Like the earlier CB750 it sported a single front hydraulic disc brake, rear drum brake, electric starter, and single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 8 valve engine. The 4 into 4 exhaust pipes made it easy to identify. It was thought to be a better handling bike than the larger model, although it weighed in at 420 lb (dry).
A number were raced in the Production TT races on the Isle of Man in the early 1970s. Bill Smith won the 1973 500cc TT Production race (4 laps) riding one, by only 8.2 seconds from second place Stan Woods mounted on a Suzuki T500 two stroke twin.
Unlike the earlier dry sump Honda CB750, the smaller bike has a wet sump engine. Also, the primary drives were different. The CB500 was the inspiration for the Benelli Sei, a 750cc six-cylinder motorcycle whose engine is clearly derived from this Honda.