Monday, February 11, 2008

Memorable: The mid-1980s Honda VF1000R


From left: The Honda VF1000F Interceptor, and the cooler, faster, more powerful, more stylish and very exotic VF1000R!
Pics: PB mag forum
Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the CB1100R, a high-performance homologation-special bike which Honda made in the early 1980s. But even though it dripped racer-cool, for some Honda connoisseurs, an inline-four just wasn’t enough – they had to have a V4 engine. And with the VF1000 range, that’s exactly what Honda gave them.

While the CB1100R was only made up till 1983, Honda started production of the VF1000 range of motorcycles in 1984, which continued till 1988. The VF1000F Interceptor, the VF1000FF/FG, and the VF1000R were all powered by Honda’s 998cc, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled V4, a formidable piece of engineering if ever there was one.

Things started in 1984 with the VF1000F Interceptor, which was fitted with Honda’s 998cc, 113bhp V4. The bike was quite high-tech for its time – adjustable ProLink rear suspension, braced 41mm forks with Honda’s TRAC anti-dive plumbing, ComStar wheels (16-inch front, 17-inch rear), and disc brakes all around. With its red-white-and-blue paintscheme, which remains instantly recognizable even today, the Interceptor gained cult status with Honda fans worldwide.

If you wanted fast and flashy in the mid-1980s, the Honda VF1000R was the bike to have

The first VF1000F evolved and Honda launched the VF1000FF and FG (F-II) models, which featured minor styling changes, and in the interests of better, more stable handling, the adoption of 18-inch wheels. But the bike which really interests us is the 1984 VF1000R, which Honda launched as a celebration of their racing heritage and as a showcase for their V4 engine technology.

With its gear-driven cams and higher state of tune, the VF1000R’s 998cc V4 made 122bhp at 10,000rpm – enough to push the 238-kilo bike through the standing quarter-mile (400m) in 10.80 seconds, and to a top speed of 240km/h. The chassis and suspension were identical to the VF1000F model, but the 1000R got uprated brakes, quick-release axle holders, adjustable clutch and brake levers, endurance-racer style twin headlamps, a full fairing made of lightweight fibreglass, and a cowl for the rear seat – all very important for those who wanted to look like Freddie Spencer.

Expensive and a bit too heavy, but we still think the VF1000R absolutely rocks!

The VF1000R started with the RE version, and Honda went on to make RF and RG versions, which were marked by minor styling revisions (including a move from twin headlamps to a single headlight), and a hike in power from 122 to 130bhp. What’s important, of course, was that V4 engine, the sheer performance, and the endurance-racer styling – all of which combined to make the bike so very desirable.

Priced at US$6,300 the VF1000R was expensive for its time and did not sell very well. It was also a bit too heavy, and not really very successful in racing. But for us, the fast, sophisticated and stylish VF1000R is still one of the most memorable Hondas ever made…

A video of the VF1000R

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the VF Series was a major stroke of design genius , I must note that they were complete junk. The engines had serious design flaws, weak cam chain tensioner's and the bike itself was a little on the porky side. My favorite was the zero oil pressure at idle issue that was attempted to be solved by "top end" oiling kits.

No doubt a V-Four motorcycle was unheard of in those days and that Honda sold a ton of them, you cant deny that they all ate themselves and that Honda dealers made a boat load of cash quick fixing the engines (cam shaft replacement) by short cutting the allowed 6 hours shop time to 3.

The Honda VFR750 though.. another story..with a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

Great bikes. Mine has 55,000 miles on it and the original cams are superb without any oiling mods. The engine has never been opened except to adjust the valves at every oil change. The cam-eating crap is from neglecting to service your V-4 properly. It is also a proven fact that there are oil mods that do work. My guess is that you've never actually owned one, or if you have you either beat it to snot or didn't keep it very long.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like the first guy owned a VFR750, not a VF1000R. I love mine and have had NO problems with the top end and have no oiling modifications. 606 Lbs is a big sport bike, but once you learn the bike and the road the bike is great! HP and torque are solid. I live on a river canyon and ride the dream every day with my VF1000R. I think the problems related were not from first hand experience.....

Anonymous said...

A buddy of mine had the VF1000R. It was and still is a gorgeous bike! He probably still has the thing. It sounded amazing with some aftermarket exhaust and also had fit two piece racing wheels on it. We trailered (yes I said trailered, I guess we were wimps) that bike and my 600 Hurricane to Daytona for bike week in 1988. I remember the rear two piece unglued and we ran around to find some JB Weld and used that to glue the two piece back together. My buddy then hand drilled a hole to put a set screw through the two pieces to keep the inner hub from spinning while the outer wheel stayed, still. Lots of fun and a great Daytona trip in all. Topless bars, near fights some other bikers, drunk riding, my buddy puking in $100 a night timeshare deal hotel room and throwing all is pillows and bedspreads out of the window (15 or so stories up), sex with the timeshare saleswoman in the, geez what else...

wrwaustralia said...

Hi Guys,

I'm currently looking to purchase a 1986 Honda VF1000R (F-Model). Why the F-Model ?

The problems with the V4 camshafts regardless of chain or gear-drive was fully understood until 1985.

The cylinder heads prior to 1986were "cast" with minimal machining ... the cams were placed in plain shell bearings in slightly out-of-alignment supports and secured by only 3 bolt camshaft caps at either end ...

Second ... oil supply for the cylinder heads was taken from non-filtered, low pressure gearbox gallery.

The Honda's solution in 1986 was to continue to cast the heads but with blanks in the camshaft position. Then a line boring machine drilled precise, square and straight camshaft recesses. 4 bolt 30% bigger caps were then bolted down on slightly longer camshafts ends.

The second part of the solution was to install a baffled sump with dual oil pumps, along with a front mounted oil cooler.

Whilst this greatly reduced camshaft related problems, most owners used various aftermarket "kit" that removed and blanked off the gearbox oil gallery sourced standard external cylinder head lubrication line. New oil lines were installed from either a oil filter base adaptor or from a blanked off main gallery crankshaft oil line, that was high pressure and filtered.

As you can see the F+G Models were more than just cosmetic upgrades.

I hope this sheds a light more light into the VF100R

Anonymous said...

I can tell you 1986 VF1000R has 20,000 miles on it and the cams are in excellent shape and the bike still looks as good as pictured nearly 9 years ago in my front yard. Yes the one shown directly below Freddie Spencer is my bike.