The making of the GL1800 phase 1


The Honda Gold Wing Design Story: from concept to the finished product. The all-new Honda GL1800 Gold Wing is the next generation model for the company's flagship touring machine. Starting today, and in the days to come, is their story of the development of the new model from initial pencil drawings to a rolling motorcycle.


The Gold Wing Design Story


The Honda Gold Wing is blessed with one of the most loyal customer followings found anywhere in motorcycling. Nine out of 10 Gold Wing owners would buy another Gold Wing, a resounding endorsement for the motorcycle that has defined "and redefined" long-distance motorcycling for a quarter-century.


The task of creating the next generation Gold Wing posed a unique challenge for Honda's design team. While almost all design projects take the measure of numerous competitors, the 2001 Gold Wing's designers faced daunting competition: the original designers of the GL1500. The integrity of the first 1988 GL1500 design was so formidable that the GL1500 ruled the world of luxury touring virtually unchallenged for 12 years.


What do you do with a motorcycle that, to most customers, is almost perfect already? And yet, Honda's passion for motorcycling demanded a new design that exceeded customers' expectations: including riders who had yet to taste the Gold Wing experience.


Should the team play it safe with an evolutionary design, giving the Gold Wing's loyal legion of customers more to love in the way of luxury and creature comforts? Or should they gamble with a revolutionary approach, bringing to bear a decade's worth of technological advances and lessons learned in motorcycle design to chart a new course in motorcycle touring?


In a corporate culture steeped in collective decision-making, the lack of early agreement provided a fertile environment that nurtured competing design concepts and brought forth the bounty of Honda's formidable R&D expertise. The result? The new GL1800 Gold Wing is both revolutionary and evolutionary, with class-shattering performance wedded to the most luxurious touring platform ever offered in a motorcycle.


What follows is a pictorial essay that traces the GL1800 Gold Wing's design story. It is a story that amply illustrates the adage: "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." In the case of the beautiful 2001 Gold Wing, the final design is a passionate synergy of Honda's most talented people.


Concept Creation



Concept sketch A   Concept sketch B    Concept sketch C   Concept sketch D


Honda's design teams from Japan and the U.S. seclude themselves to focus completely on the creation of the new Gold Wing concept. Numerous initial design sketches are created. The concept drawings vary widely as the group seeks to embody a design direction that emphasizes power, long-distance comfort and unsurpassed reliability. Soon, a development theme emerges for the new Gold Wing design: Revolution, not evolution.


The design group chooses Athletic to animate the development themed Revolution, not evolution, and thereby gives life to the new Gold Wing's design. Within this strong image the group identifies six design elements that support the design theme:

Prestige: High-class, upholding the Gold Wing's legendary tradition.

Comfort: Superb ergonomics balanced with all-weather riding pleasure.

Functional : A beautiful design that showcases class-leading controls and amenities.

High-tech, high-touch : The latest technology to bring the customer closer to the motorcycling experience.

Individual: A unique character that embodies power, fitness, strength, toughness and endurance.

Personalization: Easy to customize to individual rider tastes.

Next in the series: Image & Design Sketches and Clay Models.


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Courtesy American Honda Motor Company