Buying a used GL1000
By members of Steve Saunders Goldwing Page at www.goldwingfacts.com, acknowledgments below
The GL1000 was
introduced to the world at the Cologne Motorcycle show in October 1974. At the
time nobody really understood the impact it would have on the motorcycling
world. Honda called it a tourer, but not a tourer as we understand it today. The
touring story came later, when the motorcycling public started putting some
serious miles on the Goldwing.
The bike had a liquid cooled 999cc horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, which was revolutionary at the time. To most people in the 1970’s it was a different looking bike, unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. The Goldwing was bigger than almost any other bike sold at the time. Although a curiosity at first, the thirty plus years since then have proven that Honda designed a winner. Although there have been many changes to the Goldwing line-up over the years, at the heart of every Goldwing is the original GL1000 with its smooth running liquid-cooled boxer engine, shaft drive, low centre of gravity, excellent braking and phenomenal reliability.
Although there were some changes over the four-year production run of the GL1000, these changes were by and large not major. This slow evolution of features might, however, have some impact on deciding which GL1000 to purchase.
One final word before we get in to the details. If you are lucky enough to find yourself with a choice between a beautifully clean non-runner, and a not-so-clean runner, do not be too hasty to jump at beauty. If it is running well you already know, or can easily test, a lot about it. On the other hand, good plastic body parts can be very hard to find and quite costly. It can be a lot of work getting an otherwise running bike into pristine condition. Some people will find that cleaning up a running bike is easier than fixing a non-runner and others will find the opposite. It depends on the person. Mechanical issues are readily solvable. Getting pretty stock body parts is a matter of very good luck and fighting with dollars against the next guy who wants them.
Stock bodies are not paintable to stock condition. NEVER.
Of course the ideal is to find one that both runs and looks good: and that requires looking for quite some time, keeping your eyes open, and being ready to buy the right one, right now, when you find it.
1. Frame. The frame is steel, and steel rusts. Particular areas of concern are around the swingarm pivot and the sub-frame under the engine that just happens to carry the centre stand and side stand. If the bike is on the centre stand with the back tyre touching the ground there may well be a problem. In most cases (if the bike is clean) you can visually inspect these areas, but most owners do not appreciate prospective buyers sticking pocket knives or ice picks into the rusty parts of the bike. Alternatively, if the frame member is paper thin: you’ve got a potential disaster awaiting you, so if it is really suspect: stick away with the knife. If it’s that bad and that questionable, and the owner gets huffy: walk away. It’s your life, not his, that is in question.
Examine the frame closely at the neck, where the down-tubes on the frame and the top-rails meet the neck. Look for any kind of cracking in the paint. The type of paint used on the GL1000’s will show cracking if the frame has been tweaked in an accident. Look out for grease-paint covering the cracks: it’s been seen to be done.
Examine the frame under the seat-sides (for holes drilled in the frame), around the shocks (for more holes and rust), under the motor (for crushing of the tubes caused by the occasionally curbing) and on the front down tubes for crushing (by over zealous application of U-clamps for holding on accessories). Look for rusting both inside and out on the frame under the rear brake master cylinder: brake fluid spillage 25 years ago can take its toll, when allowed to be subjected to weather, salt and other contaminants on exposed metal.
The removable sub-frame is still available as a new spare part in early 2008 and used in good condition from many places cheaply.
2. Wheels and Tyres. The earliest models, 1975 – 1977, had wire-laced wheels. Rusty spokes can be an issue with the wire wheels, but are usually just a cosmetic nuisance. Look for broken or loose spokes (run a screwdriver lightly around the center area of the spokes themselves and listen for the tone or variances in the tone), spin the wheels to be sure they are true, and check for cracks or damage in the rims and hubs. Most spoke breakage happens at the head where they make the 90-degree turn into the hub. Some wire wheels were replaced early-on with aftermarket Lester cast aluminum wheels; check for cracks and trueness and molested rim-beads from inept tire changes.
