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May 27, 2008

Vmax, The Legend

The development story by Yamaha Product Manager, John Bayliss


It took a mere 10.30 seconds for the 1985 V-Max* to roar into the record books and the hearts of motorcycle adrenalin junkies around the world. A 130 lb drag racer by the name of Jay Gleason a.k.a. “Pee Wee” set the motorcycle world on its ear with his incredible ¼ mile run aboard a pre-production V-Max. Some cried foul because they felt the “pre-pro” machine was a “ringer”. In a blink of an eye, the V-Max legend had been established, much to the dismay of other manufacturers around the world.

In May of ‘85 the cries of foul were silenced when Cycle World magazine brought a production V-Max to the Bayland Raceway in Fremont, California and after a few shake down runs Mr. Max ripped through the ¼ mile at amazing 10.62 seconds with a trap speed of 129.87 miles an hour … with the mirrors still in place! On this occasion, the rider was 4-time US national drag racing champion Dale Walker who weighed in at “portly” 170lbs. By comparison, the legendary muscle cars of the early 70’s such as the Hemi ‘Cuda or big block Camaros were running ¼ mile times in the high 12’s to low 13 seconds range. The “King of Acceleration” had been crowned, be it the two wheeled variety or four.

How was the legendary V-max conceived? The story goes that a small group of Yamaha Japan staff members witnessed a “bridge race” over the Mississippi River while on a fact finding mission in the US. The bridge was 400 meters in length, and the competitors would start at one end of the bridge and race across to the other. Upon seeing this spectacle, discussions immediately ensued at the California head quarters of YMUS and senior planning guru Ed Burke began researching the market feasibility of a motorcycle that embodied the ideal of the American V-8 muscle car. First on the agenda was to find a suitable powerplant. The engineers in Japan had already been working on a V-4 engine for the Venture Royal touring bike. The problem was this engine only produced about 90 hp. Believe it or not; they considered the possibility of turbo charging the engine to get the required power but that was short lived. Then the idea for “V-boost” was floated. The premise being that at a certain rpm (6,000) two carbs would feed fuel to one cylinder. The resulting horsepower improvement was impressive. With some continued tweaking, the engineers bumped the power up to an amazing 145 ponies. As an extra bonus, the V-4 engine layout created an intoxicating exhaust sound that sounded like hot rodded big block V-8. As the engine progressed, the focus shifted to styling. The designers at GKDI in California wanted the engine to be the focal point of the V-Max and the concept of “engine maximum, body minimum” was born. The resulting design was totally unique in the market and V-max as we know it was born. The V-max was debuted to the world in the fall of ‘84 at the US dealer meeting; it would be a new model for the 1985 season.

The combination of power and unique styling plus Mr. Gleason’s historic ¼ mile time, allowed the new V-max to take North America by storm. Sales took off in the US and soon the rest of the world began to hear the rumblings of the V-max legend. In 1986, the V-Max hit the shores of France and eventually conquered the rest of Europe. What had started out as a model designed for the American public, had become an icon of acceleration around the world.

There was some talk about making a smaller V-max but it never happened. There were a small number of minor changes to the V-max along the way including new dish type wheels in the 80’s. In 1990 the ignition system was updated85_vmax_3_600.jpg and in ’93 the fork size was increased to 43mm while more powerful 4-piston front brake calipers were installed. Twenty four years later… “the rest is history” as they say.

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12 Responses to “Vmax, The Legend”

  1. tagruato says:

    and here comes the new vmax : http://volumemax.fr

  2. Laurent Chauvin says:

    Not giving any horsepower rating, for any of you’re bikes, is definitely showing fear on you’re part!

    Sorry Laurent, actually not fear… it’s a new request / policy from YMC (Japan) that we not publish horsepower figures. We’ll leave it up to the aftermarket dyno-guys and mags to test and publish, it will be interesting to see how many come up with the same numbers… power is not an issue with the VMAX… now arm strength on the other hand… 😉 cr

  3. Johnathan says:

    No Laurent is right, you should have mentioned the horse power cuz people wanna see its figures.

