|V-max is a category of its own. The
mighty V4 has made it to motorcycles cult heaven. The men behind
this monument on two wheels recall the making of V-max.
Las Vegas in 1984
Araki is General Manager of Yamaha motorcycle operations in
Japan. In 1984 he was project leader of V-max.
Mr. Araki remembers: "V-max had its
first debut at the US dealer meeting at Las Vegas in October 1984.
The bike was targeted for the 1985 season, to be sold in US first.
Its key word was as simple as effective: American Hotrod. Its
sensational appearance was very different from other typical
American models at that time. So the bike became the highlight of
the dealer show."
With 145 HP and a V4 1200 cc engine, the
machine had the potential for the most powerful acceleration ever
seen before on a road legal production machine. Soon after the US
introduction also European journalists and customers pushed for
introduction of V-max.
"We were a little overwhelmed by this strong positive reaction
both from US and Europe."
Concept: strongest V4 motorcycle
Many motorsports fans enjoy the powerful
acceleration of large displacement V8 engines. Also drag races had
been actually recognized as a professional competition when Yamaha
started a project to build a motorcycle with an image of a V8
hotrod. This was the start of the development of V-max. The concept
for the development for the model was very simple and clear- to
build the strongest bike with V4 engine.
Says Mr. Araki: "There was one
impressive scene I saw, when I visited the USA to study the market.
It was a ' Bridge Race'. Each time two bikes lined up and set
off. They simply competed for acceleration speed for 400 meter.
Young people were crazily enjoying the Zero 4 race (400- meter
race). (Of course it was not an official name of the race but
Yamaha R&D staff nicknamed it). They were using a bridge over
the Mississippi River. They started from one end of the bridge, and
the finish line was the opposite side. It was a simple rule. First
concept I imagined from this impressive race was 'To make a bike,
which is strong at straight lines and really fast.' It was the birth
of the 'V-max' concept."
A month in isolation
|1984: an early
rendering sketch from GKDI design in Santa Monica
With holding this impression in his mind,
Mr. Araki crammed himself in a room of GKDI design company in Santa
Monica, California, a external Yamaha design office. For nearly one
month with his colleague, Mr. Ashihara (engine design) and Mr.
Kurachi (body design) they worked to put this image on paper. Ed
Burke, senior product planner from Yamaha US supported the team in
concept work and research . After intensive studies, they created a
1:1 rendering sketch. As soon as they completed the sketch, they
flew back to Japan with it to present it internally.
Ashihara was responsible for V-max engine design
Mr. Ashihara: "We have been
designing an engine for the Venture Royal at that time, but it was
prioritized to have its power in low and mid range. It honestly had
potential, but we had to sacrifice its horsepower for better
practicability. We had to clear the emission standards and all in
all we faced a lower power output than we desired. That made us a
bit frustrated and we were excited to brow off our frustration with
V-max. However, honestly speaking, it was unexplainably tough to
improve the only 90 HP engine of the Venture to 145 HP of V-max."
First plan: turbo charger
1986: the V-boost intake in blue and exhaust in red. Fuel tank
under the seat and aircleaner under"tank-cover".
Mr. Ashihara continues: "Not only we
had to increase peak power from 7000 rpm to 8500 rpm, but also we
had to review overall features from different aspects such as
compression ratio, intake and outlet air induction rate. We also
considered using a turbo to increase the horsepower. But there was
not enough space for it. Then, we figured out the V-boost. This new
technology 'V-boost' gave unexpected high horsepower
technical explaination of in press info 1985).
When the performance increased, of course, we had to improve the
unit drive and its durability. There were many things to solve as we