Comstar wheels were introduced in the 1978 model year: these are not the one-piece cast wheels we see on today’s motorcycles. They sometimes had issues with loosening rivets where the spokes attached to the rim. Comstar wheels with significant mileage may also exhibit cracking of the rim. Keep in mind that wire wheels and Comstars are not readily interchangeable due to differences in brakes and forks.
Tyres can tell a buyer a little bit about how the bike was taken care of, but you can’t really count on them to tell all. If the tyres show signs of extremely uneven or very unusual wear it can be a red flag for loose or damaged suspension parts or other serious damage. Don’t reject a bike for tyre cupping or more wear on one side of the tyre than the other (usually due to riding conditions, not the bike). Cupping is usually due to improper tyre pressure, rider habits, or tyre design.
Before riding, the side walls and between-treads of tyres should be examined very carefully for signs of rot, cracking, cupping, damage, punctures, imbedded objects, and the uneven wear mentioned above. If the bike has been sitting about for years, cracks in the rubber between treads may not be immediately obvious: regardless, tyres that are more than five years old should be changed no matter how much tread is left.
3. Brakes. Do the brakes work as they should? Check for warped or scored rotors, if the surface that contacts the brake-pad is inset or worn down more than the thickness of a fingernail, as judged by the ridge on the inside and outside of the wear area, it’s badly worn. If it is lightly worn with minor scores, that is regular road-fare: not to worry. Also check for bulging or cracked hoses, bend each one as close to double as you can: look for dryness and cracking. Look for leaks anywhere on the brake system and condition of the brake pads.
Check the brake-push rod by looking in past the lever in the front for a rotted seal, or the rod under the rubber cap on the rear master: crystallization of brake fluid may appear in those areas, indicating a weak, cracked or worn seal. Take a good look at the front master cylinder itself: whether the cap removes easily, the reservoir seal is good, and the levered push-rod that goes into the cylinder is rusted or corroded badly. Do the same with the rear master reservoir, but to inspect the seal and the quality of the fluid.
If possible inspect the inside of the reservoirs for fluid condition. Very dirty fluid or lots of crud in the reservoirs means time and money sooner or later, and means the bike had at least one owner who did not appreciate the need for regular fluid changes. Check to make sure the brakes release completely by centre-standing the bike, and with a helper: spin the wheel, applying the brakes firmly, release them, and then check to see if the brakes are releasing fully or are ‘dragging’.
If the brakes are dragging a little, that can be expected. If they become hard to spin after the brakes are released, your caliper pistons are binding, and you’ll need to overhaul the calipers or the master cylinders [usually the caliper(s) in the case of the GL1000’s]. If they are hard to spin, but 20 seconds later they are freeing up, then it’s possible that it will work out all by itself when the system is used a little. Don’t count on that, from a financial point of view. Be cynical, where brakes are concerned.
Eyeball the thickness of the brake pads: less than 2mm on any requires new pads: 2.5-3mm+ is usable for a little while. A decent eye and common sense are all that is needed on this aspect.
Have your buddy hold the brake(s) on fully while you slip the caliper-piston dust seals back a little, (with the chop-stick or other piece of hard-wood, so you don’t hurt the cover or scrape the piston) and examine the caliper-pistons: heavy corrosion means a brake job regardless. Failure of them on the road is NOT something you want.
4. Suspension. Check for leaks in the forks or the rear shocks. The original rear shocks are a coiled-spring shock: the rods are exposed under the springs. Check those rod-shafts carefully for signs of rubbing or scoring: they can be bent, and that’s how it shows up.
Have some one hold down the bike at the rear (bike on the centre-stand) so that the forks are extended and check very carefully for pitting or vertical scoring on the complete “travel” area (that area which comes into contact with the seals at any point in action) of the fork tubes, as well as rock dings which can lead to recurring seal failure, and for caked on oil lower down (typically on the inside by the fender mounts where it hasn’t been cleaned). If you bounce the front forks does it feel right? Poor fork seals are probably not a deal breaker, but it will still require $30+ and 2-3 hours. An indicator of ‘doctoring’ is a totally clean set of forks: there should be a minute oily dust-ridge at the top of travel.
