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Born Ready – 1992 Honda NR750 – RC40

A peculiar bespoke-priced showpiece from the leading volume manufacturer, the Honda RC40 met at the crossroads of rule-bending engine development, enterprise-level manufacturing skill, and large-team design and engineering.  Rarely seen on RSBFS or elsewhere, this example has evidently been enjoyed in Ireland.

1992 Honda NR750 - RC40 ( Ireland ) for sale on eBay

The NR750's engine was a brainstorm response to Moto GP's limit of four cylinders.  Honda wanted more valve area and lower rotating masses, and the V4's oblong pistons ( roughly the shape of the carbon detail on the key ) were their strategy.  With connecting rods, fuel injectors, and four valves at each end of the pistons - RPM, horsepower, and complexity took quantum leaps.  The RC40 was a technical showboat elsewhere as well, with the alloy twin beam chassis, then-new upside-down forks, trick single sided swingarm, and 8-4-2 underseat exhaust.  The fairing is identifiably FireBlade, but surprisingly trim and fabricated chiefly of carbon fiber.

Next time you see an NR750 it will likely have fewer miles than this one, but in the photos ( evidently from a show ) indicate excellent condition.  At least this example has not been relegated solely to the display stand.  From the eBay auction :

Honda NR 750 13k Miles 21 Kms bike is in beautiful original condition. This bike is chassis number 60/200 built. Just had a full service complete with all fluids and a new battery. 

The bike does have a small mark on the screen but it can be polished out.  Comes complete with orignal NR key, Honda stand, Honda toolkit and manuals. I’m happy to send individual photos or video of the bike to any potential buyer. I’m based in Ireland but I do have a purpose built crate for the NR and I can ship it worldwide.

The development of the oval piston engine actually began with a 500 cc race engine, capable of 130 hp at 20,000 rpm.  Unfortunately neither engine conformed to KISS principles and were too expensive and long in development.  Still it's a smashing middleweight and 90's techno-barge, not unlike the Porsche 959 or Ducati's Desmosedici.  Destined like them for the dimly-lit exhibit, and the auction house...

-donn

45 Comments

  • Hard to get excited about these. Not a lot of HP (I heard the fly in the oval piston ointment is getting the piston rings to seal correctly), heavy, and didn’t impress/succeed in racing. I know it’s a ‘technological tour de force’ and all that, but if it didn’t end up as a better motorcycle than an RC30, well… Or maybe it’s just the coolest sport-touring bike ever made? Where’s the hard bags? 😀

  • Oh and Donn, not sure on the “Born Ready” title – the joke back in the day was that NR stood for “Never Ready”, due to the long development time and ultimately underwhelming final street product!

  • ^ what he said ^. Porky and no significant hp gain in stock trim–and nobody mods them other than HRC. Would like to see a video of it running to confirm it doesn’t blow oil like the others I’ve seen. Good for a collector with crazy money to round out a Honda collection.

  • I’ll take a yzr500 instead

  • yup Billy, didn’t want to start the post with Never Ready, but I did want to reference the story. I think it mostly refers to the 500cc GP bikes which spent a few years in development and just an occasional start before Honda finally re-joined the two-stroke formation… 🙂

  • You guys are all smoking crack and just speaking absolute ridiculousness. Hating on a NR750 shows the ineptitude you all have in regards to what this bike represents.

