This is the Honda SL350 that John Wayne bought brand new from the American Honda Motor Co. on the 21st of December 1971. It’s believed that he came into contact with the SL350 for the first time while filming the movie Big Jake in the deserts of Mexico.
There’s a famous image of him astride the Honda (image inset above), wearing full cowboy regalia naturally, and it seems that he enjoyed riding it so much he went and bought his own after filming wrapped.
Fast Facts – The Honda SL350
- The Honda SL350 was released in 1969, it’s largely the same bike as the road-going Honda CB350 with some modifications for off-road use.
- While it would never be a proper enduro bike it was a halfway decent scrambler, and the incredible reliability of its parallel twin engine made it popular with those riding in remote regions.
- It’s thought that John Wayne first encountered the model while filming “Big Jake” in late 1970. he enjoyed riding it so much he went out and got his own.
- The Honda SL350 was released in 1969 and sold until 1974, its affordability combined with its rugged reliability made it a favorite with many Americans.
John Wayne’s Honda SL350
The Honda SL350 isn’t a motorcycle that any would associate with John Wayne. He’s more closely associated with riding horses, and if he was going to ride a motorcycle you’d expect it to be something large, chromed, and probably American.
The film Big Jake was shot in late 1970, it stars John Wayne of course, along with his sons Patrick Wayne and Ethan Wayne, with Richard Boone and Maureen O’Hara. The script was originally titled The Million Dollar Kidnapping, which is an objectively better name, and it centers around The Fain Gang kidnapping “Little Jake” and taking him across the border into Mexico.
A one million dollar ransom was demanded, and the film unfolds from there. I won’t go into too much detail here as I don’t want to ruin the film for you if you haven’t seen it.
For whatever reason there was at least one Honda SL350 on set which John Wayne commandeered. Due to its relatively low weight and ease of use it was an ideal motorcycle for use in the Mexican desert, Wayne seems to have been so impressed with it he bought his own a few months later and kept it at his home in Newport Beach, California.
In the years since the bike left John Wayne’s ownership it has been through a thorough restoration back to the original condition that it would have been in when he first took ownership of it all those years ago.
The bike is accompanied by the original California ownership transfer document as proof of John Wayne’s ownership history, and it’s being offered without reserve by RM Sotheby’s on the 27th of January in Phoenix, Arizona.
If you’d like to read more about this SL350 or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing. It’s due to roll across the auction block next month in Arizona with RM Sotheby’s.
Honda SL350 Specifications
- The SL350 is powered by the same engine as the CB350, an air-cooled parallel with with a single overhead cam, two-valves per cylinder, and a swept capacity of 325cc.
- This engine produces 33 bhp at 9,500 rpm, and the motorcycle has a top speed of 86 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of 8.6 seconds.
- A number of different frame, suspension, and wheel options were offered over the production run of the SL350. The most important of which is probably the switch to a stronger double down tube frame from 1970 onwards.
- The dry weight of the SL350 is listed as 145 kilograms or 320 lbs, however the wet weight was a considerably more hefty 167 kilograms or 368 lbs.
Images: ©2021 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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