In 1983 the idea was born to create a motorbike that would be the
embodiment of the classic American V8 hotrod muscle car. Mr Max first had
its debut at the US dealer meeting in October 1984 and was targeted for
the 1985 season to be sold in the USA first. The V Max was like nothing
ever seen before. The styling was radically different from anything seen
at the time and coupled to this was the power and acceleration unheard of
in production bikes. Consequently the V Max became the highlight of the US
dealer show. After the release of the V Max a face-off was held over a
quarter mile between the Max and the fastest production V8 muscle car of
the time, namely the AC Cobra. The V Max won.
Sir Alan Cathcart wrote
this in his oct 2008 Road test article about the New 2009 Vmax:
Its iconic V-Max ultra bike, first launched back in 1985 and only removed
from the Japanese company's lineup in 2007, after an almost unparalleled
23-year production run in basically unchanged form as the ultimate Big
Boy's Toy. The 100 000 - plus examples built down the years (40,000 of
them sold in Europe, of which 12,550 were in France alone) have engendered
fantastic loyalty from Maxisti around the globe, creating a whole sub-cult
of worshippers at the V-Max altar, all eager for the second coming of
their two-wheeled deity.
Concept & Design
The concept was simply put "to build an American hotrod". In this regard
the V Max is the most American of all the Japanese bikes and the
designer's goal was to build the strongest bike with a V4 engine. To this
end the V Max was the embodiment of a V8 muscle car. It was designed from
top to bottom as a unique design and not a are not made only for rally
times! Get the copy of any motorcycle that existed at the time. The Yamaha
project team spent one month in the USA designing and refining the concept
on paper until they had a design sketch of what this motor bike should
look like. Thereafter designers flew back to Japan to present the concept
drawing for production.
Ed Burke the designer.
V4 & Boost - 145 bhp
With the external design in place Yamaha set about to find a suitable
engine. Yamaha had designed a liquid cooled V4 engine for the Venture
Royal, however its power was in the low to mid range. From the outset
everything on the V Max was kind of fighting for space. Trying to cram a
huge V4 engine into the space provided was a difficulty on its own. The
engine power was pushed to 100 horsepower and designers found it difficult
to go beyond the 100 horsepower mark. Turbo charging was even considered
to reach the required horsepower. Designers at Yamaha then figured out
V-Boost induction, which gave an unexpected high gain in horsepower.
Instead the engine now pumped out 145 horsepower. With performance of that
level many parts like the drive shaft had to be improved and beefed up to
improve their durability. All the American (the California model included)
and Canadian model V Max motorcycles are fitted with V-Boost induction.
Certain of the Japanese and European models do not have VBoost. Even
without V-Boost the engine is awesome. It is easy to tell if V-Boost is
present by simply switching on the ignition and listening to a whining
sound as the V-Boost servo motor opens and closes.
Further Design Issues
Many further problems had to be solved as the designers progressed further
in an attempt to handle the increased horsepower .The perseverance of
designers through trial and error paid off and the entire package was
specially built to withstand all the stresses created by a 145 horsepower
engine. Since the V Max had such an eccentric style components did not fit
in the" normal place". The external design could not be changed and all
other aspects had to be accommodated within this design. The idea was to
show as much of the 70-degree V4 engine and still keep the original design
of the entire bike as originally envisaged .V Max made a huge impression
at the US dealer show in 1984 and received high evaluation from the media
all over the world. From 1985 it officially started sale in the USA. Mr
Max is still in production in 2005 and celebrates this with a special
edition 20th anniversary model.
Changes in 21 years?
How much has the V Max changed in twenty years? Well, very little in fact.
From 1988 and onwards models the spoked aluminium front wheel was replaced
with a dished aluminium wheel. From 1993 the front fork tubes were changed
from 40 mm to 43mm tubes, the front disks were changed and instead of
single pot dual callipers the V Max was fitted with two pot dual
callipers. In 1996 the paper type oil filter was replaced with a metal
spin on type filter. No real changes to write home about and consequently
all the other V Max parts are exactly the same irrespective of which
country it was sold in. The phrase "grey product" does not feature
here-spares and parts are always available. Yes there were different
colour schemes but the V Max is essentially the same motorbike released in
Mr Max is about as subtle as a sledgehammer .The V Max fully fuelled up
weighs approximately 288 kg. Not light compared to today's 150 kg one
litre sport bikes but then again Mr Max is a big cruiser. The V Max
accelerates 0-100m in under 3 seconds. It can do a standing quarter mile
in under 11 seconds and by that time will probably be close to 200 km/h.
