1977 Honda RC500
The 1977 RC500 is with out a doubt Honda's most refined and successful open class bike of the 1970's. It is an updated version of the 1976 Type ll model. Jim Pomeroy won the first moto at the Carlsbad USGP and had a successful Trans-am series with this bike. I was at the 1977 Carlsbad USGP and I distinctly remember watching Pomeroy in practice. The sound that bike made as he went up the Carlsbad uphill was like no other. It was way faster than anything going up that long uphill. Marty Smith won the 1977 AMA 500cc National Championship with a bike exactly like this also. The frame was made more compact and the suspension travel was now increased to nearly a foot of travel at both ends. Throughout the 1977 season this bike received updates and was retired after the Trans-am series. Other than new paint and grips the bike is in original (including the tires) condition as it was last raced.
Jim Pomeroy was visiting during 9/11/2001 and posed with his works Honda in the backyard. This was the bike he won the 1st moto of the USGP at Carlsbad with in 1977. Godspeed Jim Lee.
1977 Honda RC500 Photos
Jim Pomeroy's comments:
The first time I raced this bike was at the 1977 USGP at Carlsbad and I won the first moto. The bike was so fast, it would pull anything. There was power everywhere, it used a lot of gas though. Later, Honda made special (camel hump) gas tanks by cutting the top of the tank off and welding an extra capacity top on. The bike gave me so much confidence in myself. It turned, the front end grabbed, it did everything right. It was very predictable. I used special Fox Shocks set up for different types of tracks. They worked much better than the Showa's at the time. I also raced this bike at the 500cc Canadian GP and I did the Trans-am series with this bike. Prior to this I did some testing in Japan when they were designing it. In 1976 and 1977, Honda worked real hard on these bikes. The bikes were really well developed. It was a lot of fun to ride. For sure this bike was the best Honda I ever rode.
Marty Smith's comments:
The 1977 RC500 Type ll was my favorite factory Honda of all time. The bike handled well, the front was perfect, the back was perfect. The first time I rode it, I felt good right away. I felt that I was the best rider in 1977, and with that bike, my confidence level was even higher. I was in great shape, my speed was there, I had the best bike, a great mechanic (Dave Arnold) and Honda was behind me. Everything just came together. We raced it pretty much as we got it. The bike was so good that it didn't need much development. My mechanic Dave Arnold, did little things for personal preference, but that was it. It was easily the fastest bike on the track. The motor was balanced well with the chassis. Our works Hondas always had good motors. The bike was also very reliable. When I was on the track, it was just one less thing to think about. The only DNF I had, was with the Type ll 250 at Red-Bud. The gear box broke while I was very much in contention to win the 250 National Championship. To me, this is by far the best works Honda ever.
Dave Arnold's comments:
Any shortcomings with the 76 bike were met with the 77 bike. Smitty just loved it. The suspension was updated along with the chassis. It was a very well balanced package. The power band was much more broad than before. It was easily the fastest bike, but easier to ride. Prior to this bike, we would have to jet them to make the power more manageable. This bike did everything right. The team that designed this bike was hitting on all eight cylinders. They really had their finger on the pulse with this one. For 1978 the design team rotated and a new team came in and designed probably the worst 500 bike. The 1978 RC500 was a real lemon. All the magical traits of the 1977 bike were lost. The power came on wrong, there was too much of it and it didn't balance with the chassis at all. The motor inertia would actually cause the bike to swap all over the place, kind of like a hinge. Marty hated it so bad he reverted back to his 1977 championship bike for much of the 1978 season. For 1979 the bikes got better again and then in 1980 HRC was born and there was now one company just to design and build championship bikes. And as they say, "The rest is history."
- The 1977 RC500 motor is nearly the same as the 1976 model. The updates include a different cylinder and head. The lower end is nearly the same. There are holes all the way thru the cylinder fins to access the cylinder mounting nuts. This identifies the Type ll motor. 1976 and 1977 were the only two years to use this type of motor. Note the head stay, this was designed to use the motor as a stress member, tying it into the chassis for extra rigidity. Also note the special stover nuts on the motor mounts.
- Engine case screws and kick start boss are titanium. Unlike the titanium motor mount bolts on the 76 model, these are machined steel. The pipe now takes on a more simple route.
- Increased cylinder head fining and radial design were aimed at curing the cooling problems that plagued the 76 bike. The ignition is slightly different for 77. The carburetor is the same magnesium one as 76. Notice how close the carb is to the back of the cylinder. Big time horsepower here.
- The rear hub is sand cast magnesium and only slightly changed from 1976. The wide 2.50 D.I.D. rim is retained. Note the massive Dunlop 500x18 rear tire. Swing arm construction is similar to the 76 bike but the dimensions are different to compensate for the frame changes. Note the flat aluminum stock that wraps around the inside of the swing arm. This made for a very stout rear end. Wheel spacers are titanium and now the chain adjusters take on a more conventional approach.
- Special hand made Fox Shocks, made just for this bike are over 18 inches in length. Rear brake is cable operated for a more progressive feel. The backing plate is sand cast magnesium with a titanium brake pivot. Note the spring mounted to the rear brake lever near the pivot. Details, Details. The rear sprocket is machined from billet and held with titanium allen bolts. The chain guide is made with aluminum plates and actually has an aluminum chain roller.
- The front hub is a very light weight sand cast magnesium unit, conical in design. The steel ring provides extra strength so the spokes don't loosen or pull through. Braking power was not compromised.
- Brake cable fittings are aluminum. Works Showa fork sliders are cast with the front axle threaded into the slider and a lock nut also applied. The entire front end is very light.
- The plastic inner fender and side panels are all translucent vacuum formed items that are painted red. Shock bolts are billet steel. The rear brake torque arm is tube steel attached to the frame and rear backing plate with heim joints.
- Under the seat is a special hand formed fiberglass air box with two air ducts. The rear has a plastic attachment that hooks over the frame. This was necessary because the air box wraps around the frame.
- With the tank and seat removed, you can see how compact and tight everything is. Especially when comparing it to the 76 model. The frame was actually designed after the Husqvarna frame. Honda never bragged about being a chassis builder at the time. Their forte was engine development. In that category they were with out a doubt the undisputed king.
- A very cleverly designed aluminum fender brace is fastened to the lower triple clamp and then pop riveted to the fender itself. This was only used for mud races.
- Trickness abounds. Everything on the bike has a purpose. There was no production 500 Honda to use parts from. Everything on this bike was designed and built just for this bike. Even the simple over fender is unique. The Gunnar Gasser aftermarket throttle assemblies ruled the day.