Poor fork tubes IS a deal breaker: and any scarring or scuffing should either negate the deal or reduce the price so that you can plan on a lot of money (about $225) for new fork tubes, $40 for new bushings, $35 for new seals, + 2 to 3 hours work.
While the bike is still being held down at the rear by “party 2’s” butt, the steering head should be checked. There were different types of bearings used. The earlier models had ball bearings which were prone to wear and indexing. Turn the front wheel side to side using the wheel, with a finger tip, from stop to stop: it should feel smooth and not favor any one direction (usually straight ahead if it’s worn). If they are conical bearings, and the bike has been sitting for a long while, expect the grease to be stiff: look more for ‘slop’ or play in the neck than un-even or ‘bumpy’ travel from side to side.
Note: The conical bearings can be usually cleaned and re-greased (clean and check the races for pitting), then torqued properly: the ball-bearings need to have races replaced, and new balls installed, and then set up properly.
Have someone hold the handlebars (Party 3, or a long-armed party two who is still sitting on the rear of the bike to lift the front on centre-stand) stiffly in one position (straight ahead), and check for axial and radial play in the lower fork bushings: you want to see if there is any side to side or front to back play on the lower fork legs: if so it means not just seals but also new lower-leg bushings: this is not a deal breaker, but adds $50 or so to the (do it yourself) repair costs. If they are bad, you’ll typically notice it on the front-to-back movement. Any movement on the lower legs means new bushings required, or expect a ‘pig’ for handling on the road.
Carry that checking action to the front wheel itself, on its axle: Any noticeable play there means worn out wheel bearings. Be a bit gentler than when checking the forks, so you don’t introduce sloppy fork leg bushings into the wheel-bearing test.
While you are that close, check the HONDA emblem in front of your face (above the wheel): is it there and in decent condition? Is the headlight pot dinged on the bottom or bent out of shape by ham handedness? Do the electricals seem to be clean and harnessed well before they enter the pot?
5. Rear Wheel. Put the bike on the centre stand and rotate the wheel by hand, it should move smoothly and easily without any clicking or grinding sounds. Ask the owner if and when he/she last changed the gear oil and what was used. It should be 90 weight gear oil. Check the rear wheel bearing in the same way as the front: holding the top and bottom, and pushing it laterally back and forth (it is harder to tell at the rear than the front, so be diligent).
-Check the area where the final drive meets the drive shaft for leaks.
-Check carefully for cracks around the flange where the swing arm meets the final drive. Early 1975 models had no grease fitting at this point for lubing the shaft splines – it is common to find them lacking in lubrication. Inspect the zerk fitting on later models – if it is covered in dust and dirt it probably never had lube put in during maintenance.
-Check the area around the front of the final drive, typically on the base of the rubber boot, for oil leakage: indicating a possible blown final-shaft seal in the engine.
-Check the universal-joint dust-boot itself for cracking or splits.
6. Electrical System. The GL1000 electrical system is not overly complex, but a couple of things are worth checking. The stator wire connector block sometimes fails due to corrosion leading to high resistance and heat. The three-prong connector terminal is near the battery, to the rear. It connects the stator at the rear of the engine to the rectifier which is mounted to the left side of the battery box. The usual fix is to remove the connector and solder the three yellow wires. If it hasn’t been done expect to have to do it. If the bike is running check the alternator output by putting a voltmeter across the battery. There should be over 14V at 3000 rpm, and the voltmeter should not get below 12V at 1200 rpm. Also open the tank wings and look at the wiring. Check for discolouration, signs of melting or burning. Are the connections original or are they taped up, what is the condition of the insulation?
Do the same inspection to the complete wiring harness. The harness under the seat is minimal, so not to necessarily worry about that: but you can view the wiring leading to the starter relay (by the alternator three-prong plug under the left side-cover) and up into the headlight pot, check to see if it is abused (cuts, slices, old splices and other damage caused from silliness or adding this and that accessory). If you can get into the headlight pot, check the wiring inside of it in a similar fashion.
