Powersports / Motorcycles / Touring
Gold Wing Spotter's Guide
Charting the changes in the Gold Wing's evolution takes a careful eye. While a few changes have been sudden and obvious, most are harder to spot. The following guide makes it easier to tell one year and model from another using key specifications and features. Darwin never had it so easy.
The original GL1000 Gold Wing, powered by a 999cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, revolutionized motorcycle touring. The faux fuel tank contains electrical components and storage space. Spoked aluminum rims are standard. Note the black exhaust system, with chrome heat shields and tailpipes.
A new model marks the Gold Wing's second year. The GL1000 LTD joins the unchanged standard model, and features gold striping, special LTD sidecover badges, chromed radiator shroud and screen, quilt-pattern contoured seat, gold wheels and spokes, gold-stamped GL1000 owner's manual, and leather key case. The LTD's front fender is slightly flared.
Honda begins to incorporate small but important refinements based on customer requests, as the Gold Wing's continues to grow in popularity and redefine touring. Chrome heat shields on the header pipes are now standard, as is a higher, recontoured handlebar, redesigned neoprene grips, a new dual-contoured seat, and a fuel gauge.
A new instrument panel in the center pod with fuel, voltage and coolant temperature gauges helps distinguish the GL in its fourth year. Honda also fitted 1mm-smaller carbs and FVQ shocks with two-stage damping, redesigned and chromed the exhaust system, mounted the rear turn signals on the fender, and bolted up maintenance-free ComStar wheels.
The GL1000 reaches the peak of its development in 1979, and will be the last Gold Wing to be powered by a 999cc engine. Changes this year are few and minor: Rectangular turn signals replace the previous round ones, control levers go from silver to black, and a twin-bulb taillight with CBX-type ribbed lens replaces the single-bulb unit.
The introduction of the second-generation GL sees the standard version joined by the first Japanese turn-key tourer, the Interstate model. Both are powered by new 1085cc engines with electronic ignitions--no more points. The chassis boasts air suspension with a single-inlet equalizer system at each end, black reverse ComStar wheels, adjustable seat, and bigger tires. The Interstate sets new standards for touring with its full fairing, saddlebags and trunk, and optional stereo.
Distinguished by new orange and gold pinstripes, the standard and Interstate model GL1100s boast redesigned instruments with improved nighttime illumination. The Interstate also features a new adjustable, scratch-resistant windshield, and continues to set the pace for turn-key touring bikes.
For '82, Honda adds a third model to the GL line, the even more luxurious Aspencade. The Interstate model offers such options as a new Type II stereo, a 40-channel CB transceiver, and an on-board air compressor. All of these items are standard on the Aspencade, as are storage pouches in the passenger backrest, two-tone paint and seat, and special edition Aspencade badges. All models also sport twin-piston front brake calipers and wider tires.
The last year for the GL1100s finds them fitted with 11-spoke cast wheels, TRAC anti-dive forks with an integrated fork brace, and a unified braking system. The Interstate adds in larger, flatter footpegs and adjustable passenger pegs, while the top-of-the-line Aspencade also boasts internally vented front brake rotors, a digital LCD instrument panel and a new two-tone seat.
This year sees the Wing once again rewrite the rules for touring, with the all-new GL1200s. All three models are motivated by a new, 1182cc engine with hydraulic valve adjustment, and a redesigned chassis sports a 16-inch front wheel for steering lightness and precision previously unseen in the class. The Aspencade distinguishes itself from the Interstate with a new Type III radio/cassette/communications system, LCD instruments and special rear lightbar.
With the surge of touring popularity, Honda drops the standard Gold Wing in '85, but a top-of-the-line LTD model joins the Aspencade and Interstate, once again raising the ante for touring opulence. The GL1200L Limited Edition comes with computerized fuel injection, Type III audio/intercom system with four speakers, cruise control, auto-leveling rear suspension and a comprehensive electronic travel computer.
Few changes distinguish the GL1200s for their third year of production. The Limited Edition gets renamed the GL1200SE-i, and now features Dolby noise reduction for its Panasonic Type III sound system. The Aspencade gets the same audio update, and both Interstate and Aspencade models can be easily identified by their new rear fender splash guards.
The Gold Wing lineup gets pared to two models, the Interstate and the Aspencade, with the SE-i consigned to history. Both remaining models feature a new tapered seat design with three-stage foam, and the two differ mainly in weight and standard equipment. The Type III sound system, passenger floorboards and armrests, and a trunk mirror are standard on the Aspencade, options on the Interstate.
Honda ups the ante again with the ultimate touring bike, the fourth-generation Gold Wing GL1500 six-cylinder. The 1520cc six sets fresh standards of smoothness, silence and power for the class, while an all-new chassis redefines the limits of handling and comfort, and a unique-to-motorcycling reverse gear and single-key operation of the saddlebag and trunk lids offer unparalleled convenience.
Few changes are needed for such a landmark model, even in its second year of production. The six remains as a single model with no variants, and, as in '88, options include a CB radio, saddlebag light kit, cornering light kit, color-matched saddlebag and trunk spoilers, color-matched lower leg air vents, a rear speaker kit, a trunk light/mirror, a passenger audio control, and exit vent trim.
An SE model joins the standard GL1500, and both benefit from a host of updates for 1990, including carb and cam revisions for better rideability, noise reductions, even tighter bodywork fit and finish, and smoother fork action. The SE sports special two-tone paint, a three-position center windscreen vent, a special rear trunk spoiler with running/brake light, adjustable passenger footrests, and a upgraded, full-logic sound system.
Once again, the Gold Wing counts three members in its extended family, with the SE joined by Aspencade and Interstate models. The SE remains largely unchanged for '91 save for new two-tone gold paint, and the Aspencade takes on the role of the previous standard-model GL1500. The new model, the Interstate, features a redesigned seat for an 0.8-inch-lower saddle height, and 40 pounds less weight for a sportier, more maneuverable feel.
Big news for the Gold Wing line in 1992 centers on the Interstate, with a revised and upgraded sound system. The Panasonic unit features a 25-watt-per-channel amplifier, standard GL speakers, large and easy-to-use knobs, an intercom, a CB radio interface, a handlebar-mounted control unit, and a special input jack connector allowing the use of a portable cassette or CD player.
Each Gold Wing model now comes in three colors, with the SE benefiting from such updates as rear-mounted speakers and 40-channel CB radio that were previously optional. On the SE and the Aspencade, the cruise control now reads crankshaft speed more directly for more precise road-speed control. All 1520cc six-cylinder engines now use needle bearings in their rocker arm pivots.
Nearly two decades after its introduction, the Gold Wing continues to define the touring class through the process of continuous refinement. Honda again offers three models for '94, the SE in four color choices, and the Aspencade and Interstate in three choices each. The Interstate carries on in its role as the lightest member of the Wing family, the Aspencade remains the full-featured model, and the SE anchors the very top of the Wing family tree.
Honda celebrates two decades of touring excellence with the 20th Anniversary Gold Wings. The Interstate, Aspencade and SE are all distinguished by commemorative gold trim, a distinctive new headlight signature, and other styling treatments. Beneath the surface, the Gold Wings also boast a lower seat height and sporty new suspension that offers even greater agility while maintaining the Wing's legendary ride compliance.
Two decades after its introduction, the Gold Wing still stands in a class of its own as the ultimate luxury touring machine. Honda makes no major model changes to the Gold Wing line until the venerable GL1500 is replaced with the radical aluminum-frame Gold Wing 1800.