  • Come on! Less negativity! I am very proud and happy with mine. Totally and utterly reliable in contrast to my RC30 and Desmo. Starts everytime and only issues i had in 12 years was a corroded terminal in the fuse box and a gummed up front brake master cylinder. When you think of the mechanical and electronic innovation, it is all the more remarkable that it all works… It has ample power for everyday ( I have seen 264 km/h on the digital speedo which is way faster than I want to ride these days) and it very comfortable. To biking and non biking types alike, it always draws attention and defies its 27 years. That R-175 NR red makes a Ferrari look dull and a Superleggera cheap.It looks like new! Need to see one for real to appreciate. It is controversial and my similar vintage 900RR is my choice for commuting or riding with the mrs ( no dual seat on NR) but you can’t beat an NR as a road going collection cetrepiece imho

    • Trust me, most everyone [including me] reading this would jump at the chance to take a spin on one, so thanks for chiming in! After all, you have to be the only guy in the comments section who can actually speak from personal experience about this bike, and it’s very interesting to hear that the cliches about Honda’s engineering excellence hold true here. Don’t take my reply to RC45’s comment the wrong way: I love all kinds of bikes and cars that were far more flawed, and apparently much less reliable, than the NR750.

  • Truth’s reply is absolutely correct. To understand this machine it’s engineering and build. It is truly amazing.

  • Truth & Paul, I agree it would likely make a great soft-sport road bike (never ridden one so only commenting based on specs/reviews). So does a CBR1000F… And I agree the engineering that went into it is immense. But to what end? It was never a successful racer, and the ONLY reason to do oval pistons is to fit the valve area of an 8 into the 4 that the RACING rules allowed. The technology was born purely from a desire to produce a superior RACE bike, and that never materialized – the oval-piston bikes never met the challenge of dethroning the GP 2 strokes and even in endurance racing they didn’t separate themselves from the pack.

    Truth – you say: “…in regards to what this bike represents.” What does it represent to you? To me it represents a novel but failed engineering exercise in the oval pistons. What else about this bike is so technologically advanced?
    Aluminum twin spar frame – yeah, cool, looks a lot like my old 86 VFR750…
    Good suspension – yawn on a $50k machine
    Titanuim coated windscreen! – wow, cool, but… why?
    Carbon fairings!!! – yes, that’s a big deal on a production bike in 1992 (and even now), but hardly cutting edge tech

    And I’m not a Honda hater – I love my RC30 – its a crap road bike but it does great at what it was designed for – the track. If Honda had set out to build a great sport-tourer with the NR, well then, success! Great road/track bike? Nah.

  • Billy when a manufacturer sets off to build only 200 of anything their intentions aren’t to build the best road racer or road going bike on the planet. So let me ask you this. Who else did what Honda did with a bike like this? Oh, that’s right NOBODY. Yes it was a engineering exercise along with for the era and time one hell of a styling exercise as well.

  • Honda wanted to build 1000 of these but the orders dried up after 322 were built. Don’t take my word for it, take Alan Cathcart’s: https://riders.drivemag.com/features/honda-nr750-rc40-test-unaffordable-excellence

    “Who else did what Honda did with a bike like this?” What does that question even mean? Who else lost as much money on oval pistons as Honda? You’re right – NOBODY.

    I agree the styling is spot on – love the looks.

  • Clearly this model is polarizing from the previous comments. Setting that aside, here’s the thing that bothers me. When you’re offering for sale a high-end, high-priced bike, it really makes sense to take a LOT of detailed pics at various distances and angles of the bike. These 10 pics are merely average at best. And the description is minimal about this specific bike. Poor ad overall and would expect a poor response.

  • I kind of agree with many of you, that it’s kind of difficult to see the point of NR750. Having said that though, it’s so bloody fascinating. I’ve never seen one in person, but I knew two guys who worked on the development of NR750. Just the bits of stories that I heard about the testing and all the teething problems that they went through, just the fact that it works and works well is magic to me, they made it work! Let’s not knock it, also, on the basis that NR750 really changed what the sports bikes would look in the future. The pure nerdiness of this bike is hard to beat. Can’t say I’d desire it over something like RC30, but man, this machine is packed with engineers’ wet dreams.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with this comment.

  • Like the RC213V-S, anyone that hates on the NR750 RC40 street bike just does not and never will”‘get it” – period.

    The race NR750 delivered in spades and was pretty much unstoppable.

