40 Years

Introducing the 40th Anniversary Gold Wings.

At Wing Ding 36 in Madison, Wis., I had a moment to sit down and talk to the people at Honda about the Gold Wing, F6B and Valkyrie, and tell them a little bit about the changes that we’ve made to the magazine in the past year. They hinted at some things coming down the pike and at the time I tried to get more details, but they didn’t budge. All I knew was that something big was happening and we’d find out about it soon.

Come September an email hits my inbox. It’s Honda and it was sending over hot information about the 40th anniversary of the Gold Wing, including some pictures taken in a studio. A few emails and a phone call or two later and photographer Carl Schultz and myself were on our way to Los Angeles to get exclusive access to the 2015 Gold Wing GL1800 and F6B. Oh, and we were going to take those pictures at a closed-to-the-public museum full of Honda cars and motorcycles.

As we pulled up to the building, you’d never know that the nondescript facade in an industrial complex had anything to do with Honda, and even looking in the windows revealed nothing but drawn curtains. But we were in the right place, and after knocking on the door, we were let in by one of our contacts at Honda. After walking through a dimly lit waiting room complete with a performance Honda engine on a stand, we opened the door to a room that most people would never see, nor know that it even existed. We were officially here. And there were the Wings.

Entering the Sanctum

Before we get into the bikes, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the museum as a whole. Although I’ve owned a few Honda automobiles myself (and my wife currently owns an Odyssey), I never thought that I’d be so bowled over by what we saw in that room. It’s a large warehouse, with polished white floors, white walls and mammoth ceilings, easily three stories high. At the back wall are a series of four-post lifts, with various Honda Performance race cars situated both on top of and underneath. There are several landmark cars: the Prelude with four-wheel steer; two NSXs — one 1991, one 2004, to flank the production lines; and, of course, several concept cars from all over, including a few of the first hybrids ever built. But those were the cars, and we were here to see the bikes.

Motorcycles are kept on a mezzanine right above several of the concepts. There’s about 10 of them up there, and although we couldn’t take pictures of each one, there’s definitely some history in those rafters. The Honda Fury, a reproduction of a mid-’60s Honda 50 race bike and Travis Pastrana’s bike from the X Games all live up in the air on a shelf. It’s amazing.

It turns out that those 10 bikes aren’t even the start of what Honda had in the building. Although we weren’t allowed inside, there’s a warehouse behind the museum that’s stocked with motorcycles from all eras, all stacked five high in shelving. It had every landmark model of Gold Wing from the GL1000 forward, too. Some of them are in various states of restoration, while others are good to go today. Very cool stuff, indeed.

Then, after soaking all that in, we noticed the three bikes sitting to the right of the door. The beauties we came here to capture on film: the 40th anniversary Gold Wing GL1800, F6B and a 1975 GL1000.

O.G.

We had a concept for the cover early on and to help with that, I asked Honda if it had an original Gold Wing on hand so we could show off the evolution of the bike. What the folks had was a blue ’75 in full factory trim, recently restored and in immaculate condition. This was the naked Gold Wing as it was before it became the legendary bike that it is today: no fairings, windshield or trim to cover up the raw nature of the motorcycle. The distinctive engine was cleaned up and looked like it wanted to hit the road.

Unfortunately, as was the case with all of the rides of the day, we weren’t allowed to take anything out on the road. The 2015 models were still fresh and therefore off limits for a road test (although we were told we could pitch for a test ride soon). The ’75 was, of course, a classic and that meant we couldn’t ride that, either. Still, the bike is a beautiful specimen, so we captured it as best as we could.

40 Years Later

It’s been 40 years since that ’75 came off the line and now Honda is celebrating four decades of touring magic with the 40th Anniversary Gold Wing.

In 2015, all Gold Wings will wear a special 40th Anniversary badge, including the F6B. However, the GL1800 also has a special paint scheme and package that is unique to the 2015 models. It starts with the top half of the body, which is a rich Candy Red. A silver stripe separates the red from the black on the bottom of the bike, but it hides a secret. If you look closely, you’ll find tiny Gold Wing logos hidden in the finish, almost like a pearl coat layered on top. It’s super subtle and easy to miss, but it is a stand out feature.

