1981 Honda GoldWing GL1100 „Firstborn“ – the story.
The Honda Goldwing is a tourer quite rare to find some transformation on this basis is even more difficult, but those engaging in this kind of projects often get good results because those who do have expertise and know where to intervene and how to do it
The bike started as 1981 model year for German market, it had all the original stickers in German language on it…
We purchased it in our neighbouring Slovenia, rideable but in need of servicing.
We always wanted to build a 4cyl boxer GoldWing, the price was fair enough so we took it without much hesitating. These bikes are super rare to find here, and the ones that are offered for sale are extremely expensive.
The bike had to be redesigned and done from scratch, cause everything was in due for servicing, but it started and ran; those machines are known as super strong and reliable, no matter the lack of maintenance.
We wanted to give it a more retro, oldschool look, to get away from that „wannabe Harley“ original Honda design with high handlebars and low rear end. Also, considering that these bikes are getting more rare and hard to find, we wanted to do all the work without disturbing the frame. So, the beauty of this build is that the frame is not detabbed at all, everything is reverseble to original appearance!
We started with the suspension, the stock air assisted suspension was very soft and like on most of them, leaking air, so the decision was to dicth that and go with a classic suspension parts. These bikes are pretty heavy so we had problems finding the rear suspension setup. The shocks had to be strong but also the length was different compared to stock size; we lifted the rear end a few centimeters to get the stance we wanted. After some research, we ordered a pair of Hagon units built to our specs on the rear, and a set of Wirth progressive fork springs in front matched with CNC machined fork caps replacing the stock air valved ugly ones. Front forks were generally overhauled, with new oil, seals and wipers.
Considering the new taller rear end, we made a new seat base and seat, fitted a chrome fender and fabricated a one off side bag carrier, which is quite simple and easily removed when not needed. The seat is one off in genuine black leather and brown stitching.
We like to keep some usage marks on all our builds (we call them the war wounds) so the bike keeps its charm and authenticity, so we installed a pair of used chrome fenders from another bike instead of plastic originals or buying new ones.
The bike had 60k km on the clock, which is nothing for these tourers. The engine had few gasket leaks here and there and the carbs were leaking fuel. All the signs pointed that the kilometers are real and that no one opened this engine before, we were pretty amazed…
This is a 4cyl boxer engine with liquid cooling and it has to have a reliable working cooling system so we changed it all, from sensors to thermostat and thermoswitch units, new and modern silicone hoses, all new gaskets, rubber parts and o-rings and a new water pump. The whole engine also went through a complete overhaul, with heads machined, valves lapped and seats cut, full Vesrah gasket set installed making sure no leaks anywhere.. While we were in there, all components were checked for wear, what had to be replace was replaced with OEM Honda parts, starter was overhauled, starter clutch and so on. Timing belts are crucial on this bike, cause if neglected and not changed on time, they can make a big mess and a huge hole in owners wallet if snapped, so new ones were freshly installed no matter old ones looked good. Finally, the machine was painted in OEM spec high temp paint, so it looks as good as new.
The last but not the least was the carb setup, which is huge (the size of a 200cc engine:)). They were leaking so all gaskets, membranes and o-rings were ordered, carbs fully dismantled and cleaned. Also, new idle jets were installed cause old ones refused to come out so we made them come out… No wonder most people don’t take care of carbs, cause good carb overhaul kit costs about 250USD in USA plus shipping and custom duties and it’s a good few days job, if you know what you’re doing. Honda services around here don’t want to do that job at any price (now we know why), we did it and we’re glad we did so; the carbs work flawless now and no leaks on our freshly painted engine block!
We fitted a pair of almost new HD 1200 mufflers laying around in our garage so the exhaust now sounds wonderfull and classy, like it should…
The brakes were generally overhauled with new brake pistons and seals, all rubber parts, cleaned, calipers painted and fitted with new pads, brake oil and steelbraided hoses, front and rear. The brake discs were machined so they are mirror flat now. We fitted a new front master cylinder pump cause the original one leaked and had some kind of a chopper eagle Honda logo on it, which we had to remove no matter what 😉
New front and rear Dunlop tires are fitted, all bearings, bearing holders and grease seals were changed also. Rear shaft was serviced and lubed, o-rings changed. This model year has a 17“ rear wheel so we had troubles finding a tire for it, we found only 3 available models and all 3 were not oldshool design we wanted, like the front Dunlop Speedmaster..
The electrics were partially rewired, ignition lock moved to new position on the right beneath the false tank, together with the choke knob and fog light switch. New front and rear lights are installed, new blinkers, new right side fog light…
There’s a new and modern all in one electronic gauge fitted, it’s all black and minimalistic when not working and when you turn the key, it lights up and gives all the info you need. It’s fitted in a CNC machined alu holder with two more extra signal lights, so all looks tidy and neat.
New LSL low handlebar was fitted with black Biltwell grips matching the diamond pattern seat stitching. Original controls were kept but freshly black painted. The frame, wheels, fork legs, swing arm were powder coated, some stuff in gloss black and some in matte black.
The paint on a tank is a beautifull high gloss metallic brown, with high gloss black on the side covers and the middle tank section. This bike has a centralised gas tank, so the tank above the engine is a false one, just hiding the air box and electrics. The false tank middle section was big and flat so we decided to give it a more interesting look – we made openings for two small VDO gauges in front of the rider, one for temperature, other one for gas level.
All in all, we wanted to make it look older and more vintage and retro (what we always do :)), unlike the original, and I think we made it. The bike looks stunning and it rides like that, that boxer flat four is magnificent and now it’s ready for another few decades of strong running… It has much details, like that 1969 original Honda logo on the tank (don’t ask what model), yellow fog light on the right, too much details to count, I hope the photos can tell it all.
It may be a pretty common bike in the USA but they are rare on this side of the pond and highly priced, and a few of them are in top shape. This one is built to be more retro, with few modern touches but improved in all riding aspects, it’s different but not drastic, like neither of our builds. It’s like new now and ready to hit many more open roads…
The bike is for sale, it would be looking for a new owner.
Photo credit by OneDayStudio ().