    Both these bikes accomplished exactly what they set out to do – deliver the cutting edge no-expenses spared Honda/HRC R&D to the street with a warranty and title.

    • As a technological tour de force, it works in typical Honda form. But I don’t think the looks have aged very well and the oval pistons were simply a way to exploit a rules loophole. RC45, you say the race version was “unstoppable”? The oval-piston racers? I’d never heard that, and either the rules loophole got closed or Honda agreed that it was a dead-end because they went to a two-stroke after a couple unsuccessful seasons, at least in Grand Prix racing. I guess you mean the endurance racer specifically, because it sounds like Honda finally got the bike to work in that context. But it ran how many races? Two. One DNF, and one where it was actually very fast. So, “unstoppable” for one race?

      Yay? I’d argue that Honda was throwing tons of money at a dead-end solution just because they could, or to save face after years of failure, not because it was actually a good or useful idea. I mean, after they won one race with it, they retired the entire oval-piston concept, aside from the very limited production bike seen here, right?

      The roadgoing NR750 was outrageously expensive and exotic at the time and Honda’s oval-piston bikes make for a fascinating story, but the bike was a technological footnote, a developmental dead end. It’s a cool bike, but saying that those of us who aren’t huge fans “don’t get it” is a convenient and very lazy way to dismiss legitimate criticisms.

  • mods working overtime to keep up with the edits, let’s try to keep the discussion on the bike, thanks…

  • Well that escalated quickly, cool bike!

  • I think Honda did the right thing with one exception. All that effort and learning should have been memorialized.

    With everything Honda went throught a learned, i think it would have been more fitting, and a laugh riot, if they had instead released the following:

    As the sheet lifts off the production nr750 at the 1992 unveiling, the world casts eyes on the worlds first oval piston, 750cc “result of a decade’s perfection”. With a big-bang 2 stroke engine!

    Sold for road use only in Malasia.

    What a statement!

  • The NR RVF750 was a success. It was fast and did exactly what it set out to do.Win races within the letter of the rules.
    If the oval piston was such a bad idea, Ducati would never had got the FIM to ban the layout as quickly as they did once it proved to be so fast. Honda had no choice but to stop development, the FIM did not want Ducati to lose.
    I stand by my opinion that those who don’t get it, never will.

    • Like I said: lazy. I fully understand what this bike is about. Not liking something doesn’t mean you don’t understand it. I’m not a huge fan of the road bike’s styling, although I love the sheer self-indulgent audacity of the mechanical components. But back to your NR750 racebike: seriously, “It did exactly what it set out to do. Win races within the letter of the rules”? Sorry, but don’t you mean “win race”? The endurance racing NR750 won one race. Sure, it was “unstoppable.” For one. Single. Race. And after finally winning ONE race with it, Honda put the entire oval-piston concept to bed, aside from this extremely limited production roadbike. But yeah, it’s all Ducati’s fault they retired the thing…

  • Hi guys I’m the one who owns the NR750 here in Ireland. Really happy to read all the comments (good and bad)
    In my opinion the bike is fairly amazing to ride and I use it from time to time. Probably attracts too much attention when you take it out, I usually find myself loookg to hide it so I don’t have to deal with attention and then I think people should see these bikes so I answer alll the questions and start it as many to times as requested. Excellent build quality, fit and finish is the best I’ve seen. Anyone who would like a video of the bike running, send me a message and I’ll happily send a video or a link. Sorry for the poor ad I’m just a mere mortal who loves riding and collecting bikes, editorial and photography not my strongest points. Thanks again to everyone who commented.

    • Thanks for joining the comments here on RSBFS, Steve. Good luck with the sale!

      dc

    • Hey Steve! Thanks for being a good sport about all the comments. It’s a damn cool bike!

  • This is my video of the NR 750 running sorry for poor video quality: https://youtu.be/-PDXr9acbTY

  • If you can’t appreciate a Honda NR then I don’t know what to tell you.

