Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Golden Age Bikes
1) Suzuki RE-5 - I will definitely agree that the Wankel engine in this Suzie was way ahead of its time and it's a technology that should have gone on to constitute a large percentage of the internal combustion engines installed today. Having said that, it is hard to imagine how Suzuki could have wrapped all that innovative engineering into a styling package more hideous than the RE-5. No, that's not a coffee thermos strapped to the top of the headlight, it's an instrument cluster. And no, that's not a rubber coaster at the leading edge of the sidecover, it's part of the most hodgepodged engine ever to come out of Japan. It's a rotary. It's round. We get it, Suzuki. Too bad you had to hit riders over the head with the visual allegory and ended up creating one of the ugliest motorcycles of all time!
2) Suzuki Katana - A one-two punch for Suzuki in the Golden Age Ugly Contest, as the Katana crammed a stereotypical Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) powerplant into a strangely (for the age) girdered frame, bizarre two-tone saddle, equally strange front fender, randomly slotted side cover thingy that ended short of the actual side, and a mini fairing shroud jumble that featured a repulsive rectangular headlight playing hide and seek from within the swoop, like the headlights from a Triumph TR-7 but, if possible, even uglier. The Suzuki stylists should have used a Katana for seppuku.
3) Yamaha Vision - I am old enough that I was at the motorcycle show when Yamaha premiered their first V-twin, the Vision. They were massively excited about it, but it seemed that the public was either completely confused, or completely put off by this weird uglibike. Everything about this bike was misshapen, from the rectangular headlight, to the absurd crescent bottom of the fuel tank, to the straight line between rear cylinder head and taillight. The Vision sank beneath the waves never to be seen again, although the engine ended up powering the mid-range Viragos for more than two decades.
4) Honda CX Turbo - When the infamous air compressor transverse V-twin got mated with a turbocharger, Honda decided to celebrate by sticking knitting needles in the eyes of riders everywhere. From the front of its weirdly gold anodized ickywheels to the back of its misshapen tailpiece, the CX Turbo is beyond ghastly. It might have worked a bit better if they hadn't decided to use as many colors of paint and extend the rear edge of the fairing cowling to cover that gross flathead engine head, but there is no excuse for that saddle wraparound on the tank which itself slopes up in a hunchback pose. And could someone explain to me why it was necessary to write Turbo on the sidecover and repeat TURBO on the muffler? It's a TURBOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo!
5) Norton Rotary - Another Wankel "rounds" out the Top 5, but where the styling of the Suzuki RE-5 played on the circular, Norton chose to emulate the perfectly forgettable Aermacchi Harley Davidson Sprint models with their bulky and unwieldly horizontal single cylinder engines. Although the innards of the Norton Rotary were quite different from reciprocating pistons, the outside was eminently repulsive (perhaps even more so than the A-H-D Sprints), and fortunately for history precious few of these motorcycles were ever sold.
6) Kawasaki KZ 1300 - Did the Kawasaki stylists do anything right on this bike? Er... no. Let's start with the magnificent 1.3 litre transverse six cylinder. While Honda showed the world how to drop jaws with their superlative CBX six and its waterfall cascade of headers, Kawi smushed the whole front of the engine together, covered it with a huge radiator, and stripped the finning from the cylinder walls so that it looked like a single billet of gray ship metal. Although the Kawi Six wasn't the only bike of the age with hideous rectangular instruments and headlight, it does win the Golden Age prize for the single ugliest, flabbiest tank which must have been modeled after the view of a 500 lb. rider from the rear.
7) Suzuki GT 750 - Now I know why they called it the Water Buffalo, it wasn't because it was liquid cooled, but because it's uglier than a muddy Yak! First of all, Suzuki, lipstick pink is not a motorcycle color, and whoever told you that black tips on mufflers was cool deserves to be booted out the nearest skyscraper window. Besides, if the pinstriping wasn't bad enough, and the finless lumpy cylinders didn't finish you off, you can gaze lovingly at the sidecovers with their multiple slotted compound curves until you decide to put your foot through your computer screen.
8) Honda CB 400 F - I got a lot of heat for including this bike on the original Top 10 Ugliest List, but it hasn't changed my mind on it. Coming hard on the heels of the CB 350 F which is arguably the most beautiful design that Honda ever produced next to the CBX Six, this bike is a complete mess. The first thing that hits you between the eyes is that "I just slid along a siderail" four into one header. When you add the tank that looks like it just came off a CB 200 (minus the vinyl center strip) and a slabby saddle which is riveted into place, you see why this is a violation of the beauty, spirit and essence of the magnificent CB 350 F!
9) Benelli Tornado - During the Golden Age, Benelli truly embraced the "Don't Innovate, Duplicate" philosophy and cranked out a large number of xeroxes of Japanese motorcycles. The Benelli Sei, although not as staggering as the CBX Six, certainly is memorable for its three soaring stacked mufflers per side, a touch the CBX should have originated. But most of Benelli's clones suffered in comparison with the originals as does the Tornado next to the Yamaha XS 650 it ripped off, right down to the paint colors. Too bad that the tank scheme fails in every respect, the side covers are way too big and formless, and those pail-like cylinders look like they belong on a bike in the Forties. To see the extent of the rip, put a photo of the XS 650 next to this and see how many features are precise duplicates! I'm surprised they didn't get sued!
10) BSA Starfire - The BSA Rocket 3 has secured its rightful place in the Top 10 Ugliest List, but we couldn't forget Beezer's little single scrambler, the Starfire, could we? Scrambler styling can work! Look at the Triumph or even Sportster (concept) versions! But this pumpkin orange mini-thumper with its refrigerator grille cover on a spindly uncircumcised pipe, its bizarrely misshapen tank, and side covers that look like they were scooped out of a vat of fiberglass with a cupped hand, is nothing more than an embarrassment to the marque!
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