I was still in mechanic's school when the GL1000 was announced. Still in my mind's eye I
can see the artist's rendering -- a machine to top the wonderfully capable CB750 that had so
devestatingly upset everyone's perspective of their Triumphs. (What, a machine that doesn't
require the skills of a machinist to own?!) And now Honda, it was said, was poised to top
even that. Would it even be a Z1 beater? Had to be. Man, look at that engine! And two
brake discs! And liquid cooling! Exotic! I don't think most of us appreciated how unsporting
the innaugural Wing was until we saw her in the flesh, so successful was Honda's advance
propaganda. But we were far from disappointed. Maybe not King of the Hill, but certainly the
uncontested Queen of Motorcycling, and as impressive, and capable, utterly reliable, smooth
and fast, and somehow bold and at the same time refined, in that unmistakeable Honda way.
And quiet? One of my strongest memories of 1975 to this day is that understated turbine-like
engine/exhaust whisper. You could hardly hear this motorcycle. And what you did hear was
I didn't see much of the lady either, as my first Honda dealership was in a neighborhood full of mostly
CB450s, whose gearboxes I dutifully repaired as my 21st birthday approached. However, by
my second shop, my acquaintance with Honda's beautiful and already legendary motorcycle
began in earnest! My Service Manager rode an immaculately-kept completely stock three-
month old candy red, the first one the shop had got in. Not even a windscreen. The man
fit the machine. Like a cat, he was almost effeminately obsessive in his appearance and not
surprisingly equally fussy about keeping his pride and joy's carbs synced, the machine so
quiet he could ride right up behind you without you knowing it (remember him doing that at the
donut shop some weekday mornings) and he shortly to teach me the same carburetor skill.
And ride it he did, in a manner adjudging the machine more a powerful yacht than a stately
steamer. Boy, that bike made my B44 Shooting Star seem like a civil war artillary piece by
comparison! The San Fernando valley dealership naturally had a veritible community of
GL1000 riders as customers in those days, so my apprenticeship was rapid, my appreciation
for the Dame equally as quickly cultivated.
By 1977 I had become as familiar with the GL1000 as I had been 450s and 750s, what with
the tune-ups, wreck repairs and warranty crankcase replacements that come to a large metro
area dealership. By the time the 1100 appeared I was to have amassed over 100 credit units of factory
Honda training, as well as a brief stint at corporate Honda, and although the technological
marvel of such machines as the 1100F, CX Turbo and Sabre 750 stole everyone's hearts,
I still had a warm place in mine for the Queen, the stately regal Mother. Dignified yet approachable. Classy, not obstentatious. A lady.
I'm almost 60 now and still hugely admire the GL1000. I have probably forgotten most of
what I thought I knew about servicing the now classicly beautiful Grande Luxe, or at least my
hands have, if not my heart. I still however proudly own the factory ring compressors, and the
factory aluminum crankcase spacers used when assembling Her Majaesty's engine cases.
Tokens of my apprenticeship, I seem unable to give them up. And I still feel a thrill when I
handle a set of those early carburetors; somehow the years drop away, and I like the fabled
alchemist am eager to once again turn lead into gold (GL1000 carb bodies are rich in
zinc, a metal with similar properties to those of lead). I still have the once-coveted carb spec
books, little-known pocket-sized books Honda produced expressly for use by career Honda
mechanics. I still remember how to coax that automotive-derived engine into giving its best,
all the secrets, hard-earned in the trenches but mostly secrets no longer thanks to the viral
power of the Internet. And this is as it shoud be. The astonishment however hasn't faded.
Nor the excitement. The elegently refined machine still beckons to lovers of mechanical
beauty. She is still the Queen. The Grand Dame. May she live long and acquire even more