(This Retrospective article was printed in the February 2007 issue of Rider.)
A very sensible motorcycle, this midsize touring bike, but perhaps too sensible for the American buyer.
When you see a hundred or a thousand Gold Wingers together, more than half of them are running solo, and this Silver Wing was a perfect ride for a solo guy or gal. Less expensive and less weight, the 650 Interstate weighed a good 200 pounds less than the 1100 Interstate.
This tale began back in 1978 when Honda introduced the CX500, as useful a motorcycle as one could hope to find. The engine was an 80-degree V-twin (the Moto Guzzi was/is a 90-degree Vee), with short pushrods operating four valves per cylinder, a big bore of 78mm and short stroke of 52mm, a compression ratio of 10:1 and willing to rev to 10,000 rpm. That was impressive! The single camshaft was set high in the block, requiring a Hy-Vo chain with manual tensioning adjustment—the need for which was very infrequent. Valve adjustment was by locknut and screw, with which all the old Brit-bike enthusiasts were quite familiar. Ignition was transistorized and pointless, so to speak. Carburetion was by a pair of big 35mm constant-velocity Keihins. Liquid kept the engine cool rather than air, and the CX500 could sit in traffic on a 100-degree day and not break into a sweat. The power ran through a five-speed transmission to a shaft final drive, very neat and troublefree.
Its frame was the backbone type, using the engine as a stressed member, with a 33mm telescopic fork at the front, a pair of shock absorbers at the back. The ComStar wheels ran tubeless tires, with a drum brake at the back, a disc on the front. The distance between the axles was a leisurely 57 inches. With 4.5 gallons in the tank, the CX tipped the scale at a reasonable 480 pounds.
Reliable horsepower ratings for that time in history are hard to come by, but the CX had in the neighborhood of 40 rear-wheel ponies at 9,000 rpm. Not that many owners were interested in having the engine spin that fast, as it was a bit of a shaker after 7,000 rpm—right where the torque maxed out at 24 lb-ft. This bike turned a respectable 14 seconds in the quarter mile at the drag strip, about half a second slower than the 13.5-second GL1000.
Sales of the CX in Europe were great. This was an eminently practical motorcycle for commuters, for two-wheeled delivery and messenger riders, for the mild-mannered type who liked the charm of two wheels without hassle and botheration. The tubeless tires were a good sales point.
The model had a modest success here; nothing earthshaking like the CB750 of 1969 nor the GL1000 of 1975, but a good platform to be expanded on. Put on a slightly stepped saddle and a smaller tank and call it a Custom. Next move? The factory turned the motor sideways and built a one-off dirt tracker for Freddie Spencer, but that was never going to be a sales success. Perhaps that GL concept …worth looking into.
In 1981 the GL500 did appear as the Silver Wing, with a little 15-liter trunk that fit in place on the back seat for the go-to-work rider. Along with that was the full touring GL500I, I for Interstate like the Gold Wing Interstate, with a fairing and removable saddlebags.
The modular aspect of the luggage was clever, but it meant making a choice—you could either take your loved one or carry close to 30 liters of gear in the big trunk. The smaller commuter box was an option, but if you wanted to go traveling, you might as well go big. Mounting the trunk meant taking off the pillion seat and leaving it in the garage, which should have appealed to wives whose husbands liked to go traveling alone. Without a passenger saddle the tootsie-picking-up-possibilities were limited.
The 25-liter saddlebags could hold a change of clothes. Up front was a biggish frame-mounted fairing, reminiscent of the Vetter Windjammer, with a minimalist 1 inch of adjustment on the windscreen. One nice gadget was the knob for adjusting the headlight while on the bike.
In order to fit those bags in nice and close, as well as to improve handling, Honda decided to toss the twin shocks and go with a single, using the Pro-Link design derived from the motocrossers that provided rising-rate leverage: i.e., the bigger the bump, the stiffer the springing becomes. And the spring support could be enhanced by boosting the air pressure in the shock. Plus the diameter of the new fork legs was expanded to 35mm, and they were air adjustable. The wheelbase was extended by more than an inch.
Honda did some minor fiddles with the engine, claiming more horses, but with all the bodywork and a wet weight of 550 pounds the quarter-mile times went up to 15 seconds. Heck, anyone preferring speed to comfort could get himself a 12-second CB900F.
