The Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

A Tale of Evolution

| May/June 2007

Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
Years produced:
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 80hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 125mph (est.)
Engine type: 999cc single-overhead cam, two valves per cylinder, water-cooled flat four
Weight: 295kg (650lb)
Price then: $2,895
Price now: $2,000-$5,000
MPG: 35-40 (approx.)

Looking back, it’s easy to think the first Honda GL1000 Gold Wing in 1975 was a revolutionary motorcycle. It was, in fact, evolutionary, built to appeal to the American bigger-is-better theory. Today, the Honda Gold Wing is an icon for the cross-country touring motorcycle. But back in the day, it was just Honda’s best guess at what Americans wanted in a touring motorcycle.

In the well-lit upstairs offices of any large corporation you’ll find legions of employees who do nothing but analyze things like costs and expectations. Like any huge corporation, Honda’s headquarters had (and has) bean-counters by the bushel, and founder Soichiro Honda, impressed by the strength of the American market, wanted to build a motorcycle that would specifically appeal to U.S. buyers: He told his boys to look into it.

Read Bob Reichenberg's review of owning and riding a 1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing 

Price-point analysis is an unrefined art, dedicated to the unvarnished truth of the bottom line. If the cost of any piece of the product can be reduced without harming its function, it’s done. In our industry it boils down to the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of the envisioned competition; in 1975 the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide cost $3,555, (with bags and fairing standard); the BMW R90/6, $3,395; the Moto Guzzi 850-T, $2,699; and the Kawasaki Z1, $2,475. Honda slotted its planned new model right in the middle at $2,895.

The second consideration was how many of the new model they could sell. With the memory of tens of thousands of Honda CB750 motorcycles sold in that model’s first year fresh in mind, the prognosticators were hoping for something similar. Soichiro’s notion was to build something grand, something luxurious and powerful that would make the Honda marque stand out as it had with the CB750. And he did not want to go head-on against Kawasaki’s 903cc Z-1, which had effectively eclipsed his own CB750. Instead, he wanted to light a new path with a very different motorcycle that would have the cycle-buffs applauding.

Too big
Soon after the introduction of the CB750, the R&D staff at Honda was contemplating new concepts. They saw how popular the 1,200cc Harley-Davidson was in the U.S., and figured if Americans liked 600lb motorcycles, Honda could build one.

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