Honda had the audacity back in the 1970s to try what few had before, namely, fitting an automatic transmission to a motorcycle. Considered just an entry level commuter when new, the Hondamatic CB400A, as seen at the 2013 Heart of America Motorcycle Enthusiasts show and rally, is rare to find in nice condition today. The small, light bikes were advanced for their day, and were able to maintain freeway speeds while getting mileage in the 50 mpg range, and still being fun to ride.
Clymer Girl and the crew didn’t have to go far to attend the HoAME show and rally, as it was just up the road at the Kansas City Airline History Museum in the Downtown Airport. The show was packed with classic vintage and antique motorcycles representing the best of British, German, Japanese, Italian, and American manufacturers. Some of the brands on display were Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Harley-Davidson, Triumph, BSA, Norton, Indian, Cushman, Vespa, Laverda, Lambretta, Ducati, Matchless, Zundapp, Moto Guzzi, and more. There was everything from 100% perfect restorations, to well worn bikes daily riders, to full-on customized cafe racers, choppers, bobbers, dirt bikes, road racers – any type or style of motorcycle you could image. As part of the museum’s permanent exhibits, there were also vintage propeller driven passenger planes, including a Douglas DC-3, a Martin 404, and, the pride of their collection, a 1958 Lockheed Super Constellation.
The new for 1978 Honda 400cc parallel twins featured three valves per cylinder, and made more power than the CB360 and CB400 four they replaced. The bike itself was slightly smaller than normal, but perfect for pulling in new riders with its light weight, confidence inspiring seat height, and unintimidating power. Honda had built a CB750 with an automatic transmission in the past and found few buyers, but they tried once more with this new bike which seemed much better suited to novices. However, the world was still not ready for a motorcycle without a clutch, though the public snapped up thousands of other bikes equipped with variations of this 400cc and later 450cc motor.
You can read more about this line of Honda CB400 twin on Wikipedia.
If you have a Hondamatic, or the more common Honda Hawk CB400T, you’ll find everything you need to know about servicing it in the Clymer Honda 400-450cc Twins 1978-1987 manual. This book also covers the later CB450SC Nighthawk, and even the Honda Rebel CMX450.