There are other details as well. The co-rider seat has a special 40th anniversary logo embossed in the backrest and the seats have red stitching to match the paint. There’s also painted accents on the engine, matte black wheels and the exhaust is blacked out to match the finish. In fact,there’s very little chrome on this bike at all.

We talked to Honda about that because many of the Gold Wings that we see are awash in chrome accessories, telling us that it must be a popular finish. Well, if you remember back almost a year ago, Honda introduced a blacked out model of the GL1800 for 2014. It turns out that it was quite a popular option and so Honda decided that it was time to step it up a notch with the exhaust, and combine the sans chrome look with a special paint scheme. That said, it also told us that it had a model with silver and chrome as well (just not in the red/black two-tone), so it’s not the only option out there.

Other than the cosmetics, the 2015 Gold Wing is technically identical to the 2014 model. There’s been no upgrades to the engine, the chassis is the same and nothing else has shifted around. However, if you’re looking to buy a GL1800 anyway, you’ll want to look at the 40th anniversary paint scheme. It’s a stunner for sure.

The Scrappy New Guy

There’s been debate about whether or not the F6B is a Gold Wing or not, and let me solve that problem right now. Straight from the mouth of Honda: as of 2015, the F6B is now called the Gold Wing F6B. So that’s that.

The F6B does have the same basic setup as it had in 2014 and ’13, but there are two major differences that set it off from everything else this year.

The first is the addition of cruise control. As you likely already know, the main differences between the F6B and the GL1800 are the lack of reverse, ABS and navigation, plus it doesn’t have the rear trunk and it sits a bit lower. There is also no factory chrome on the F6B — OK, so I suppose that means there’s quite a bit different between the two models, but I digress.

Even though the F6B has been gaining steam, there were a few complaints. It turns out that Honda was listening to its owners, and they’ve demand cruise control. So now you can take your 2015 F6B out on the road with your pals on their GL1800s with no worries about cramped wrists.

The second big change with the F6B this year is the addition of a special paint color named Matte Silver. Flat and matte finishes have been popular in the automotive and custom motorcycle world for years; even Mercedes offers it as a paint option now. But — and believe us when we say this — the Matte Silver on the 2015 F6B is just beautiful. During our time at Honda, we heard on more than one occasion that it was the most popular color amongst the team, and both myself and our photographer couldn’t stop gushing. It is just a stunning finish, and I bet we’ll see a lot of them on the road in coming months. That said, the F6B does also have a Blue Metallic option as well, and if it looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same Blue Metallic found on the GL1800 a few years ago.

Still Going Strong

Today, almost 15 years into the lifespan of the GL1800, Honda is putting the spit and shine on its flagship touring product. Yes, we know, the competition is doing exciting things on their ends, and the argument could be made that Honda is falling behind. But we don’t see it that way and here’s why.

The GL1800 is immensely popular, there’s no doubt about that. It’s powerful, comfortable and full of options. The biggest request we’ve heard is for a larger engine, but we have no inside track on any information on new body styles or drivetrains at the moment. Whatever Honda has up its sleeve, it’s holding it close to its chest for now.

However, if we were to make an educated guess, the release of the F6B just a few years ago tells us that not only is Honda still invested in the Gold Wing brand, but it will likely keep the GL1800 around as it is today for another year or two at least. Then, once the F6B has either solidified itself as a popular bike or gone another direction, then Honda will redesign the lineup and maybe even refresh the motor.

In the meantime, what you get with the 2015 Gold Wing lineup is the same quality product that you’ve seen on the market before, but with at least two spectacular paint jobs that will stop people in their tracks. If you’re in the market to buy a new Gold Wing, we suggest you get to a dealership soon, because these new colors won’t last forever — at least not for another 40 years, anyway.


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