Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misstated when Honda started production of the Gold Wing motorcycle to Marysville, Ohio. Honda says the first Gold Wing came off the Marysville line on May 1, 1980.
Honda's Gold Wing is a luxury touring motorcycle built for America's wide open roads.
Ken Peterson, co-director of the 4,000-member Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Texas District, calls Honda's flagship bike the "Cadillac of motorcycles."
"It is supersmooth, superquiet," says the 73-year-old Peterson, who rides cross country on a 1998 1500cc Gold Wing modified with a trike kit -- his wife, Barbie, in back.
But it took the launch of production in Ohio in 1980 to put the Gold Wing in the big leagues. Making the Gold Wing in America helped enthusiasts take Honda seriously as a big bike maker. Ohio production gave Honda Motor Co. the motivation to move the Gold Wing up to the next level.
The bike also enlarged the number of Honda enthusiasts in the United States, a loyal group that buys products ranging from lawn mowers to autos.
When the 1975 Gold Wing GL1000 debuted in Germany at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in October 1974, touring was the bike's secondary function. The GL1000 had no windshield. It had neither saddlebags nor a place for luggage.
But it was shaft-driven instead of chain-driven, meaning less maintenance and the ability to take on vast stretches of highway without hesitation. The Gold Wing was built for reliability, durability and high performance, says Ray Blank, senior vice president of Honda's motorcycle division.
"It was a 1,000cc, liquid-cooled, low-mounted, four-cylinder horizontally opposed engine," Blank says. "It was really a high-performance bike. There was really nothing like it at the time."