  • Amazing bike Steve and the fact that you put miles on it, That’s even better! I had A deal locked down on one earlier this year but just couldn’t write the check. Just kept thinking I’d never be able to ride it as where could I ever get motor parts or bodywork If something happened? Anyway, definitely an Iconic Bike! Best of luck with the sale!

  • The NR750 did exactly what it was supposed to do. No amount of bellyaching is going to alter history.

    In 1987 it did what is was supposed to do as a race bike and in 1992 it did what is was supposed to as a road bike.

    The rest of the industry feared the oval piston enough that it was summarily banned from all forms of competition.

  • I just bought one here in Japan. Under 5000km. I also have a Harley Night Rod Special and a S1000RR so the NR isn’t for speed. It’s too fulfil the dream. I reckon it’s a Japanese bubble economy fuelled middle finger to the world. Mine runs like a top and sounds amazing though I’ll never ride it with deep intent. It was at the top of my dream list and I had a chance and took it. I don’t expect everyone to love it and didn’t buy it for them anyway. All for me.

    Keep your RC30, D16RR, OWO2, RGs and others in good shape please. They’re on the list too! Love them all for your own reasons.

  • It’s a beautiful machine, but 76hp (77PS, 58kW)? http://www.vsource.org/VFR-RVF_files/Brochures/NR750-JP1992-4a.jpg

    What was Honda thinking? European models had about 130hp, but this isn’t one of those, unfortunately. I think you might notice a 50hp deficit, even for a garage queen. I’d still love to have one, but every time I think about the factory strangulation of the J-spec NRs it makes me cry…

    Vin

  • Interesting comments. I appreciate the bike for what it was and what it is, an engineering marvel. A V8 in the guise of a V4. Hard to deny the ingenuity of the concept.

  • I don’t get al the pissing, moaning and picking of nits. The NR750 is unbelievably cool and drop dead gorgeous. I’d love to have one.

  • Turin it’s because the nit pickers have way cooler bikes in their garages I’m sure.

  • This bike is awesome. I remember reading about them when they were new. It’s the kind of bike that takes me back to being a kid and reading about all the crazy parts you couldn’t get on our bikes at the time. I always thought these bike looked big what bike would they compare to size wise?

  • It’s as if I’d just slapped your grandma, given the way people get so worked up about anyone saying anything negative about this bike. Yes, techno-marvel, and if that’s your thing, then by all means, this is a Holy Grail bike and should go right next to your GTS1000, BMW K1 and Nortan rotary. To me though, if the technology doesn’t result in a better performing motorcycle, then I’ll admit, I don’t get it. If you just like quirky engineering, great, buy what you like and be happy, but don’t insist that those of us who care more about performance than novelty are bellyachers and nit pickers.

    Oval pistons, yes, great idea to get around limits on the number of cylinders. Yes, if FIM/etc hadn’t added the “pistons have to be round” rule the oval Hondas would have won a bunch of races, and no one else could have made one because Honda wisely patented the idea. But that’s not how it went, and no amount of “you just don’t get it” will change the fact that these were failures as race bikes and the technology never got adopted on any other street bike, so it must not make a heck of a lot of sense for the street, or every Honda would be sporting oblong slugs and they’d own the sportbike market.

    Yes overall way cool bike. Yes I’d like to have one. No I’m not going to pay $70k for the novelty of oval pistons on an otherwise unremarkable machine, performance-wise, even compared to it’s contemporary counterparts. An RC30 was $15k, the NR was $50k. RC30 will wax an NR around any track and was 5 years old when the NR hit the street, hum-drum plain old round pistons and all.

  • If your only measure of a motorcycle’s significance is it’s success or potential on the track, then you truly don’t understand. You should be able to take one look at an NR750 and tell that it wasn’t built as an all out performance weapon. Yes, the original NR500 racebike didn’t succeed on the track but Honda had to actually build it to find out, right? As a measure of engineering, in my book, it was a total success.

