Show your “true grit” riding this Honda SL350 once owned by John Wayne

©2021 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Star power is a thing, and we aren’t talking astrology here. One of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s golden was Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne, and while he doesn’t have the car guy status of Steve McQueen there are a few interesting machines tied to his name. In the case of this vintage Honda SL350 the bike is not only tied to him but also a particular film. Could that be a recipe for big dollars when it crosses the auction stage next month?

Wayne was the undisputed king of Hollywood westerns in the 1960s and ’70s. The man starred in a stunning 179 productions, between movies and television, before his death in 1979. His gruff and hardened attitude fit perfectly with the lead roles in True Grit and The Alamo. He was also a Pontiac guy, owning a Safari wagon customized by the one and only George Barris. Those big cars were no help for getting around film sets, though. He needed something small, easy to maneuver, and off-road ready: the SL350 motorcycle.

Honda had been selling street scramblers by the truckload through the 1960s, but as buyers got more and more adventurous it became clear that adding chunky tires to a streetbike was a dated formula. The SL350 was CB350-based for 1969, with just a simple change to the exhaust and handlebars. Honda took it more seriously for the 1970 model year, when the SL got a unique double-downtube frame and the engine lost the electric starter in an effort to shed weight. The result is a spry and relatively light package with plenty of power from the 326-cc parallel twin engine.

This SL comes with documentation tracing its ownership to John Wayne. The paperwork lays out a timeline demonstrating that this is not the bike he was photographed riding around the set of 1971’s Big Jake, but instead one that he purchased shortly after filming wrapped. Could it be that he was just so chuffed with the medium-sized Honda that he needed one in his private life? Possibly, but we will likely never know. Regardless, if you want to live the western life but prefer the smell of gas and oil to horse manure, this might be just the ride to claim for your homestead. Lock and load those bids when it crosses the auction block next month with RM Sotheby’s.

©2021 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
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