It may not have been the first flat four-engined bike in the world (that honor went to the 1938 Zundapp K800) but the Honda Goldwing is certainly the most famous. The two wheeled Japanese Shire horse burst on to the stage in 1974, hitting showrooms 12 months later and selling 13,000 bikes in the US in its first year.
Considering they were aimed at the touring market, the first GL’s were born totally naked, somewhat ironic as in its latest incarnation the GL1800’s now come with six speaker audio systems, sat nav, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, reverse gear and air bags! And if you thought that having more plastic than a Chinese toy factory would save it from the custom builder’s attention, you’d be wrong. Chopped, bobbed and even café racered, GL1800’s are all happily freaking out the touring fraternity as we speak.
Here however, I’m going to look at the custom Goldwing, primarily pre-2000 models for no other reason than I’ve had the angle grinder on an early GL myself. Not only do they make the best Customs but the sound of one running through four reverse cone megaphones has to be heard to be believed.
And to show you just how versatile those big lumbering beasts can be, here’s an amazing looking Wing that almost needed a whole new category to itself when it arrived on the scene – the Café Brat Bobber. Created by Custom Built Motorcycles of Texas, this was the 3rd War Bird custom Goldwing they’ve built and started out as a 1983 GL1100.
The radical look was achieved by ditching the under-seat petrol tank in favor of a conventionally mounted Suzuki GS1000 item and twin Road King shocks going from the re- worked sub frame to the swinging arm to leave the back end completely clean. With the lack of weight and engine mods, the bike accelerated like a 1200 Bandit, says CBM.
Adam Nestor of Adam’s Custom Shop in Sweden produced this GL Café Racer using an old fighter jet as inspiration. The fairing is from a Ducati SS re- worked to match the flow of the minimalistic seat and tail unit. I’ve got a soft spot for this particular bike as it reminds me of the 1976 Swiss-built custom Goldwing endurance racer that finished 5th in its first 24hr race.
This 1983 Interstate is the work of custom Goldwing fan Ric Becker. It features a lot of clever work that isn’t immediately apparent, such as the underslung shocks, raked front end, single Webber carb and fake oil bag that doubles as a secondary petrol tank. Becker calls the bike Ol’ Sparky and to give it that ‘still running after 50 years on the road’ look, gave the frame a rust type finish and hand brushed all the aluminum. Old school, new school, but mostly just too cool for school.
Photos by: Custom Built Motorcycles/Adams Custom Shop/Ric Becker.