® Looking Back on the GL1000's First Appearance

I was still in mechanic's school when the GL1000 was announced. I remember the artist's rendering--a machine to top the wonderfully capable CB750 that had so devastatingly 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 three 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 is that understated turbine-like engine and exhaust whisper. You could hardly hear this motorcycle. And what you did hear was otherworldly.

My acquaintance with Honda's beautiful and already legendary motorcycle began in earnest at the outset of my apprenticeship. 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. That bike made my B44 Shooting Star (BSA) seem like a civil war artillary piece by comparison!

Within a few years I was as familiar with the GL1000 as I was with 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 reserved a warm place in mine for the Wing.

I still hugely admire the GL1000. I have probably forgotten much of what I knew about servicing the now classicly beautiful Grande Luxe. I still however proudly own the factory ring compressors, and the factory aluminum crankcase spacers used when assembling the crankcases. Tokens of my apprenticeship, I seem unable to part with them. And I still feel a thrill when I handle a set of those early carburetors. I still have the once-coveted carb spec books, little-known pocket-sized books Honda produced expressly for use by career Honda mechanics. And I enjoy the occasional well-kept machine that finds its way to me for fettling. My admiration for the model has hardly dimmed.

Recommended reading:
The GL1000 page
GL1000 carburetor facts
Twenty-five things the GL1000 owner should know
The GL1000 problem
GL1000 ignition anomalies

Last updated October 2022
Email me
© 1996-2022 Mike Nixon