In a move to foster creativity, Honda encourages its associates to think outside the box. Perhaps no two machines embody this tribute to creativity more than two purpose-built racers created in the back rooms at American Honda: the 1984 RS750 flat-tracker and 1991 XR680RN Baja Monster.
By the mid-1980s, the name Honda was synonymous with winning almost every style of racing in the world. There was one type of American racing that eluded Honda, though: dirt track.
American Honda began development of a 750 based on an XLV750R dual-sport bike sold in Europe, a model powered by a liquid-cooled 52-degree SOHC 742cc V-twin. The RS750 racer was entirely hand-built around this engine, from its massive oil sump to its long intake runners and super-wide swingarm able to accommodate a fat Goodyear tire.
The result? The RS750 won its first race at the 1983 Du Quoin Mile. The following year, Honda RS750 riders Bubba Shobert and the late Ricky Graham won six races each, with the Grand National Championship going to Graham by a single point over Shobert. The next three years were all Bubba’s though, as he took the title in 1985, 1986 and 1987, making it four in a row for Honda and its RS750. Honda officially departed in 1988, but Graham went on to win one more title with the RS750 in 1993 as a privateer, bringing Honda’s total of GNCs to five. Honda’s persistence, creativity and technical know-how made the RS750 a winner from the very start.
1991 XR680RN Baja Monster
Since the first officially sanctioned Baja 1000 in 1967, Honda motorcycles have come to dominate this world-renown event with 16 consecutive motorcycle wins including the most recent victory in 2012, good for 23 total wins. In the 1990s, though, big-bore two-strokes ruled the day, and Honda met the challenge as it does with most: experimentation, to find new ideas for future four-stroke off-road bikes. The monstrously huge XR680RN you see here is the result of one of those fantastically creative experiments.
The late Bruce Ogilvie—long-time team coordinator for Honda’s Off-Road Team, two-time winner of the Baja 1000 and five-time victor in the Baja 500—explained a few years ago how this bike came into existence. “In 1991 we developed the bike nicknamed The Monster. We were looking for a way to gain a horsepower edge over the big two-strokes, so we took an XR600R and bored and stroked the engine to 680cc and put in a hotter cam. Boy, that thing ran hard! You really had to recalibrate your brain and change your riding style, because you would hit things so fast, so much sooner than you were used to.
“It was faster than all the two-strokes of the time, but we had pumped it up so much we were grossly exceeding the design limits of the entire bike. Durability became an issue. The 680 made so much horsepower it would just crack the center cases horizontally. Then we started exploding rear wheels, bending swingarms, stuff like that. It sure was fun to ride, though. It was incredibly fast. The Monster never finished a race, but we learned a lot.”