Somewhere in there Honda decided it would be infinitely cool if the CX were also known as a go-fast kind of motorcycle, and bolted on a turbocharger and fuel injection to the 1982 CX500T. That set the world back on its butt, but the turbocharging craze—which cost all
four Japanese companies millions of unrecouped dollars—was not what the touring rider was interested in.
As an encore Honda figured the company could get inexpensive publicity by boring (82.5mm) and stroking (63mm) the CX/GL500 to 674cc. It was not quite that simple, never was with Soichiro Honda, because he wanted to be absolutely sure that everything in the engine had been strengthened (although much of that work had already been done for the turbo engine). Compression ratio and redline were both lowered a bit, and the factory was claiming 40 lb-ft of torque. The maintenance-friendly aspects of the 500 were made even more friendly on the 650, with an automatic cam-chain adjuster. Without fairing and bags, the Silver Wing could turn 13 seconds in the quarter mile.
But did it sell? No. The whole motorcycle market was depressed, warehouses were filling up everywhere, and prices were being cut beyond the bone. Also, Honda was busily throwing itself body and soul into the V-4 world. The GL650I ended up as a one-year machine, and really cheap new ones could still be found two, three years later. Maybe that is why Honda has refused to bring in its latest midsize touring bike, the Deauville 650, a model that is very popular in Europe.
Great story on a great bike
I own 5 Gl 650’s and consider them one of the best bikes ever.
I agree.. Great story and a GREAT BIKE! YOU HAVE 5 SILVERWINGS? WOW!
I sure wish Honda would bring the Silverwing Interstate back..
(much like they did for the Pacific Coast.1989,1990 then 1994-1998 i think)
If it wasn’t for that Harley Tarrif!! I think now it would do really well…
Such a classic look and those lines..but they never gave it a chance.
So Here’s my Silverwing Story to share..
I bought my new Wineberry Red Silverwing Interstate in April of 1983 while I was in college.. for $4,100 with the Hondaline Type1 Clarion Radio and Gauges, engine guards and even a Hondaline ” SILVERWING” labeled cover!
After 7 years, two road trips to Daytona Beach for spring break, a few more trips to Florida, Boston, and Maine, even Canada, I put had put over 67,000 miles on it. I was thinking it was time to sell. At that time I saw Honda come out with what I thought was the new generation Silverwing..THE PC800. So, I sold my GL650 in Dec 1991 and bought a NEW leftover 1990 Red Pacific Coast. Thought I’d get over missing my GL650 Silverwing, when i got my PC800, but never did. THAT 650 HAD MORE TORQUE AND HP THAN THE 800! When my PC took a rock to the engine case by the drain bolt and cracked, my PC went out of service. I then got my old original 1983 Silverwing back from my brother-in-law (tired and worn out) in need of repairs. I realized It would take me a really long time to get that up and running.. and I was itching to ride… So, I decided I would look around and FOUND! another RED GL650I ( in great cosmetic shape, RUNNING with only 19,000 miles in it), and bought it for $1983, (just because). Shipped it to TX and I’ve been riding it ever since. Then picked up a project bike Silverwing (Gray) GL650 Interstate, with extra parts (and a spare engine!) for $500!
My garage is full! I have my 2 other GL650i’s to get up and running eventually (still getting titles worked out)
and my 1990 PC800 to fix, (oh and I have a 1983 CM250 Custom in the garage too, she runs thankfully!)
I had a 1983 Honda XL250r and an XR80 as well. I gave the XL to a friend from college.. sold the XR80 to buy tires for the Silverwing!) Had Lots of 1983 motorcycles it seems!
I have two grown sons now who both ride occasionally, however they have no interest in wrenching on bikes like I do (sadly). I hope to get all my GL650’s running so we can all ride together! AND I’ve never met or heard of anyone who has FIVE HONDA GL650 SILVERWINGS.. That’s just awesome! AND I COULDN’T AGREE MORE— I own THREE GL650’s and consider them one of the BEST LOOKING, MOST RELIABLE BEST BIKES EVER!!! (Unless you over 6ft 2in with long legs.. then you may disagree, I don’t think the bike was comfortable for tall people).
LONG LIVE THE HONDA GL650 SILVERWING!
Great story Phil. I am hoping to buy one and you have convinced me!
I have a bike GL 650 1983 I will give to anybody that wanted I live in southern Indiana
Hello, I just read your message. If this is still available, tell me about it.
