More than two decades ago, long before pavement hungry Vulcans and V-Rods roamed the streets, Yamaha decided to build the ultimate muscle cruiser. Unable to squeeze a turbocharger onto the 1,198cc V-4 powerplant that would grace the new bike’s low-slung chassis, engineers designed a radical induction system called “V-Boost” in order to yield substantially more horsepower out of the engine. Using servo motors connected to rpm sensors, butterfly valves open between 6,000 and 8,500 rpm, creating space between the inlet tracts feeding from four downdraft carburetors and boosting horsepower to a stunning 145. The result was an explosive burst of arm-stretching, tire-smoking power that would woo the speed-addicted with a dramatic moniker implying maximum velocity: V-Max.
Shod with dragstrip-worthy 150mm tires and polished chrome and aluminum air scoops, the V-Max desperately sought attention and earned it in spades, inspiring imitators seeking to emulate its badass attitude. Though it never quite shook its reputation for being twitchy in corners and impractical for long rides (thanks to a 100-mile cruising range), the V-Max’s straight-line capabilities have proven so alluring that it is now one of the longest-lived motorcycles on the market.
While imitators have come and gone, the essentially unchanged V-Max celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a Limited Edition model featuring special Shift Red paint with flames, blacked-out rims, red pinstripes, yellow turn signal bulbs behind clear lenses, and a serial-numbered plate. The commemorative touches may seem incidental, but the tweaked cosmetics are consistent with V-Max’s winning formula: Stay true to a simple idea, and don’t mess with success.