    Thanks Johnathan, understood! We’ll make sure the comments get pushed up the food chain, in the interim we must tow the corporate line and abide by the requests put forth by the mother ship… cheers cr

  4. Gabe says:

    I’m curious as to why the local Yamaha Dealers knew nothing about the Vmax before it’s release and still know little since it’s June 6th release in Canada, but June 4th in the USA. They had to visit the Yamaha USA webpage to find answers. Even now it does not show any 09 Vmax accessories on the Canadian webpage, but it’s listed on the USA site. Why are the Canadian purchasers of the Vmax not able to get a limited badge for this limited motorcycle? $4000.00 price difference? The USA site shows events and locations for the new Vmax…again, nothing on the Canadian webpage. Last entry under your Events blog was July 18th. I’ve already put down my $1000.00 deposit and I am not happy that I’m unable to receive any answers. I’ve never ordered a motorcycle before that I’ve never seen, my Dealer knows little about and is approx double in price of the 2005 20th anniversary edition I purchased.

    Please provide some answers. Thanks.

    Hey Gabe, There is a little confusion here. The global release of the Vmax was June 6th and our web-site went live with all the specs and features right on time. The accessories on the other hand have been delayed and our site is not up to date even yet. Thanks to your information there are some people dedicated to getting us up to speed.
    The limited badge IS being awarded to Canadian customers and you are in fact quite near the top of the list numerically. We unfortunately have only two proto-type units and have not been able to echo the demo tour which is happening in the USA. They have the advantage of using some units which were specially prepared for the global press launch Our Canadian production is slated for arrival late this month and we will have at least one unit in our 2009 demo tour.
    The US / Canadian price issue is a thorny one which we can’t debate here. The yo-yo economics have the banks trading at 18% exchange today, the gap has closed and continues to do so. Not sure who your dealer is but if they attended our conference last month there was a ton of information on the big MAx including the factory display from the Tokyo auto show and all our senior staff were there to answer questions.There has been a lot of technical info made available to them.
    In the end I have had a chance to ride the new Vmax and I believe you will be quite happy with your decision to buy one. Keep the soft side up! cheers JB

  5. Gabe says:

    First of all, thanks JB for your response. You’re right, there is some confusion.

    1. The USA release was June 4th. I saw it released on their website that day and hurried down to the local dealer, but they knew nothing. It wasn’t released in Canada until the 6th. Taken from the US webpage: “* Customer Deposit: Customer provides a $1,000 non-refundable, non- transferable deposit to dealer for each 2009 VMAX during the retail period of June 4, 2008 through October 31, 2008.”

    But that’s not the important issue.

    2. I was told (and it’s stated on the Canadian webpage) that us Canadians will receive: “(a) 2 YEARS YAMAHA PROTECTION PLUS (total coverage 36 months including standard warranty);
    (b) Yamaha Motor Corporation VMAX Development book appreciation gift

    But, the US page states: “• Free 2-Year Warranty**
    • Limited Edition Frame Badge
    **Customer receives a 2-Year Warranty (one-year factory warranty plus one-year Y.E.S contract).

    Maybe we(myself and the local Yamaha Dealer) are mistaken, but I understood it as the Canadians are receiving 3 years warranty and a book and the Americans are to receive 2 years and a frame badge. I’m happy with an extra year of warranty, but just thought it was odd.

    I do understand that the US has a much larger market, but it’s still frustrating when pricing is concerned.

    Am also curious about: price and availabilty of a Service Manual for the new Vmax and I understand the new Vmax doesn’t have a center stand – will the current Yamaha stands fit or will it require one specific for the Vmax?

    These are 2 items I would prefer to have when purchasing the new model, especially the manual.

    What’s even more frustrating is that you got to ride it…lol. Happy to hear that I’m near the top of that list. I’m impatiently waiting for it to show up and I know “quite happy with it” won’t accurately describe it.

    Thanks again for your time and response.

  6. Scott says:

    That is nice to hear that we get the badges as I have seen people posting images of them that they have already recieved in the US. Hope I get them soon as i have ordered a 2009 Vmax from a local dealer. But they do not know as much as I would think they should know. they do not know about the badges. I hope I get them.