Good morning,, If you still have the Honda 650, call or text me, Kevin, 270331299three. I’m in Paducah ky,, thanks
So you still have the 1983 gl 650 I silverwing to give away, a
I’ve been looking for three years for a gray left side battery cover,
Great story Clem I have been rideing 64 years I am 75 years old.I take 5 Mc mags for several years. So have read many of your stories over the years Road Rider with Bob& Patty stories are also great for all of us old guys. Think I met you at a BMWMOA rally in Ia. city one of the twenty years that I enjoyed Keith& Pam dempster Pure Stodge Rally’s. I am going out the door in about 10 minutes to pick up a GL 650 Silverwing here in Iowa. The Graigs list add said it was a 1982 m odel we’ll see if the production date was befor june of 1982. Would enjoy seeing you again at a rally. Or anywhere you would be speaking. Thanks again for the really great story. My MOA # is 21118. And I do need to renew,befor the Ia rally Next weekend. Don Reeves DSM Ia 515 266-5797 515-314-0359
I have a 1981 GL500 that I bought as the 5th owner,back about 25 years ago. It still runs fine and is very reliable. This year on Mother’s Day, I got rear ended by a Chevy Tahoe and the insurance company called it totalled.They sold it to me for about 200 dollars. I bought the parts from Ebay sellers and have made it usable again. Most of the damage was cosmetic.
I have never taken it on a trip that took more than 6 or so hours, but I kept up with the other bikes. It can go over 80 mph and that is all I need for sure.
It requires very little maintenance. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
I have a 1982 Silver Wing Interstate..all origional with all bags and fairing intact..no damage 30,000 miles..im 3rd owner as my Pappy gave it to me and he got is off a buddy of his when it was new who didnt like it.. Vin # JH2PC0219CM106186.. its been in garage for 10 or 12 years and needs cleaned up a bit.. looking to sell it if a good offer is made
I just ran across your article and was wondering if you still have your ’82 Silverwing? I’ve had two and am looking for one again, but only a 650. Please contact me if you still have this bike and are still looking to sell it.
Nice story as I’m considering a few local gl650 bikes for touring. I see them fairly often sub $1k in nice low mileage condition…
On another note, the Honda Deauville is nothing more than a touring equipped nt650/Hawk GT. A great sporty standard that was sold here in the late 80’s (didn’t sell well). It was short on power, high on style, and expensive. The Vtwin engine was an enlarged version of the EVEN OLDER Ascot.
1983 650 GL Silverwing Interstate to sell. Am 64 year old woman, had brain injury, cannot ride any more. One owner, me. 38,000 miles. Chrome. How do I get help on pricing my bike? Dealers won’t commit or help in any way.
About 1500.00 USD or up to as much as 3500 if it is in good condition.
I have a really clean low milage “83 Gl650 interstate that I will be selling soon but I need the hardbags for it to complete the thing. Anyone out there any help? I have been looking on the webs but am not good at this and do not really like using this thing. Thank you John Noble P.S. It’s red if I have a choice
Hi John, I Have a Red 83 gl650, but, that bike is a keeper, However I do have two hard saddle bags, they are gray,, been in storage for years ( just in case I ever needed one). I know your post is 7 years old,, but, never know.. Lol
Not relevant to the comment, but it seems to be the most recent. I am at a loss as to how to remove the back lugage box from my Interstate, any insight would be welcome.
Did you receive answers ?
I have a 1983 Silverwing with only 6,415 miles garage kept
only in rain one time it is gray in color. Still looks almost new
all original except tires had cracks and had to be replaced .
Are you wanting to sell?
Yes if I can a fair price, Just don’t ride it anymore, Tired of dodging the car drivers on cell phones.
Hey there William, I might be interested in your ’83 Silverwing. Is it a 500 or 650. I would be interested if it is a 650.
It is the gray or silver model and yes it is the Gl 650 crash bars wind shield, No fairing or saddle bags. Does have travel trunk. Send me email address if you want pictures, Have a great day and watch out for the cell phones.
Do you still have your grey ’83 GL650 for sale? Gil in Los Angeles. (323)394-6583
Really enjoyed the article on the CX series, and subsequent GL 500, and 650’s, Clem. I bought my GL500 new, one of the first to be unloaded off the truck in Harrisburg, PA in 1981. Once back home in Southern NY I threw a Vetter Rooster fairing on the handlebars along with an Eclipse 201 Tank bag and I was good to go. Well, 34 years later the baby Wing is going strong. Several years ago I added “progressive springs” in the front forks and last year I added Interstate saddlebags, and the larger Interstate tail trunk. This summer I’m planning our 4th annual tour with my brother and nephew probably of the “Blue Ridge” and I’ll ride with confidence that the Wing will go the distance.
