1965-1968 Honda CL77 Scrambler 305 | Retro Review

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
1967 Honda CL77 Scrambler 305. Owner: John Lundberg, Santa Margarita, California.

Here we have the last of Honda’s 305 models, which began with the dry-sump CA76 in 1959, moving on to the wet-sump CA77 Dream in 1960, then the CB77 Super Hawk in ’61, and finally, the model we are dealing with here, the CL77 Scrambler. Nobody seems to know where the 77 came from.

Curiously, Honda’s 250 version of the Scrambler, the CL72, had come out in 1962, and why Honda waited three years to scramblize the 305 has never really been explained. Again, leaving us to wonder. Though it may have had something to do with Yamaha’s 305cc Big Bear Scrambler, which appeared in 1965.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The CL77’s off-road capability was limited, with less than 4 inches of suspension travel.

Scrambler styling, with those upswept exhaust pipes, was the desirable look in the ’60s—not that such bikes were much good in serious competition. Stripped down two-strokes were the hot item for anyone hoping to get the checkered flag. What the CL77 had was a great engine, a reasonably sporty chassis—by 1965 standards—and a rather high price, $720, about $5,500 in today’s dollars, which does not look terribly good when compared with today’s CB300F at $4,149.

The motor was a very decent piece of work, the aluminum crankcase split horizontally so the oil contained had no way to leak. When Honda had originally developed the motor in the ’50s, the C75 being on the Japanese market in 1956, it had a dry sump, the oil in its own container, like the English bikes. But that soon changed to the wet-sump concept, requiring less plumbing—always a good idea.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The dash was simple: speed and odometer.

The CL powerplant was very similar to the CB’s. The parallel twin’s 180-degree crankshaft had four bearings, a ball on the left end and three rollers, with needle bearings on the connecting rods. Keep them all lubricated and that crank could happily go 100,000 miles. The cylinder barrels were alloy, using cast iron liners and alloy heads, with two valves per cylinder. None of this pushrod nonsense, as a single overhead camshaft powered by a chain running between the two cylinders did all the work. With an externally adjustable tensioner. A pair of 26mm Keihin carbs, with excellent air cleaners, put the gas in the combustion chambers, to be compressed 9.5 times. Sparks were provided by an ignition system that employed an automatic advance mechanism, coming to full advance at some 3,300 rpm. Spin that baby to 9,000 rpm, and the better part of 28 horsepower could be found at the end of the crankshaft. A single-row primary chain ran the horses to a wet clutch, then through four gears, the main shaft running on pressure-fed ball bearings, and out on the right side to a final chain drive.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The CL77 had a great engine, a sporty chassis…and a high price.

The CL frame was quite different from the CB’s. Since the Super Hawk was not expected to go bouncing over rocks and logs it had a tubular backbone frame running from steering head to swingarm pivot, with the engine actually suspended, having a short pair of arms connecting the cylinder heads with the frame. Honda techs, figuring the Scrambler might well get quite a number of hard knocks, created a loop frame, with a single front downtube splitting in two so as to cradle the engine and provide a place for a good skid plate. And also wiping out the electric starter, which had been just in front of the CB’s cylinders, but had to be removed to allow for the downtube. No worries, as it was an easy kick-starter—if the rider used the proper amount of choke.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
It was the 1960s, which meant one thing: chrome!

The Scrambler had a curb weight of 337 pounds and a wheelbase of 52.4 inches. Suspension was average, with a booted telescopic fork at the front, preload-adjustable shock absorbers at the back. Travel was not even 4 inches, so the bounceability was limited. The wheels were 19 inchers, shod with what was then called “universal” tires, which were far happier on the road than struggling in loose terrain. Early models had a small drum brake with a double leading shoe on the front wheel, and equally small single leading shoe on the back. The brakes worked OK, but without the force of the Super Hawk’s, as the engineers seemed a mite concerned with a rider applying a bit too much pressure while on a dirt surface. They were enlarged on the later models.

A long, flat saddle was comfortable when riding two-up, with a speedometer in the headlight nacelle, and the handlebar high and wide. The 40-tooth sprocket on the rear wheel meant high speed touring was certainly not this model’s forte. The silver-paint gas tank held a little less than 3 gallons, with knee grips; the side covers were color matched. Ivory-painted or chromed fenders showed off the painted frame, the latter in black, blue or red. The early version had a long, skinny, high-up dual-straight-pipe exhaust running out the left side, which could make a hellacious noise; soon the system had a small muffler at the far end.

One magazine called the CL77 a “gentleman’s scrambler,” and a gentleman should not be found wallowing in deep mud or struggling in a sandy stretch. Leave the genuinely rough stuff to the ungentlemanly types. This is not to denigrate the bike, which was built not to win races but to appeal both to the sporting types and to those who might be interested in some minor off-pavement excursions. And it worked, selling quite well in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

But after the better part of 10 years with the 305, Honda thought it necessary to move on…with the even better 350 model.


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