The top speed of the V Max is 240 km/h. Yes top speed is not as fast as
the modern 300km/h sport bike, however if you consider that the Max is a
naked cruiser with entirely no aerodynamics, weighing 288 kg and fed by
1984 technology carburettors, it is more than enough to give the rider an
exciting straight up in your face adrenaline rush. Above performance is
from standard factory models with no change or performance enhancement
afforded to it since it has come from the factory. Since its rise to cult
bike status there is an entire industry of go faster parts and
accessories available for the Max. Check the internet and you will be
amazed by all the aftermarket spares and particularly all the V Max
owners associations all over the world. There are literally replacement
and customising parts for everything. The V Max motorcycles that have been
tuned and massaged have been known to push more than 200 horsepower and
1/4 mile times of around seven seconds.
Cruiser that corners ?
One should however never forget that Mr. Max was designed and conceived as
a straight-line hot rod cruiser. The V Max combines the looks and image of
a cruiser with kick-ass performance. Mr Max was never intended or
designed to compete with sport bikes around a race track. V Max is an
adrenaline rush straight line hotrod cruiser, however it is no slouch
around corners though. It is possible to corner the V Max hard enough to
scrape the foot pegs and its lean angle is arguably better than any
cruiser that comes to mind. That being said the Max corners like a raging
buffalo and fast hard cornering is not recommended for the faint hearted.
With a V Max do not ever expect sport bike cornering and handling, however
it corners surprisingly well. With the V Max you get what you see- a big
bad cruiser that has power and acceleration. V Max is no pretender - it
has the performance to back it's looks- plenty show and lots of go !
Uncivilised brute power?
The V Max can be ridden like a slow lazy laid back cruiser in the most
satisfying manner, with the roaring growl of the twin mufflers playing
sweet V4 music in your ears. Town cruising and commuting is particularly
easy and the V Max is very agile through traffic .Even loaded with a
pillion passenger and luggage Mr Max does not run out of power and speed.
The V Max also handles steep up hills as though they are level roads. On
the other hand an angry V Max will probably pull not only a caravan, but
also the car towing a caravan!
Maintenance parts and service.
The V Max is an easy motorcycle to maintain and keep in tiptop condition.
Mr Max is built like a fortress and the machine can withstand hard labour
with no engine and drive shaft problems. The drive shaft requires hardly
any maintenance. Everything about service and maintenance is very easy
and can be done by any person who has even a slightest technical ability.
The d-i-y motorcycle owner will have the most satisfying experience
maintaining and servicing the Max. The carburettors can also easily be
stripped, serviced and repaired by the d-i-y owner. Spares and service
parts are readily available locally. I know of several 1988 models that
work hard and do not even sweat a drop of oil. The V Max is old school in
the sense that it is well engineered, easy to maintain and designed to
last for ages.
Been there-done that!
that believe that the HD V Rod (born in 2000). HD Street Rod (to be
released in 2006) and the Triumph Rocket III (born 2004) are entirely new
and innovative concepts consider the following. (Performance Motorcycle
Comparison: Triumph Rocket III Vs. V-Max.)
The V Max concept
of a big, hot rod/ street rod / muscle rod cruiser, is a more than 21 year
old design and concept that has remained unchanged and in production for
21 years. Aforementioned motorbikes are newcomers to this particular
concept and reflect each manufacturers answer to this segment of the
market .When the V Max hit the streets in 1985 there was nothing like it
in production bike form. Even after 21 years the Max is arguably still the
fastest accelerating production hot rod cruiser .Mr. Max is undoubtedly
the longest lived hot rod cruiser and its performance will still be
awesome, even in 21 years time.
Unchanged 21 year oldproduction bike and technology ??
Why has the V Max remained unchanged for 21 years and why is it still in
production? The answer probably is that Yamaha got the concept right the
first time. Proof of this is the 21 years of enduring V Max enthusiasts in
the USA and all over the world .Mostly bike fans favour a certain brand
name manufacturer and there are so called owners associations reflecting
various models within a brand name. The V Max enjoys the same status on
its own even though it is one of the many models under the Yamaha brand
name. If above reasons are not enough then consider that with the Max you
will always have a desirable collectable and a classic icon. The historic
fact is that Mr Max is the original bad boy hotrod cruiser. It may be
admitted that Mr Max is not perfect-there is room for improvement and
that is what technology is all about. In general new technology is great
however the Max was so far ahead of its time in its concept , styling and
performance that it has endured to the extent that it has. If you are
someone who loves your new technology then be prepared to purchase a new
motorbike every year because next years model will always be better-that's
how technology works right? With the Max you will not be left with an
outdated concept - its unique styling (and performance) will ensure that.
Now that is staying power second to none. The V Max still shows no
intention of ageing or retiring- I guess someone forgot to explain to Mr
Max that after a few years in production a bike is supposed to become old
and outdated! Old V Max's never die - they get customised and go even
Mr Max is
alive, long live king V Max!