I have a 1983 GL650 Interstate, runs grate looking for parts, Radio, Crash
Bars. Thanks Mike
Mike, I have a barn find 1983 GL650, and alot of parts. for it..willing to let it all go for 500$
Having owned a GL500 several years ago, it was a thrill to find my “new to me” GL650. It is a twin to the photo in this article: red in color, full fairing, and saddlebags plus trunk. It had 63000 km when I bought it and it now has 66000. I have only changed the battery, oil and filter and then put fuel in it. It has not missed a beat. The engine is a smooth as can be and pulls strongly through every gear.
It is mainly a commuter: 20-30km per day depending upon my work assignments. City driving mainly but I have had it on the highway for a few 2-3 hour trips. It handles the city well, I find it quite maneuverable even nimble in traffic. On the highway, it holds highway speeds easily and never holds up traffic.
I find acceleration and braking more than adequate, economy is 5l/100 or about 55 mpg.
My wife has been on the back seat a few times and says it quite comfortable “way back there!!”. She also likes the capacity of the trunk and saddlebags in case she needs to pick up a bottle of chardonnay for dinner.
In summary, I thought my GL500 was a very good bike–the GL650 is probably better.
A little help please. I recently bought a 1983 GL650 Interstate with the plans to turn it into the standard model, i.e. no fairing or saddlebags. My dealer showed little interest due to the unknowns and headaches
involved. Can’t blame them. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, NOT!
Your thoughts please.
I just bought a fully-loaded GL650I for traveling. It was expertly maintained and in beautiful shape in metallic blue. I soon found a blue Vanson leathers woman’s jacket at a special deal. Next was the blue metallic with white stripe Shelby open face helmet. Paired it with a set of white revco riding pants and Zodiac boots. Sorry, I’m talking about the outfit. I did a ride in mixed rural and urban traffic and got 50 mpg. I had to prove my skills when I bought it from the ex-owner who was a professional motorcycle rider. But so enough, he was convinced and I gave him a big hug!
I’ll bet you look stunning out on the road.
just crossed off another bucket list item.. found a gl650i with 6k miles, drove it home.. $1000 .. looks new.. needs good polish .. unbelievable bike.. heavy up top at traffic lights.. i’m a 40 year rider.. awesome bike overall.. needs adjusting of what last two owners had ‘repaired.. needs nothing.. maybe tires .. vibration is well known.. wish for just one more gear!! .. good luck everyone.. keep your rubber side down .. enjoy
hi there my name is ROGER and i have just bought a honda gl 650 interstate 1983 i bought it on ebay for £1000 its been laid up in a garage for 3 years so it looks as if it needs carbs cleaning and petrol tap as they are bunged up . The tank was full so got rid of the petrol the raidiator was full oil ok front brakes needs fixing forks needs new seals put a new air filter in and new battery so all electrics are working including starter motor which turns over ok .paint work is in good condition chrome not bad , the one shock seams ok i pumped it up and feels fine seats are good with spare for pillion the tyres look new so all in all what do guys think ?
[…] motorcycle touring on the West Coast from San Diego to Washington State. We were riding vintage Honda Motorcycles from the early 80’s and camping our way up the beautiful West Coast of the […]
I have a 1983 Honda GL650 Silver Wing Interstate Burgundy color with 5500 original miles that runs like new. All original, with saddle bags and trunk bracket so passenger seat is useful, beautiful bike over all. One of a kind garage kept its entire life. Pictures available. For sale $ 4200.00 OBO in Tampa Florida. 813-919-7908.
Hello Carlos, I am writing about your 1983 Honda GL650 Silver Wing Interstate Burgundy color with 5500 original miles that runs like new. I would like to request the digital pictures your mentioned. My email address is email@example.com. I wish you a very fine Sunday. Sincerely, Howard
1983 silverwing with 5650 miles original still for sale $4200.0 obo. Carlos 813-919-7908. Located in Tampa, FL. One of a kind piece of jewel. Email me or text me for pics or videos. Alafiatransport@verizon.net
I have a GL650 grey standard in all original excellent condition with 22k miles on it. It runs and drives great. Went through the carbs, rebuilt the front brake wheel cylinders, master cylinder, and petcock. I am curious as to what it is worth.