FortNine explains the Honda Pacific Coast 800, why it exists, and why a bike built for car drivers is a good idea.
Full disclosure: I love the Honda PC800. I owned one for seven years and put over 30,000 nearly trouble-free miles on it. It is very much a cult or niche bike, one that most riders haven't even heard of. FortNine thought highly enough of it to make what I believe is one of the best videos about the PC800 that I've ever seen.
In the 1980s, Honda was trying to build all bikes for all riders. They had the Super Cub for bicyclists, the CB750 to lure people away from Triumph, the CBR to lure people away from Ducati, the original Africa Twin to lure people away from BMW, and the Shadow to lure people away from Harley-Davidson (perhaps a little too well). Despite such a robust lineup, Honda wanted more. Honda wanted a motorcycle that would lure people away from cars, despite the fact that Honda also makes cars.
As one of the few manufacturers who builds both, Honda's motorcycle engineers talked to the Acura division, and together they designed a motorcycle that looked and felt more like a car than a motorcycle: the Pacific Coast 800. All the mechanical bits were hidden under plastic, which is common today but was unheard of in the 1980s. The engine was extremely low maintenance, with automatic valve adjusters and cam chain tensioner. Despite being a V-twin, it was extremely smooth thanks to rubber motor mounts, like a car. It had a rear trunk that opened like a car's rather than traditional saddlebags. It could even double as a cooler.
Despite Honda's best efforts, the PC800 was a flop. Instead of recapturing the success of the Super Cub, 1989 models languished at dealers for years, forcing Honda to discontinue sales of new PC800s from 1991 until 1994 just to let the inventory of 1989 and 1990 models finally get sold. When sales resumed, Honda barely sold more than 1,000 bikes a year until it was discontinued permanently in 1998. Mine was one of only about 500 bikes made in 1998.
On the surface, building a motorcycle for people who don't ride motorcycles seems like a dumb idea. It failed in the PC800, as well as the DN-01 and NM4. Yet as road congestion keeps getting worse, it's worth remembering that experts tell us if just 10 percent of car drivers switched to motorcycles (and lane filtering was legal), it would eliminate 40 percent of all congestion. If 25 percent of car drivers switched to bikes, congestion would disappear completely. Perhaps the car-like motorcycle isn't so much an idea that failed as an idea that, like the PC800 itself, is too far ahead of its time.