One of only 150 produced, only 40 survive, 1980 Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica
Limited edition or celebration models have long been established as a sound marketing technique for both cars and motorcycles, so when Phil Read won the Isle of Man’s inaugural Formula One TT on a works Honda in 1977, the stage was set for a special version of the Japanese manufacturer’s trend-setting superbike.
Honda Britain enlisted Colin Seeley, a legendary British racer, frame builder and manager of Formula 1’s Bernie Ecclestone, to transform standard CB750F2s into race replica motorcycles. There were supposed to be 400 built, but only 150 examples of the Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica were ever made. Such a low production number means this motorcycle is a rarity, and by some accounts, fewer than 40 are known to still exist.
Born in 1939 in Luton, Befordshire, Read started riding a 350cc Velocette KSS in 1955. Soon, the Velo was replaced by a BSA Gold Star and he began racing as an amateur in 1958. He proved to be quick, and on a 350cc Manx Norton in 1961 he won the Junior TT race on the Isle of Man.
In 1962 and 1963, Read raced Nortons, Gileras and Yamahas. While racing a 250cc 2-stroke Yamaha in 1964, Read managed to capture a world title for the manufacturer, the tuning-fork brand’s first, and he did the same in 1965, followed by the 125cc and 250cc championships in 1968. He was at his most prolific collecting trophies from 1965 to 1970, racing mainly Yamahas.
In the early 1970s, Read raced 4-stroke machines for MV Agusta and also piloted a Norton for the John Player & Sons team at Daytona in 1972. In 1977, Read was offered the ride aboard the race-prepped 820cc Honda CB750 during the first Formula 1 race at the Isle of Man, where he also raced a Suzuki and won the Senior event. He couldn’t repeat his performance for Honda in 1978, and his last competitive race was at the Isle of Man in 1982.
To produce the Phil Read Replica, Seeley removed the stock Honda headlight and signal lights, handlebar, gas tank, seat and rear seat cowl. In their place, a twin Cibie headlight fairing attached to the frame rails and a clubman-style bar went atop the fork. A 5-gallon hand-hammered alloy gas tank went on the frame, as did a set of Seeley’s rear set footrests, a new seat and rear cowl. The minimally baffled muffler with its distinctive upswept curve completes the package.
The Phil Read Replicas were painted red, white and blue, the same as the Honda Britain Racing Team, and were released in the spring of 1978. However, after building just 150 examples of the motorcycle, it’s reported Phil Read got into a disagreement with Honda Britain over royalties owed him and he pulled his support for the project. After that, in 1979, Honda asked Colin Seeley to use the remaining parts, including the gas tanks and fairings, to convert approximately 300 more CB750F2s. Finished in white with either a blue or a red stripe, they are devoid of any of the race graphics or Phil Read’s name and were simply called the Honda Britain.