- Check all lights for proper operation. Check all lenses for cracks. Check signal light stanchions for looseness and proper grounding and straightness. Check the chrome on the signals and headlight rim for pitting or dings. Check the headlight lens for cracking or actual holes in the glass.
- Check the pilot (dash) lights for blown bulbs, for misplaced or missing colored-indicator covers, for cracks along the sides of the pilot-casing (dash) between the instruments.
- Check the instruments for proper operation: does the neutral light come on? Neutral lights on early GL1000s often will stay on when in gear – a nuisance that is difficult to correct. Does the oil indicator light up on ‘stall’, and then turn off on ‘running’ state? Direction idiot lights working? High beam indicator working?
- Check all electrical function controls: horn, signals, High/Low beam, starter, & kill switches for proper and reasonably smooth operation (they are relatively easy to dismantle and clean: you are looking for broken and/or worn out parts at this point, not just stiffness.) Note that the starter button is a weak point in the right switch pod – replacements are available but expensive ($125 in 2008)
- For non-runners OR runners: Turn on the ignition (with your battery jumped to the system if necessary) and check the fuel gauge position. Then, disconnect the battery, remove it away from the bike, (or with a runner, simply turn the bike off) pour your fuel (it’s a good investment, don’t worry about it) into the tank, re-connect the battery and check the fuel gauge again: is it working?
- Is the voltmeter moving up and working properly when the battery power is applied?
Another issue with the GL1000 is the 7-volt regulator that powers the fuel and temperature gauges. If both of those gauges don’t work it’s probably a bad 7-volt regulator. Original equipment 7-volt regulators are hard to find, but replacements can be found.
6a Indicators. Speedometer and Tachometer faces are unique to the model year for the GL1000. When inspecting a used bike check to see that the gauges match that model year. The gauges are typically reliable, but failures can be seen coming in tachometers that are slow to rise or speedometers that “twitch” during riding.
It is common to find replacement gauges on a bike. Try to use common sense to match wear on body components (like brake rotors) with mileage.
The 1975 GL1000 gauge faces had a flaw in manufacturing that is evidenced by cracking paint on the face. It sometimes occurs that one gauge will crack and the other will not, but be suspicious of a bike with severely mismatched clocks.
There are replacement units available occasionally, but these are being snatched up at high prices ($500 per gauge?). Replacement gauges for the ’76 LTD are nearly impossible to find. Replacement gauge faces are available as a polyester decal, but they are a somewhat poor match to the original painted faces and difficult to install.
7. Engine. The engine is the heart of the Goldwing, and is largely responsible for the longevity and fine reputation of the bikes. It is a fine piece of engineering, with a few quirks that must be respected.
The engine is an interference design, meaning that pistons and valves occupy the same space at different points in the cycle, provided the timing is correct. As one can readily appreciate, if a belt breaks, or strips some teeth, or is put in incorrectly, you can have piston and valves trying to occupy the same space at the same time. This usually means the end of the engine, or if one is lucky, just bent valves.
Opinions differ as to timing belt life, 40,000 miles/5 years is often quoted, and other experienced people say as little as 20,000 miles. If the bike is running, and you are confident the PO knows what he or she is talking about, you could plan to change them on schedule. You can tell a lot by the sound of the belts. If you have the opportunity to listen to known fresh belts, then old belts, you’ll note the newer ones are quieter and smoother. So, just listen for undue but subtle noise from the valve-belt covers.
If you have any doubts, plan to change the belts right away. On a non-running engine, do not even turn it over until you have inspected them, or at least ensured that the valves are opening and closing properly by checking in the compression chamber with a light as you manually turn the motor over. It is so easy to destroy a good engine with a deteriorated belt it is just not worth the risk.