    Scott, there was (is) an update which was made on our dealer YDS info system on Sept.11 confirming the badge and program. All your dealer needs to do is go online to check… following is an excerpt from same:

    “Your DSM has the 2009 VMAX EDP listing by Customer name, by Dealer and the order date. We will be filling the EDP allocations as per calendar date of deposit for delivery to the Dealer of record with first deliveries to start in November through Spring 2009.
    We have been able to add one more unique bonus for each
    2009 VMAX customer a Limited Edition numbered frame badge to commemorate their purchase.”

    Hope this helps… have fun on your new bike, I am envious!! cheers cr

  7. Scott says:

    Thanks for the info… another question is this. The dealer I bought from had already ordered 2 Vmax in I asume his name as he said he had 2 coming that were not sold. His finance person did up a order on the Yamaha YDS site for me and I got contract #10299. But after the owner said that the finance person should not have done that as he already had the 2 on order and I would be getting one of them. If this is the case I imagine this contract was voided. If so I would still imagine I get the badges and all the extras that went along with ordering before the Oct 31st deadline. Hope so… Thanks and hope you can answer this.

  8. Gabe says:

    Hi Scott, here is what’s now posted on Yamahas web page:

    Each customer placing a $1,000.00 non-refundable deposit on a 2009 Yamaha VMAX17YB motorcycle by 12:00 noon EST on December 15, 2008 will be eligible to receive the following benefits:
    (a) 2 YEARS YAMAHA PROTECTION PLUS (total coverage 36 months including standard warranty);
    (b) Yamaha Motor Corporation VMAX Development book appreciation gift

    Each 2009 VMAX customer will be eligible for Limited Edition numbered frame badge to commemorate their purchase.

  9. Scott says:

    So does this mean that because the Badages were not part of the original offer for Canada before the Oct 31st deadline that the bike I would get from the dealer that they had ordered a few months ago would not get the badge?

    If that would be the case I will have to go back to the dealer and tell them if they want to sell me one I need them to order another now for me now and they can sell the other 2 they have to someone else….?

    Thanks so far for your info.

  10. Gabe says:

    Actually Scott, I’m just another Vmax enthusiast such as yourself and am another Vmax buyer, but I would assume no matter when your purchase was ordered, you will receive the same as everyone else. There has to be a reason why the Canadian web page shows an extended Early Deposit Program. Maybe it’s the price that’s keeping the sales down?

  11. Scott says:

    I ordered the 2009 Vmax around Oct 23rd. Up here in Canada I have VIN# 000071. Wonder what that means? I have went to Yamaha Canada’s web site and on their contact page asked the question of when I should expect the number badges and other bonus material. They say they answer in 5 days… I have sent 2 now 2 weeks apart and still no answer. It was like that when I owned my 2005 Vmax. When I would ask a question I never get any responce. It makes me mad enough to tell them to shove their Vmax if this is the way they treat customers. I know it is one guy in that department by the name of Scott something… I used to know the last name. As far as I am concerned he should be let go.

    Hey Scott, a quick check indicates that your Vmax is not yet registered in our system. The way it works is once you have registered the bike (taken possession) we process and ship the promised swag. Please understand that if we shipped the goodies prior to registration it is possible for the deal to go south and the final owner would be at a loss. Sorry for any inconvenience, please contact your dealer to finalize everything, we have your bonus stuff here ready to ship.

    BTW, Scott H is the man you have been dealing with here and he is a really good guy and quite committed to Yamaha and our customers. He has the patience of a saint and one of the most difficult positions in the company, hopefully you can cut him some slack. Fingers crossed this will all work itself out shortly.
    cheers cr

  12. Scott says:

    My 2009 Vmax should be registered with Yamaha now as it is fully paid for as of the 5th of March. Is there anything showing now on VIN# 000071?

    Also how long before I should see the badges and booklet and anything else that comes with it?

    Also does Yamaha keeps records dating back to 1985? When I first bought my 1985 Vmax new I was told by the dealer that I was the first person in Canada to take delivery of one. Theye did a promotion and pictures and all that neat stuff? Wish I had documented that but all I wanted was a quick bike.. and thats what I got. Kept it til about 1991 modifying it each year and never lost a race. Then in 2005 I got the 20th Edition. #235 of the 2000. I babied it and sold it with 30,000 Kms on it. I cannot wait to ride my new one… Lets hope we get some warm dry weather shortly.



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