Early Honda Gold Wing GL1000 Historical Timeline
It was midyear 1974 and most likely late May or early June. Honda Motors in Japan briefly interrupted a production line (arguably the CB750) and hand assembled as many as 11 preproduction *prototype motorcycles that would forever change the world’s outlook on motor touring.
The concept, clay model stages, basic engine testing and design decisions began in 1972 with the idea that it must be uniquely engineered and like no other motorcycle on the planet. Those thoughts and efforts reached their culmination with these unique 11 units. All of these were destined to become an introduction to the world of the forth coming dynamic Gold Wing GL1000 – water cooled, shaft driven, horizontally opposed flat four 999 cc grand touring machine.
Some of these first units, five in all, were designated to be on display in the USA at the Las Vegas Dealer Convention Sept. 19, 1974. I believe (at this writing) the five that were there were GL1-1000001, GL1-1000002, GL1-1000003, GL1-1000004 and GL1-1000005. These consisted of two Candy Antares Red, two Candy Blue-Green and one Sulfur Yellow. The Sulfur Yellow unit was the only one made of the 11 and also of any further units until the color was introduced as a choice for the 1976 model.
Of the six remaining units, **one is in a museum in Germany, serial number GL1-1000007, with no engine number; and one is in the Honda plant foyer in Japan (S/N unknown). On Sept. 21, 1974, one unit was on display at the Cologne Show in Europe and was Candy Antares Red [now the 007 unit in Germany]. On the same day, one Candy Blue-Green unit was displayed in Bol d’Or, France. These events were a splendid introduction of the Honda Gold Wing GL1000.
The disposition of the remaining units is unclear, but they are suspected to have remained in Japan for additional engineering, government compliance requirements, service and owners manuals and/or production planning. **Seemingly, this was the intent of frame number GL1-1000011; engine number GL1-1000-000014. This also may have been the first unit made in December (or possibly late November) 1974, along with the next stage of the GL1000 production timeline. It is believed by some that 0011 may have employed some of the features of the early 10 units. To speculate further – It was possibly assembled after the original 10 and sometime before the next phase of production would be a reasonable assumption. It is known to have been used for some of the service manuals.
During December 1974, Honda produced the ***preproduction GL1000 and as many as 39 more units were made. The resulting decisions gleaned from the conventions, initial displays and/or the vehicle compliance laws in various countries had given Honda the remaining insights of the final ***production units’ ultimate structure. Honda needed the preproduction units that were near perfect examples of the production machines that were scheduled in January 1975. This was to prove that their motorcycles were up to the highest manufacturing standards. The preproduction units were assigned to numerous facilities for very aggressive testing and it was a no-holds-barred requirement. They were used for Honda testing, testing organizations and magazine entities. All of the magazine publishers were handed units to road test to include performance testing. All were happy to do this and most made performance testing a very high priority. It is fair to say that all of the magazines were allowed, with Honda engineering supervision, to dismantle each engine to find any failures or extensive wear points. It is not known how many of these preproduction units remain and over the last 10 years we have only found two that are still serviceable – serial numbers GL1-000027 and GL1-1000040, engine number GL1E-1000029.
GL1-1000051 has been located and was manufactured in January 1975. This unit may have been the first or second production GL1000. I conclude that the beating heart of these first GL1000s lie in every Gold Wing made from that point on.
Editor’s Note: Bike #02 will be at Wing Ding at the main entrance to the vendor hall.
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