Take a compression gauge with you and do a check if you can. It should be 160 psi or more and all cylinders should be within 5 psi of each other. (They are a decent motor if all are above 155psi, a really good engine if they are above 160psi, and excellent at 165. You will almost always note one cylinder, usually number three, that is 3-4 psi difference) Below 145 is on the low side. 142 is rebuild time and they are truly oil-guzzling dogs at that point.
Note that when idling the early GL1000 will sometimes exhibit a bit of noise from the primary chain. This is common due to the lack of a tensioner on the primary chain added to later models. Noise should be MINIMAL from a properly tuned and synchronized engine. The more “chunka-chunka” you hear from inside the engine the greater the chance the carbs need re-synchronizing or rebuilding.
Inspect all motor mounts properly. That means the two attaching at the front ‘corners’ on top of the engine, the cross-bottom one on the front, the two top ones at the rear, and the two bottom ones at the rear. They have all been seen broken away on different engines, from ham-handed wrenchers.
Use your light, open the oil entry cap, and shine the light right into the crank-case compartment. The object is to inspect the interior walls for varnish and ‘mung’. If you are lucky enough to see that the cases are clean inside, you are in a position to realize that the bike has had reasonable maintenance. (or been well flushed)
If, on the other hand you see a dark brown substance lathered on the inside, this bike has been run long between oil changes and not maintained very well. There is always some level of varnish: just don’t buy one that has molasses in the case.
Use your small light, and while doing the compression test, shine your light into the cylinders, to check the walls for signs of rust.
The 17mm wrench is to remove the timing inspection cover. Use the 12mm socket to (your buddy’s or the owner’s job) turn the engine while you inspect each chamber. This is very important for non-running bikes. Occasionally you’ll see rust and/or scoring in the cylinder walls. Call it a day, if so.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT EVER turn the engine counterclockwise with the socket: you may loosen the alternator stay-bolt, requiring an engine out and rear case off to retighten the bolt.
8. Fuel Tank. The fuel tank is steel and prone to rusting. You can use a flashlight to look inside; this is best done in a garage or in poor light. The later models came out with a protective coating in the tank, and people have tried many remedies to remove and protect against rust. If it is very rusty you will have to clean it. If it is perforated it will need to be replaced, a fair amount of work. A rusty tank also has an impact on carburetors. If the tank is full of fuel, use the tube to siphon fuel in to the can before you can check the inside of the tank. Check the reserve-fuel switch on the petcock to see if it actually is working (switch the petcock to off, remove the fuel line at the fuel pump on the opposite side of the bike, [on the line coming from the tank] using appropriate caution to not spill fuel, get a container, and turn to petcock back on to “On”, then to “res”. This will tell you several things, but in a nutshell: is the reserve line within the tank in decent order, and is the petcock itself in good order.
Note that early petcocks can be rebuilt but later ones are riveted and require drilling/tapping to replace internal rubber parts.
9. Carburetors. Carburetors can be significant issue with GL1000’s. The metering passages are complex and some are quite small, especially the idle circuits. Rust from the tank or solids precipitating from stale gas can clog things up very badly, leading to poor performance. This will necessitate stripping, cleaning, replacing seals, ‘O’ rings and worn parts. This can be expensive and although it is well within the capabilities of an amateur, it has to be done carefully. The subsequent tune-up and carb balancing is also vitally important if you want the bike to run well. The GL1000 had numbered carbs, check that the numbers are all the same, and that there are numbers. Carbs without numbers are likely from an 1100, not a good thing. A quick check for 1100 carbs is a plug on the tube coming out of the #3 carb.
There are proper numbers for proper years: ensure they are the correct carburetor for the year of the bike you are inspecting. It does affect operation and fuel mileage, and it will affect the value of the bike: the wrong carbs can turn a “Collector” into a “has-been” or a “will-be-a-lot-of-money to put right”. See below for numbers and years, stamped near the top of the carb beside the top-cap.
Check the throttle for smooth operation, and a quick return to idle. If not then it could be cables/linkages or an internal problem in the pivots or other moving parts.