  • @Honda434

    Its a surprisingly wide bike (many have damage or scuffs on the rear right where riders boots impacted unaware of the width).

    Its also very low. At 186cm/6’1″ or so I cant see the speedometer unless duck down. Ergonomically seems made for a smaller person though not uncomfortable for my size.

    It looks diminutive next to S1000RR. After riding NR the BMW feels like an adventure bike. 🙂 Albeit a much more powerful and noisy one!

    Regarding power output it would’ve been disappointing then and can be quite easily upgraded but not about to fuss with it now.

  • Wow, much proudly ignorant passions being flushed to the surface. The “I DON’T AND WON’T GETTITS” are strong on this one.

    I thought this site was supposedly about RARE Sport bikes for sale. Lets see, the largest MC mfr in the world makes 322 examples. Rare? Check. It’s definitely a bike (I’m sure some fool will want to come along and argue differently- “just ‘cuz”), and you’d also have to say its intent is sporting. What? Not making more power than your turbo Busa? Pure crap then, ‘eh? No extra space for it then in your rooms full of WSBK and GP trophies. Then you’ll just have to lump in the Ducati 916 right alongside this one too. 106 hp, pure crap again… If you don’t get the NR fine, Ducati certainly spent the next several years thinking all about it for you so you don’t have to.

    Undertail exhaust. Yup. Single sided swinger. Yup. Full carbon, hand laid bodywork? Right outta the box, no SPO/SPS/R/RR needed, just included stock. Twin cat eye headlamps with big intakes underneath? Ok- not intakes exactly- but as its 2018 now Yamaha, seems to think it a great place for their M1 beams, so still influential to this day. Check. Oh yeah, and this was 1992. Ducati could be scolded for cribbing far more than what’s polite from the NR. Check.

    For those out there who are somehow unaware and don’t know, Honda is an Engineering Company. They do shit like this just for fun. Things like in the late 80’s a fully functional remote controlled car smaller than a grain of rice. Why? Its called nanotechnology now and very soon doctors will be injecting little bulldozers and dump trucks into fat asses to hog out the arterial buildup, etc, without the need of invasive surgery.

    Titanium coated windscreen, WHY? Hmmm, dunno, but I do like my TIN coated fork sliders. So it just may be possible that they were learning how to do that process on an industrial scale for future applications. Not to mention, this is ’92 so unless you were in the military or on an F1 team, that is about as close to Ti as any mortals got. The expense was ridiculous and even the US gov’t was buying Ti from the USSR where the bulk of production was back then. Same with carbon fiber; the stupid triple clamp and gauge cover set was bout $120, now you can get them for practically nothing all day.

    Then to follow up with the NR, Honda unleashed the 900RR which kicked every other bike in the world at that point in the teeth. Honda perfected mass reduction and coupled it with mass centralization, all rolling with a 16in front wheel. To get that to work they tried 7 different wheel and tire sets, 11 fork and triple setups, and 7 frames, all because they could and wanted to keep up with Baba’s design directives of lightest weight possible and agility. The easy and obvious fix was to put on a 17″ or a set of Kosman type triples with adjustable offset. But again, Honda is an engineering company and they made it work. Even sold one or two of them too…

    Anyway, go right ahead and have an opinion, but to disagree with those who disagree here isn’t “Lazy” but rather taking into account the facts on the ground here. Some of the stuff posted up is just a lot more than a Tad silly. The NR is indeed a “Rare Sportbike”, it appears to be in fact for sale, and that is what this site is supposed to offer up.

    Whoever is lucky and wealthy enough to ride one of these to a bike night or WSBK race weekend can be sure he’s the only cat in town that has got oval shaped piston rings that brought him there. Rare enough for you then?

