for meeting the nicest people when it was first built in 1966.
An upgrade of the venerable 49cc step-through that made Honda a worldwide name, the 89cc CM91 sported a centrifugal clutch, a three-speed transmission and leg shields to keep those khakis clean on the way to the Peter, Paul & Mary concert.
The CM91 had only one real problem as the 1970s approached: Americans weren't buying them. With bikes like the groundbreaking CB750 on the way, interest in small-displacement "scooters" was waning.
Thus began Honda's brief experiment with the "Honda Custom Group."
The idea was simple: boost sales by supplying sets of parts that would change the entire look and feel of the CM91.
"They provided what I call a radical facelift," says Jerry Taminini, who owns this kitted CM91 previously on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio. "By the time the dealer installed all the parts, it looked totally different."
The Custom Group consisted of four different conversion kits, offering all the parts needed to transform a CM91 (or its 49cc little brother, the Super Cub) into something completely different.
The "roadster" kit featured a bigger gas tank for longer hauls; the "boss" took things in a custom direction; and the "student" provided a plastic insert for the step-through area that created carrying space for books and other school supplies. But the hot set-up for wannabe cafe racers was the sleek "rally" conversion kit, complete with a steering neck, handlebars, triple clamps, seat, tank, front fender, side covers, headlight nacelle, speedometer, cables, wires and all mounting hardware. All for an extra $50.
Still, Taminini notes, a kitted bikes main selling point was also its Achilles heel.
"The kits did nothing to upgrade the bikes performance or handling," he says. "It was purely cosmetic."
So potential buyers were still looking at a claimed 7.5 horsepower at 9,500 rpm, and the same top speed of about 59 mph.
Ultimately, the kits weren't enough, and the CM91 was discontinued after 1969, leaving the now-rare kitted bikes to be rediscovered among the collector set.