Inspect the area under the carbs, on top of the engine, for brownish residue indicating leaking carbs and/or pooling gas. There could be many reasons, but most likely they will eventually require a rebuild. Carb kits are expensive and the work is time consuming and needs to be accurately and meticulously done.
If the area (typically under the rear left carb as sitting on the bike) has lost paint but is nice and clean, then it may have had a leak in the past, or still has the leak but is freshly cleaned. Query that with the owner: is it generally a mess but he cleaned it to show you the bike? Or is the result of a rectified problem at a point in the past?
A particular issue is the plastic buttons in the carburetor tops; these were built in to the top of the vacuum chamber during manufacture and cannot be replaced. They do tend to fail, and the usual fix is to epoxy something on top. A good seal is vital for proper vacuum operation.
Another issue is misinformation on carb rebuilds. Some of the aftermarket manuals contain errors resulting in incorrect placement for some of the jets (to avoid this, use the Honda factory manual). The GL1000 actually has good carbs, but many don’t know how to take care of them. If the bike has not been running for a long time you might want to add the price of a carb overhaul to the equation. A GL1000 that is ridden a lot will almost always run better than one that’s only ridden occasionally.
Look out for carbs from one year mixed with carbs from another year, especially between the early and late GL1000. Between ’75 and ’77 there were small differences, but in ’78 Honda installed smaller carbs and changed cam profiles to comply with more strict emissions requirements and to give the bike more torque down low, but less top-end power (probably a little more practical for touring).
Also be on the lookout for someone who has installed “carb kits” on the GL1000 but did not do a complete overhaul of the system. Fuel leaks into the plenum chamber are common unless the plenum seals have been replaced – look for wet fuel in the plenum chamber with the air filter removed. If it is not bone dry when engine is running a lot of work must be done to replace the seals.
Below are the carburetor numbers by year, this is useful for the reason above and also because a lot of owners changed carburetors in the hopes of better performance. The carburetors work with specific camshafts, so this was not generally successful.
1976 LTD 763A
1978 Emission version 771A
10. Ignition. The original ignition used two sets of mechanical contact points. Some PO’s have changed out the points system for an electronic ignition. If the bike has an old aftermarket electronic ignition, does it work? Parts for it may be almost impossible to get, depending on make. The Dyna units are still available, and converting back to the original points system is well within the capabilities of most ‘shade tree’ mechanics.
11. Plastic parts. The side covers are becoming much harder to find, and correspondingly more expensive, especially the ’75 – ’77 side covers. Check the tabs on the side panels (often broken off where they push onto the rubber grommets/locks at the top), the locking mechanism on the bottom, and the posts that hold the emblems in place (not a great concern, as they are better double-sided taped on anyway, but good pins are a must to a serious collector). Also check the tank wing hinges and pins and stay-cables. Is everything original or have they been replaced with non-standard parts? Are the rubber mounting grommets for the side covers in place? Are mounting grommets generally on the bike dried out and cracked up?
Check the faux-tank lid for holes made to mount toggles for accessories. Check the lid naugahyde/vinyl cover for splitting or cracking or excess dryness. Check under the lid for the tool-box that should be there. The collectible GL1000 should have proper hinge pins/bushings/retainer wire holding the side covers on the faux tank.
12. Cooling System. A leaking water pump can be an issue especially if the previous owner used coolant containing silica. Silica, used in most automotive coolants, tends to wear the soft GL1000 pump shaft causing leaks. Leaks are usually detected at the weep hole at the front of the engine. A new pump is expensive ($125 – 2008) and it is a lengthy job to replace it. Remove the radiator cap and check the color of the coolant. If it’s green it’s may well be common auto coolant which could lead to a water pump failure. Check the radiator, the hoses, front, and top of the engine for coolant leaks.
Take the bike for a ride, to warm it up, then you probably will have to let it sit at idle to get the temperature up: the radiator fan should come on once the temperature gets to the middle of the gauge. DO NOT let it overheat: if the gauge reaches 75%: then the fan-switch on the thermostat housing is NOT operating properly: Turn off the engine immediately, or better yet, take it for an easy ride at a decent speed with no hard acceleration to naturally cool it down again. Common sense prevails here.
