Boxer-Engine Motorcycles by Honda, Marusho, and Chang Jiang
. . . and one not produced by BMW.
The boxer layout, with the crankshaft longitudinal and opposed cylinders, was developed by BMW Engineer Max Friz, and resulted in the 1923 BMW R32 the first BMW motorcycle (yes, Virginia, BMW made motorcycles five years before it produced cars). This engine layout always struck me as being utterly logical. The cylinders project sideways into the wind and have good primary balance, and transmission to a shaft final drive is relatively straight forward (or backward), eliminating any need for a bothersome chain or belt. Other manufacturers, most notably Honda, recognized the singular virtues of the boxer/shaft layout and produced motorcycles so equipped. Examples of Japanese and Chinese boxer-engined motorcycles are shown below.
Not well known is the fact that in the early 1970s BMW, in Germany, was developing several engine designs. The M77 project involved liquid-cooled engines in several configurations. There were several twin-cylinder iterations ranging from 500cc to 750cc. Most interesting, however, is that the M77 project also included a 4-cylinder opposed engine design of 1,000cc! By 1975, that design was just about ready. But the motorcycle world was stunned by Honda when it introduced the motorcycle below. Sadly, that killed BMW's opposed four and we are left wondering how BMW would have designed a motorcycle with such an engine.
Japan's 1975-1979 1000cc Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
Today, on the used-motorcycle market, GL1000s can fairly be called cheap. For the rider living on a tight budget, the GL1000 represents a excellent and high-quality entré into motorcycle touring. The "Old Golds," as I call them, are reliable, smooth, powerful, and handle better than the current crop of Gold Wings.
An overhead view of the GL1000 shows its water-cooled opposed-four cylinders projecting sideways. Added in 1978 was the "pod" containing three instruments (coolant temperature, fuel, and voltage) located on top of the faux gas tank. Later GL1000s were available in black with gold pinstriping; of course, I would have preferred white pinstripes!
Japan's 1964-1967 500cc Marusho
For information on the Japanese 1966 500cc Marusho boxer twin,click on the photo above.
China's Chang Jiang 750