1975 - 1979 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
This is the bike that started the legendary lineby TJ Hinton, on LISTEN 07:25
The D-Type “Dream” of 1949 may have put Honda on the map, but it was the U.S. release of the Gold Wing in 1975 that eventually made the marque a power in the American touring market. Originally built as a power-cruiser, the domestic consumers had a different purpose in mind — long-distance touring — and with that a legend was born. The basic parameters had been established that would go on to create a family of bikes that, to this day, serve as a staunch competitor to American manufacturers Indian and Harley-Davidson, and enjoy a reputation for speed and agility as well as comfort.
1975 - 1979 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
Top Speed:125 mph (Est.)
Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Early Designs
- Originally intended as a sporty power-cruiser, but well received as a tourer
- Factory mistake saw Gold Wings released with no fairing, windshield, or panniers
- The Interstate variant was the first to come as a full dresser
- Subsequent models went back to the boxer-6 engine
At its inception, Honda built the predecessor of the Gold Wing family, the M1 prototype, as a power-cruiser. Flush with success after the well-received launch of the CB750, Honda wanted to put more power in the hands of riders who were primarily in the U.S. and Europe. The flat, six-piston opposed-cylinder mill was rather long, and so it left the rider cramped. A compromise was made on the subsequent “Project 371” in the form of a four-cylinder flattie that shortened up the drivetrain and left more legroom for increased pilot comfort.
It was a liquid-cooled four-stroke engine, which was a first for Japanese motorcycles, and would primarily be taking on the Americans (H-D) on their home turf, the Germans (BMW), and the Italians (Moto Guzzi). The first-gen, GL 1000 Gold Wing models hit our market in 1975 and were originally slated for release complete with front fairings, windshields, and panniers to complete its tour-tastic equipment package. However, a mistake led to the destruction of the necessary molds and so the earliest Gold Wings came stripped down like the power-cruiser it was originally envisioned to be.
Business — like nature — abhors a vacuum, so it wasn’t long before that need was filled to show us the shape of things to come. Five years later, Honda sent the GL 1100 out the door as bare as the accidentally-naked GL 1000 it replaced, but the “Interstate” variant sported a full front fairing, saddlebags and removable top case that gave the Gold Wing the kind of highway legs that U.S. riders demanded. ’Cause let’s face it, this is a big country, and “touring” means something different here than in many other parts of the world.
The luxury “Aspencade” model was built on this platform with several features that were, at best, optional equipment on the Interstate. With that, the Gold Wing had become a full dresser. It would remain so until the popularity of the bagger configuration forced Honda to release a faired-and-bagged cruiser model sans top case and design its factory-custom, blackout F6B boulevard bruiser. The Gold Wing would also see a return to flat six-banger engines in its fourth generation, a configuration that persists to this day.
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Chassis
- Large frame to compete in the touring market
- Eager in the corners
- Only obligatory spring-preload ride-quality adjustment
- Laced wheels
The large frame on the GL1000 Gold Wing was a good fit for a public into the big-and-heavy H-D FL “Electra Glide” and the ’Guzzi “El Dorado.” Welded steel tubing provided the main structure, and the engine was completely supported by a double-cradle design, none of that fandangled stressed-engine business yet.
A 28-degree rake and 4.7-inch trail lent it an eager nature in the bends, but the suspension was pretty vanilla by modern standards with the obligatory spring-preload as the only ride-quality adjustment. Laced wheels were fairly typical at that time, as were the all-around hydraulic discs and dual front brakes, but fancy stuff like ABS was still years away from seeing the light of day.
The bench seat and fold-up footpegs were included to accommodate a passenger or a bit of cargo with a grabrail around the back to act as an anchor for both.
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Drivetrain
- 999 cc 4-cylinder boxer engine
- 80 horsepower @ 7,500 rpm
- 63 pound-feet @ 5,500 rpm
- Keihin constant-velocity carburetor
- Shaft drive for low maintenance
Part of the early appeal of the Gold Wing design was the ease with which it can be maneuvered and walked around a parking lot and at stops, and this was largely due to the construction of the engine.
The opposed-piston design had all of its weight concentrated at the bottom of the frame to give the Gold Wing a fabulously low center-of-gravity.
