Four Decades of GL Touring Motorcycles
The Gold Wing was destined to rule from the very beginning, with Honda dubbing the 1975 GL1000 the King of Motorcycles even before its introduction, predicting that the model would stand above all others. The nickname proved to be prescient, though even Honda couldn’t have guessed how iconic the bike would become or even exactly how it would be used. Soon enough, though, the company learned from its own customers (the majority of whom were in the U.S.) that the GL had invented the concept of luxury motorcycle touring as we now know it, eventually prompting author Darwin Holmstrom to come up with a Gold Wing moniker of his own: “the ultimate two-wheeled mileage disposal unit.” With its legendary status came added impetus, and while the evolutionary process has brought countless updates and improvements across the four decades since the GL1000’s introduction, today’s GL1800 continues to serve as the benchmark against which all touring models are measured.
Happy 40th birthday, Gold Wing. Long live the King.
A team led by Soichiro Irimajiri develops the M1 prototype (also known as Project 371), a flat-six, 1470cc precursor of the Gold Wing.
The first Gold Wing — the 1975 GL1000 KO — makes its public debut at Cologne Show in Germany. Developed by Toshio Nozue (also responsible for the CB750), the model is dubbed “the ultimate motorcycle” by Honda.
Rider passion quickly emerges as the GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association) is founded in Phoenix.
The first edition of Wing Ding touring rally is held in Phoenix.
On June 10, Honda opens its $50 million, 260,000-square-foot USA production facility in Marysville, Ohio, where the following model year’s Gold Wing would be produced.
Honda produces the all-new Gold Wing GL1100. Among the many changes are a longer wheelbase, electronic ignition, increased fuel capacity and lighter weight.
On May 1, Honda’s Marysville Motorcycle Plant produces its first Gold Wing.
Hoping to expand the touring experience to a new demographic of riders, Honda offers the GL500 Silver Wing.
Honda introduces a luxurious Aspencade version of the GL1100, featuring two-tone paint and all of the updates from the Interstate.
Honda produces the all-new GL1200, which has a stiffer frame, repositioned engine, smaller wheels, longer wheelbase and swingarm, and upgraded suspension.
Honda commemorates 25 years in America and 10 years of Gold Wing motorcycles with the GL1200L Limited Edition.
The naked version of the GL1200 is discontinued.
The Gold Wing grows two cylinders and is introduced as the all-new flat-six GL1500. Highlights include a smoother transmission, increased fuel capacity, stiffer chassis, improved brakes and comprehensive fairing.
The Pacific Coast, a mid-displacement Gold Wing spin-off featuring automotive-influenced styling, is introduced.
Large project leader Masanori Aoki moves to the U.S. for three years to learn English and study the Gold Wing culture prior to developing the 2001 GL1800.
On July 26, the Marysville plant produces its millionth U.S.-built Honda — a Gold Wing.
Honda introduces the Valkyrie, a high-performance cruiser based on the GL1500 chassis.
Coinciding with the Gold Wing’s 25th anniversary, GL engine production is moved from Anna, Ohio, back to Marysville.
The sensational GL1800 debuts. Developed under Masanori Aoki, it has fuel injection, an aluminum frame and optional ABS braking, and it had 20 patents for technological innovations.
GL production moves to Kumamoto, Japan.
Honda releases the F6B, a lighter, trimmer, meaner version of the Gold Wing.
Honda reintroduces the powerful Valkyrie, the ultimate cruiser.
Honda celebrates the Gold Wing’s 40th birthday.
Head to Head: How does the original Honda Gold Wing measure up to the newest edition?
Not originally positioned as a touring bike, the GL1000 was intended to be, quite simply, the best motorcycle ever built
- 999cc (72mm x 61.4mm) liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-stroke four-cylinder engine with OHC; 80 horsepower at 7,500 rpm
- Four 32mm Keihin constant-vacuum carburetors
- Capacitor discharge ignition with points and coils
- Electric and kick start
- Five-speed transmission
- Shaft drive
- Tubular-steel full-cradle frame
- 37mm telescopic fork with 5.63 inches travel
- Dual shocks with adjustable preload and 3.4 inches travel
- Dual 273mm front brake discs with single-piston calipers
- Single 295mm rear brake disc with single-piston caliper
- Spoke wheels with aluminum rims; 3.50H-19 front tire, 4.50H-17 rear tire
- 60.6-inch wheelbase
- 28º rake
- 31.9-inch seat height
- 5.0-gallon fuel capacity
- Curb weight: 647 lbs.
- Colors: Candy Antares Red or Candy Blue Green
- MSRP: $2,899
Honda’s most advanced Gold Wing ever, the GL1800 stands as the pinnacle of modern touring technology
- 1832cc (74mm x 71mm) liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-stroke six-cylinder engine with SOHC and 2 valves per cylinder
- Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
- Computer-controlled digital ignition with three-dimensional mapping
- Electric start
- Five-speed transmission (including overdrive), plus electric reverse
- Shaft drive
- Extruded aluminum twin-spar frame
- 45mm telescopic cartridge fork with anti-dive system, 4.8 inches travel
- Pro Arm single-side swingarm; Pro-Link single shock with computer-controlled spring-preload adjustment with two memory presets; 4.1 inches travel
- Dual full-floating 296mm front brake discs with CBS three-piston calipers
- Single ventilated 316mm rear brake disc with CBS three-piston caliper
- Cast-aluminum wheels; 130/70R-18 front tire, 180/60R-16 rear tire
- 66.5-inch wheelbase
- 29º 15’ rake, 4.2 in. trail
- 29.1-inch seat height
- 4.9 inches ground clearance
- 6.6-gallon fuel capacity; 35 mpg
- Curb weight: 904-933 lbs., depending on option packages selected
- Color: Candy Red/Black; Black; Light Silver Metallic
- MSRP: Starting at $23,999
Like what you've read? Share it!