Just a cup of fuel…

Old Bike Australasia - - HONDA CB450K5 -

Aus­tralian Terry Den­nehy, was ac­cord­ing to his brother in law Ross Hannan, “a sen­sa­tional rider”, and af­ter some suc­cess at home, he lit out for Europe with Ross’ brother Ralph. On self-built Hon­das de­rived from CB72 and CB77 road­sters, Terry had oc­ca­sion­ally shocked the es­tab­lished stars, but more of­ten than not, the over-taxed en­gines gave out. Terry and Ralph spent the win­ter of 1967/68 in Eng­land but de­tested the weather, so they headed for Mi­lan, where they met Swiss en­gi­neer Marly Drixl, who was mak­ing a name for him­self as a chas­sis de­signer in con­junc­tion with Bri­tish im­porter Syd Law­ton. Over nu­mer­ous cof­fees in a lo­cal café, Terry, Ralph and Marly drew up plans for a 500cc Grand Prix racer to be pow­ered by a new Honda CB450 en­gine, which was do­nated by a Ger­man en­thu­si­ast. The project was funded by offloading Terry’s CR93 125 Honda and his Aer­ma­c­chi Metisse, and into the new Honda en­gine went a spe­cial crank­shaft, con rods, Aer­ma­c­chi valves and valve springs (to re­place the stan­dard tor­sion bar set up), and – unusu­ally for a mo­tor­cy­cle – a 45mm twin-choke We­ber DCOE car­bu­ret­tor from an Alfa Romeo car. The bore was in­creased by 4mm to 74mm with the stock 57.8mm stroke to mea­sure 497cc. The re­sult was 65hp at 10,200 rpm at the rear wheel on a ma­chine that weighed 129kg dry – more than com­pet­i­tive. One Honda item that was re­tained was the points ig­ni­tion, and this proved to be the en­gine’s Achilles Heel. Many a time the Drix­ton (Drixl/Law­ton) Honda rolled silently to a halt with vic­tory within sight, no­tably at the 1969 Fin­nish Grand Prix when Terry had suc­cess­fully dealt with Gi­a­como Agostini’s works MV Agusta. Three weeks prior to this he suf­fered the heart­break of run­ning out of petrol while lead­ing the East Ger­man Grand Prix at Sach­sen­ring, let­ting Agostini through for a for­tu­nate vic­tory. It was a shat­ter­ing mo­ment; just a litre more fuel and he would have trounced the mighty MV/Agostini com­bi­na­tion on a bike dreamed up in a cof­fee shop, and which still ex­ists in Hol­land. Broke and dis­il­lu­sioned, Terry aban­doned the Honda twin to even­tu­ally end up on one of the ubiq­ui­tous 350 Yama­has. What might have been...

BE­LOW ABOVE An ex­hausted Terry Den­nehy pushes the Honda over the line af­ter run­ning out of fuel. The Drix­ton 450 Honda, built by Terry Den­nehy, Ralph Hannan and Marly Drixl, as it is to­day in the Nether­lands.

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