1987 Yamaha Vmax 1200cc Motorcycle
An instant hit from the time it was launched in 1985, Yamaha’s fire-breathing V-Max was the first unashamedly American bike to come out of Japan, taking out Cycle Guide’s “Bike of the Year” award. Designed by Akira Araki, the V-Max was a naked sportster built around a powerful liquid-cooled V4 engine displacing 1200cc, developing a massive 120 horsepower. With quad-cams and four-valves per cylinder, the engine was a high-tech masterpiece, with a 10.5:1 compression ratio and V-Boost system that opened butterfly valves on the intake manifold according to the engine speed until they were fully open at 8000 rpm. A five-speed gearbox and shaft final drive delivered this power to the V-Max’s massive rear tyre, the biggest available on any motorcycle at the time. A hot rod on two wheels, the V-Max used its massive power output to record brutal acceleration figures and a top speed of 250 km/h, yet proved surprisingly agile for such a big bike, earning praise for its handling and stability. The front twin disc brake set-up was also effective at keeping these extreme speeds in check, while the firm suspension set-up was a necessary trade off. The V-Max’s unique styling, from the headlight to the wide, low-slung stance and fat tyres, prefaced Harley’s own V-Rod and was characterised by the chrome (black from 1987 onwards) non-function “air scoops” mounted on the tank cover – except the tank itself was under the seat and the cover simply housed the air induction and filter systems. Cycle Guide summed it up in their test of Yamaha’s bruiser in May 1985, saying “When it comes to street-legal production motorcycles, nothing, absolutely nothing can touch it in a straight line”. Today the V-Max is a genuine classic, enjoying a cult following around the world plus plenty of support from clubs and specialists.