Now, the Honda Gold Wing touring bike is celebrating its 40th birthday. Its six-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine displaces 1,cc and develops hp at 5,rpm, with a velvety lb ft of torque at 4,rpm.
The design team's brief for the model that first carried the Gold Wing badge started work in Their brief was to explore the "'outer limits of the Grand Touring concept", and they were ordered to find out just how refined and luxurious a motorcycle could be.
Unveiled to the public at the International Bicycle and Motorcycle Exhibition in Cologne, the outcome was a sensation, with its water-cooled cc eight-valve flat-four producing 80bhp; enough for a top speed of mph. Weighing lb dry compared with the lb 40th Anniversary model it was the world's biggest and heaviest motorcycle, turning heads with its vast shiny engine, shaft drive, twin front disc brakes and under-seat fuel tank, designed to keep the centre of gravity low. The first time I was up close I didn't even want to stick my leg over, it was so big.
By , production of the bike switched from Japan to Ohio in America because 80 per cent of Gold Wing production was being devoured by US riders, although production finally returned to Japan in A Gold Wing 40th Anniversary Edition produced at the factory in Kumamoto became the millionth motorcycle that Honda has produced globally.
The million-unit milestone was reached in the 66th year since Honda began motorcycle production in with the Dream Type-D. Many riders were fitting aftermarket accessories to their Gold Wings, including fairings and luggage to make them even more suited to long-distance cruising, prompting Honda to introduce a "fully dressed" in the style of the seminal Harley-Davidson Electra Glide version in , which was known as the De Luxe model in Europe.
It featured an 1,cc engine with factory-fitted fairing, luggage and crash bars. It was followed, two years later, by the Aspencade model, seemingly the height of luxury with padded passenger backrest, audio system and an on-board compressor for the air suspension.
By the GL Gold Wing was bigger in every dimension, powered by a flat-six, 1,cc engine and boasting the kind of equipment normally found on cars, including cruise control and a reverse gear. For many, it wasn't just a technical tour de force but a way of life. Each attempts to out-do the rival organisation in the scale of its organised rides and social events. The Gold Wing Owners Club of Great Britain was founded in and now has about 1, members, keeping them in touch and up to date with its monthly, online magazine Wingspan.
Gold Wings are perfect for riding all day. My wife and I would think nothing of jumping on in the morning and riding all the way to Toulouse. The Gold Wing has always inspired dreams of travel. We're living that dream.