    • So Necron99, I think they call that a “straw man argument,” since absolutely no one here actually suggested the NR750 wasn’t rare, or a sportbike, or… most of what you said. I sure didn’t, and this seems directed at me. Personally, I just think the NR750 kind of dated-looking, but I’ve admitted on multiple occasions I have weird aesthetic taste, and maybe I’ll change my mind if and when I see one in person. Most of what I wrote was actually about the endurance racing NR750, not the road bike from the post. Did you miss that part? And I’m still waiting to hear about the “facts on the ground” you guys keep referencing, regarding the oval-pistoned bike’s performance. The Grand Prix bike was an abject failure and the endurance racer won a single race. It’s cool that people love this bike, and it’s cool that Honda built it “just because.” I love that stuff, and no one disputes that it’s an impressive display of engineering. But what I think is most interesting is that the two actual NR750 owners who commented here didn’t seem to care at all that not everyone adores this bike.

      Also: clever screen name. I also have seen Ralph Bakshi’s “Wizards.”

  • Well said!!

  • Not that I’m talking down the NR so that I can afford to buy one someday or anything…but since we have all of the world’s NR experts/fanbois assembled here, what part of Honda’s awesome engineering vision required them to give it less power than a 1987 CBR600FH?

    Vin

  • i see it is no longer on ebay, does anybody know what it went for?

  • Tad, the “facts on the ground” are clear here – it has oval pistons, and it runs! Thou shalt not need anything more than this to declare a race bike or a sport bike an absolute success. How dare anyone suggest things like racing success, horsepower, cornering clearance, weight and for sure cost should account for ANYTHING when having an opinion about a sport bike. And excel this one did! Racing isn’t about winning – everyone knows that. Its about which manufacturer has the most money to throw at engineering exercises. Honda doesn’t care if Marquez wins races – no, what they care about is outspending the other MFGs. The fact that he wins without oval pistons disgusts the Honda brass every weekend. Plus they are still reeling from the total failure that was the CBR900 – sure it was lighter and faster and better in most sporting ways than anything before it, but it was clearly a failure due to the fact that it had round pistons, no ti on its windscreen and they sold way too many of the dang things that they actually turned a profit. Who wants something like that? Paupers and the rest of the ignorant unwashed masses, that’s who! Let them buy those bikes, and actually ride them, and actually win races and actually go round corners and down straightaways fast – those fools have no idea what they’re missing with oval pistons. Nay, when they show up in Winner’s circle or at bike night with their commonplace round pistons they must kneel before those who eventually arrived on the proper flying carpets equipped with the superior technology of ovals.

    I hear Honda is looking to follow up the home run that is the NR with their greatest engineering feat yet. This is hush hush stuff, don’t let the cat out of the bag here: OVAL WHEELS!!! YES!!! Honda does this stuff just because they can, and that makes it right and good and divine! It will require active suspension to make the bike anywhere near rideable, thousands of hours of R&D but damn the torpedoes men, all hands on deck to deliver the pinnacle of Honda’s engineering might! To be considered a total success it must undeniably lay the following facts onto the ground: it must NOT be successful in making a bike go round a racetrack any faster than round wheels; it must NOT translate to better performance for lowly streetbikes; it must NOT exceed 70% of the power of or weigh less than 100lb more than a similar competitor’s machine (for if it did, people might compare this new technology with that of commonplace existing low tech and we certainly can’t have that); and finally and most importantly, it MUST NOT produce a profit! Honda are bringing Rube Goldberg back from the dead to lead up the project.

    If its considered a failure by anyone, we’ll still declare victory regardless of the ‘facts’, and if that all still doesn’t convince the nay-sayers, we’ll just blame Ducati…

    Seriously though – hats off to the actual NR owners who chimed in here – you have very cool, obviously desirable bikes, and you aren’t regurgitating the cheerleading and hype that surrounds them. I’m glad these bikes exist and glad you actually ride and enjoy them. I do think they are damn sexy bikes.

  • A pretty civilized and amusing comment thread, but it feels like the discussion part has concluded. Hopefully the bike has found a new home.

    dc

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