The flat-four ran a 72 mm bore and 61.4 mm stroke for a total displacement of 999 cc and a compression ratio of 9.2-to-1 to churn out 80 ponies at 7,500 rpm with 63 pound-feet of torque that topped out at 5,500 rpm. Engine control was also typical for the time with a Keihin constant-velocity carburetor on induction duty.
From the start, the Gold Wing has been built around a shaft-type final drive for the low-maintenance performance it delivers in an effort to get away from high-maintenance chain drives – just the thing for a long-distance machine. Power filters through a five-speed manual transmission and conventional clutch with an overall drive ratio that results in a 125 mph top speed.
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Competitors
In 1975, Harley-Davidson was the domestic builder to beat with its FLH/FLT Electra Glide.
Harley-Davidson Electra Glide
Harley ran with its 1,207 cc Shovelhead engine that delivered up to 65 horsepower, but that naturally came with the not-inconsiderable vibration that a big V-Twin produces. Part of the appeal of the Gold Wing was the smooth delivery of power from its flat-four plant that eliminated the heavily off-balance power pulses.
Moto Guzzi’s 850 Eldorado carries a V-Twin of its own, but one with a 90-degree V instead of 45 degrees like the Harley and a transverse arrangement in the frame. The vibration is augmented by a torquing-moment that occurs when the engine rpm changes dramatically, so it’s not really much of an advantage over the American.
The BMW R75/6 probably fares best of all with a flat-twin “boxer” engine that runs a 180-out timing for even power pulses, plus it places the engine toward the bottom of the frame for a low center of gravity not entirely unlike the Gold Wing.
As for speed, the Gold Wing would do 125 mph against 115 mph from the MG Eldorado and 110 from the BMW R75/6 with the H-D Electra Glide predictably coming in last at 84 mph.
“Gold Wings are one of those things that inspire an almost cult-like following, and I mean that in the best possible way. I reckon hundreds of thousands of “Wing-Dingers” can’t all be wrong, am I right? The Gold Wing has thus far sold around a quarter-million units, most of them in the U.S., and continues to be a real contender for the American dresser market.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “You know, this is a timeless design. It’s the epitome of the UJM, but in a sporty performance class. If this bike were on the market today, I can see it going up against a Bonneville or an R nineT for looks and a Tracer or a GSX-S for performance.”
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Specifications
|Engine & Drivetrain:|
|Engine:||999 cc (61.0 cu in) SOHC flat-four|
|Bore x Stroke:||72.0 mm × 61.4 mm (2.83 in × 2.42 in)|
|Power:||80 hp (60 kW) @ 7,500 rpm|
|Torque:||63 lb-ft (85 Nm) @ 5,500 rpm|
|Clutch :||Wet, multi-plate|
|Starting system:||Starting motor and kick starter|
|Alternator:||AC generator, 12 volt, 0.3 kW/5000 rpm|
|Primary reduction ratio:||1.708|
|Secondary reduction ratio:||0.825|
|Gear Ratio:||First: 2.500, Second: 1.708, Third: 1.333, Fourth: 1.097, Fifth: 0.939|
|Final reduction ratio:||3.400|
|Gear shift pattern:||Left foot operated return system|
|Frame:||Steel full-duplex cradle|
|Front Suspension/Travel:||Telescopic fork/ 5.6 in (143 mm) travel|
|Rear Suspension/ Travel:||Swing arm/ 3.40 in (86.3 mm) travel|
|Front Brakes:||Dual discs, single-piston calipers|
|Rear Brakes:||Single disc, opposed 2-piston caliper|
|Front Tire:||3.50 H-19 (tube type)|
|Rear Tire:||4.50 H-17A (tube type)|
|Rake/ Trail:||28 degrees/4.7 in (120 mm)|
|Dimensions & Capacities:|
|Wheelbase:||60.6 in (1,540 mm)|
|Length:||90.7 in (2,305 mm)|
|Width:||34.4 in (875 mm)|
|Height:||48.2 in (1,225 mm)|
|Seat height:||810 mm (31.9 in)|
|Ground Clearance:||5.9 in (150 mm)|
|Dry Weight:||584 lb (265 kg)|
|Curb Weight:||650.4 lb (295 kg)|
|Fuel capacity:||5.0 US gal (4.2 imp gal; 19 L)|
|Top Speed:||125 mph (est)|
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