If fan switch has failed it normally fails in the “closed” position… you will hear the fan come on when the key is turned, even if the bike is cold. Replacements should be obtained from a Honda dealer, current aftermarket replacements are said to be unreliable.
Thermostats are often found stuck in the open position – bike will take a long time to warm up and then vary in operating temperature depending upon riding speed. Thermostats are cheap, but installing one is difficult.
Check the radiator exterior for signs of rock-hits or bumps, for signs of repairs or past leaks. Check the coolant for any additives which may have been used to ‘doctor’ the cooling system: Iron Stop (for blown head gaskets) whitish in color, Bar’s Leak (for rad-holes or leaks), grayish color: or for anything that does not look like clean fluid.
13. Exhaust. Original mufflers are hard to find and a good set can be expensive. As all exhaust systems do, the GL1000 exhaust will eventually rust out and need to be replaced. Luckily there are plenty of aftermarket mufflers on the market, but they won’t be the same as the originals. Most aftermarket pipes are a little to a lot louder and may require re-jetting of the carbs. As an inexpensive alternative some have retrofitted original equipment Harley mufflers. Inexpensive Harley mufflers in new condition can be found on eBay and other sources because so many of them are discarded in favor of loud pipes.
Headers can look fine until a close examination may show rot at the joint between the header and the muffler. Check to see if there are any studs missing where the header meets the head. Check the headers for bashing and dents from curbing or other hazards. A large ding will affect your exhaust flow, at the least, and cause you to search for a good header.
14. Fairings. If (as a lot of the GL1000’s do) it has an aftermarket fairing, whether Vetter, Eagle or other: look under/behind the fairing and see if the stock dog-ears and headlight pot are still there, and if the lights (usually taken from the bike and placed on the fairings in several models of the Vetter and Eagles, but missing entirely if using a Vetter Windjammer model 2 or 3, or the Vetter Nighthawk) are stock and decent. Same with the tail-end: if it has Vetter/Bates/Califa Bags: are the stock signal lights still there?
If the dog-ears (headlight pot holders) and the pot itself are there, are they cleanable? (With the fairing in the way, they are very hard to access; hence they may have seen their last waxing 25 years ago) Moderate and polish-able ‘tarnish’ may be acceptable: heavy crusting is not. Good test is: if you can scrap it off with your thumb-nail and not leave a visible hole in the chrome, it’s a good chance you can bring it back to decent, but not (ever) really good.
If the various stock parts are not attached: ask the owner if he has the stock parts, (or for that matter, any other parts around). If not, discount the bike heavily: they are hard to find in good condition.
If the bike had certain types of trunks and bags on it, the rear tail light may have been moved down on the fender: leaving holes where the mounting was originally, and making new holes, requiring a new fender, or welding, cleaning and a re-chrome job on the original.
15. Other points. Having a stock seat on the bike in good condition will over-ride a lot of other small negatives: good, clean, un-ripped or non-split seats are HARD to find. They are stupidly expensive to have re-upholstered properly, especially if you have the stock Honda-stenciled panel on the back transferred to the new job. Corbin’s, and other ‘saddlemakers’ of the era are nice, but the stock seat will improve your investment value quite a lot.
Are the handle bars square and true? Are they stock issue or a ‘whatever’ replacement?
Are the radiator wings still there? The bike is incomplete without them, and they were often removed. Are the stock operator’s manual, the manuals for any added accessories that require manuals (Vetter sound, etc) there or available? (If so, do a jig, you scored big time.)
If the grab rail is missing from the bike you are considering be prepared to fight with all the other GL1000 owners who have removed the old luggage and now want to restore that “naked” look to their bike. Current prices for a nice used grab rail for the early GL1000 are around $125-$150.
If you are considering buying one of the rare 1976 GL1000LTD for restoration please note – Honda imported few of these bikes, and imported fewer still of the limited edition components that make this bike special. Just because you can buy a nice used one for $3000 does not mean it can be made to look like that low mile bike for just another $3000… competition for NOS parts for these bikes is strong and finding many original parts is next to impossible.
