1989 Honda GB500 Tourist Trophy
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Replicas can often be a tricky sell, and this is especially true of Honda’s GB 500, which was a 500 cc single-cylinder copy of a 1960s British Clubman racer. It was also called the Tourist Trophy to cement the link with the Isle of Man races.
Honda first introduced the idea in Japan in 1985 and made 400 cc and 500 cc versions before trying the U.S. market in 1989. The bike was undoubtedly handsome, finished in a dark green metallic with gold pinstriping, a Velocette-style indented tank, and single seat with a humped tail under a cowl that was painted to match the tank.
The radial-valve 498 cc single was based on the dry-sump, radial valve XL600 enduro motor, connected to a smooth five-speed gearbox. There was a tube frame and the tank was steel, as were the side covers. The 18-inch wire wheels were fitted with alloy rims and tube tires. Stopping power was provided by discs up front and drums in rear.
The exhaust was quite heavy thanks to a square collector underneath and double-walled pipe, but it was also quiet. The front fender was fiberglass and the exposed gauges chrome-plated plastic. Performance was respectable from 33 bhp and 390 lb weight. 0-60 mph came in 5.1 seconds, the quarter mile came in 14.13 seconds, and the top speed was 108 mph. A 5.3-gallon tank gave useful range, though the bike wasn’t really built for open spaces. About 3,500 GB 500s were imported to the U.S., but within a year new ones could be bought for $1,000 off the $4,195 list price. A $600 price cut in 1990 helped clean out leftover models.
Even at that, the GB 500 was about $300 more than a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster, and sales dragged. It was stylish, but just not very fast. Immediate performance improvements included louder and lighter aftermarket exhaust, ditching the clumsy California air pump and a fitting a 600 cc kit, which pushed the top speed to about 120 mph.
The bike did have a certain appeal to car collectors, though, who just wanted a British-looking bike for their garage. Few were ridden very far, and low-mileage GB 500s are as common as low-mileage DeLoreans. Modern GB 500 owners have fallen into the low-mileage trap, as every mile ridden diminishes the value. Somebody who’s looking to buy a GB 500 to actually ride, then, will be able to find near-new examples for quite some time.