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Cutting Edge: 1985 Rothmans Honda NS400R for Sale

Not too long ago, all kinds of weird and wonderful sportbikes from the mid-1980s were available for reasonable sums. Until recently, they weren’t really old enough to be considered classics in terms of styling, and they weren’t even close to modern machines in terms of outright performance or handling. It probably didn’t help much that they’re just plain weird to modern sensibilities: consider Honda’s NS400R, with its two-stroke V3, anti-dive forks, odd middle-of-the-road displacement, and the slightly awkward, upright styling common to bikes of the era.

The 80s saw the Japanese brands finally come into their own and race and showroom success, combined with a strong economy, saw experimentation across the industry. Not all of it worked, of course, but that’s beside the point. The bodywork of the NS400R seen here hid a liquid-cooled, 90° two-stroke V3 engine meant to evoke Honda’s Grand Prix racing machines that used a similar configuration. The bike featured a six-speed gearbox, Honda’s ATAC powervalve system, electronic ignition, TRAC anti-dive forks, a Pro-Link rear suspension, Comstar wheels, and radial tires that were considered very cutting-edge at the time.

Weight was very light, at just a shade over 400lbs wet and the bike’s claimed 72hp means performance is a match for the RG and RZ, in spite of the NS400R displacing just 387cc. Why the smaller displacement, when an NS500R would have made for a more authentic Grand Prix experience? Well, regulations in the bike’s home market meant significantly increased costs for 500cc machines: Suzuki actually sold an RG400 for Japanese two-stroke fans, and Yamaha detuned their RZ500 to meet power restrictions. Faced with the prospect of a detuned 500 or the need to sell two different models, Honda simply created one, very refined machine with their NS400R, but the perceived performance deficit hurt sales.

It’s a shame: handling was superlative and the bike is often mentioned as a forgotten gem of the era. Of course, prices for bikes like the Suzuki RG500Γ have been rising rapidly over the past few years, dragging Yamaha RZ500 prices along with it, and the NS400R has been sucked into their wake. Two strokes are long dead and gone, and fans of smoky, lightweight sportbikes have been snapping them up quickly, especially really nice, low-mileage examples like this one.

From the original eBay listing: 1985 Rothmans Honda NS400R for Sale

Very nice condition. Runs great. 1509 original miles [2429 kilometers]

This is not 100% OEM. The two main items that are not OEM include the:

  1. Bodywork: brand new aftermarket bodywork (OEM bodywork included)
  2. Brand new Jim Lomas expansion chambers (OEM exhaust included).

Carbs ultrasonically cleaned, rebuilt and jetted. Also synced with Motion Pro carb balancer.

When fitting the Lomas chambers I pulled the cylinders to inspect them. No issues and still see cross-hatching in the Nikasil.

  • New base and head gaskets and ATAC gaskets.
  • New clutch (metal and friction plates)
  • New chain/sprockets 
  • New air filter
  • Fresh antifreeze
  • New spark plugs
  • New rubber boots from air box to carbs
  • Rebuilt fuel petcock
  • New regulator rectifier
  • Tires are in great shape

Everything works like it should. No leaks at all.

I’d be curious about the condition of the original bodywork, if it’s not the stuff in the picture shown off the bike. If it was an original Rothmans, why the replica bodywork? I’m not implying anything shady on the part of the customer. Honestly, I’ve said forever that if I got something weird or rare, I’d personally source aftermarket panels and paint them up, then store the originals safely away, but it’s not clear that this is what the seller has done. Either way, it looks damn nice, and the seller helpfully includes a recent video of the bike. And, while the NS400R was sort of languishing, forgotten and a bit unloved compared to the Gammas and RZs for a while there, prices have begun to move steadily upward, and the seller is asking a $7,700 Buy It Now price for this one.

-tad

7 Comments

  • The RC30 mirrors are a nice touch and apropos!

  • Those black mirrors are stock for a Rothman’S NS400R. The HRC version has the same mirrors in red.

    Looking at the stock pipes and silencers you can see the bike has been down hard at speed on the right side. Both right side silencers are damaged. Perhaps that would also explain the awful eBay Chinese bar ends. The stock items may have been damaged in the incident that damaged the right side exhaust. The bodywork shown not on the bike is the stock bodywork. The decals are different than the Chinese plastic on the bike now. In typical eBay fashion we don’t get to see the right side of the front stock bodywork. Perhaps was damaged in the right side incident? You’d need to verify that the mirrors are genuine Honda and not reproductions. Genuine Honda mirrors are unobtanium. The black reproductions can be had for 60 Pounds at Classic Race Replicas.

    Just my opinions here as an owner and 2 stroke restorer and collector. The seller says the cylinders are still perfect, as they should be at only 2429 km, but the description seems awkward for what is supposed to be an ultra low kilometrage bike. You pulled the cylinders to inspect them on a 2429 km bike? With the pipes off and plugs out you can typically see enough to know that all is right or something is wrong. New spark plugs at 2429 kilometres? Why were the clutch plates, both metal and friction, replaced on a bike with only 2429 kilometers? Why a new regulator-rectifier at only 2429 kilometers?

    Maybe I’m just naturally suspicious, but something with the description makes me want to know a lot more than is being told.

    The condition of this bike does not necessarily match the low kilometrage indicated. I suppose it could have been a very rough 2429 kilometres, but I think a lot of questions need to be asked. I’d definitely want to see the right side of the stock front bodywork. OEM bodywork is non-existent now, so you’d need to see what you have to work with before biding. Returning the bike to 100% stock is where the money is.

    You can’t complain about the price, and it does seem fair given the questions yet to be answered. A perfect bike would command a much higher price, even JDM models.

    I own a pristine low kilometrage HRC version Canadian spec.

    • Nothing wrong with being a little bit skeptical, and your input is appreciated! There very well may be good answers to all of your questions, but anyone considering this bike would be wise to ask them of the seller.

  • JR, I roadraced for 20 years and built my own motors…pulling cylinders off to take a look inside, for me, is childs play. I’m also way too curious. I also change plugs like changing socks… old racing habit. I also have a pristine 85 RZ350 and beautiful 2000 Ducati 996S that I put plugs in way too often. The oem bodywork has scratches and some cracks…. I just wanted it to look like new not be oem correct (bodywork wise). Not that critical to me. The clutch was a little draggy even with adjustments….so put in a new set. Problem solved. I’m probably weird, but I’ve replaced items on my RZ that worked perfectly with “new old stock” ones off ebay. My logic is a new one has to better than a used one.. I’m odd that way.

    I’m not trying to hide anything, please feel free to ask any questions….glad to respond.

    • Or even better, maybe the seller is a reader of the site! Thanks for chiming in. And appreciate the clarifications!

  • Not weird at all and I know exactly how you feel Mark. I have 2 strokes in my collection, including an NS400R, RG500, TZR250 and a couple of RZ500s. I just recently left RZ350s (after owning, building, modifying more than a dozen…bought my first one new in 84) behind to focus on more challenging things. So yes, I do get the desire to replace parts, but I wasn’t sure about the necessity with your Honda. Thanks for the details and clarification..

    What is the story on the damaged stock right side exhaust silencers? Did the bike go down under your owndership, or did it come to you like that?

  • Any damage was done by the previous owner in Japan. Thanks for the questions.

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