Decal sets are available for use when repainting body parts. Both the outer striping and inner labels are available through eBay and other restoration sources.
Other things that may be relevant are the possibilities for flood damage, storage near corrosive chemicals or salt-laden air from close-by salt water. Even rodent infestation has been a problem for some people. Open the faux-tank lid, take the cover off the air-filter and look in: dirty air-filters are an indicator of poor maintenance generally, but more often than you would think, you’ll find nuts, seeds, dog-food stored there by rodents: and that on a bike that may have only been sitting in the wrong place for a couple months. Essentially, look at the bike, its environment, and its owner; and don’t be afraid to ask the owner lots of questions.
For some details on the various changes that were made year-to year, the Goldwing history page on this site is a very good source.
16. The Last Word . The GL1000 was a very popular bike in its time so there are still plenty of parts, new and used, that will enable an owner to keep his or her old Wing on the road for a long time to come. Don’t shy away from these great old bikes because of their age. Bear in mind that an excellent (museum piece) specimen is an investment in fun and ego but also financially. The 1976 GL1000 LTD that sat in the recreation room for 28 years sold two years ago for $12,600+ on eBay: and went out the door with 130 miles on it.
Buy right, and you’ll be a happy camper. It’ll only increase in value. Buy, using this as an assist, and find a perfect one: and you’ll be getting one extremely RARE bike. Do NOT expect perfection. That’s impossible. Find something workable to your budget. The fact is that you may look at 10 bikes to find the right one. It IS worth it.
Balance the good and the bad in the bike you are reviewing, and make a well-judged and informed buying decision. Develop your own check list, and you will be way ahead of the game. Hopefully, some of the factors in this article will assist greatly.
Assemble your “testing” equipment in a carry bag, and be ready to roll at a moment’s notice: you can bet your last buck that if you don’t some one else will be there to get that rare old ‘grandpa’ bike.
Be smart, but don’t be a smart-ass: remember: the guy you are buying it from is a “Winger”.
Acknowledgments; This article is a collaboration of the persons named below and who can be found on our forum at www.goldwingfacts.com/forums , all put together by English Bob, who takes the blame for any confusion or poor explanation; Axelwik, Endwell_Tim, gaz1200, RB, StraightWings, tomswift99.
GL1000 picture and artwork by nomados.
Thanks are also due the Emperor of Japan and Honda Motor Co. for just being there.
What to pay for a used GL1000 in Ireland.
Added by Steve Saunders
GL1000's are quite scarce in Ireland.
Goldwing motorcycles weren't exactly an overnight success here when the GL1000
was launched. A small motorcycle population of approximately 30,000 riders
(mostly teenagers who couldn't afford cars) even in the motorcycle boom period
of the 1970's, meant that the Goldwing had
limited appeal to Irish riders and never sold in big numbers in those early
years. From 1982, big increases in insurance premiums by the only (and British
owned) company that insured motorcycles didn't help sales of
large capacity new motorcycles either. It was only in the mid-1980's that used Goldwings
started to trickle into the country through some motorcycle shops who were
bringing in Japanese and American imports. Some of these were GL1000's, but the
majority were GL1100 Interstates and most of the buyers with the cash opted for
the GL1100 because of the fairing and luggage. This meant that the importers
concentrated on bringing in Interstates (and later Aspencades) and only grabbed
the occasional GL1000 when they popped up at bargain prices.
Now you might think that because GL1000's aren't exactly growing on trees in Ireland, that the existing ones are worth lots of money. Well sadly that isn't the case at all. Prices tend to range from around €1,200 for a tatty runner, up to a maximum of around €3,000 for a decent one. This is regardless of year. The collectable status that some GL1000 model years enjoy in the USA and some other countries just doesn't seem to apply in Ireland, which means that machines that should be preserved because of their rarity often end up being left to rot by disinterested owners.
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