‘It was the first of Yamaha’s great fourstroke sportsbikes’ Steve Parrish
Produced between 1985 and 1991, the FZ750 is rightly recognised as the first of Yamaha's great modern superbikes – but it was a bit of a design gem that never quite sold in the numbers it deserved to, mainly thanks to Suzuki launching its game-changing GSX-R750 in the same year.
Rather than the engine being designed first and the chassis being forced to fit around it (as was common at the time), the designers of the FZ were careful to integrate the whole package right from the drawing board. The 749cc inline-four engine featured a five-valve head with a radial arrangement which helped achieve a very linear power delivery. The motor was also set at a slight forward incline to help lower the centre of gravity and create a sweet-handling bike.
Jim Lindsay was editor of MCN when the Yamaha FZ750 came out in 1985 and says it was the bike to have – at least until the GSX-R750 came along. "I was completely blown away when I first rode the FZ because it really was the dog's b*llocks. I owned one and I remember we were all pretty excited about the five-valve technology making its first appearance.
“It was the first proper superbike in a way. It followed on from the Honda VF750F which had re-written the rules a little but the Yamaha took things even further. The power was just fantastic. The FZ had the most glorious engine with loads of pull everywhere and it sounded fantastic, with a great roar from the airbox. It handled really well and was very stable so you could push it hard through corners. I even raced it in the Snetterton Six Hour endurance race and we were doing well until we got wiped out in pit lane.
“The FZ750 was the bike to have (for about five minutes) but then the Suzuki GSX-R750 came along and blew everything else away!
"I recently bought a 1985 half-
Granty got my FZ750 thrown out of the points’ STEVE PARRISH
faired model for £800 and I'm going to restore it. I still think it's a bike that I could live with and use. Older bikes are often very disappointing to ride but the FZ still feels good to me."
Former GP rider Steve Parrish is another whose life was changed by the FZ750. “I ran one in the British Superstock Championship in 1985,” he told MCN, “and I loved it.
“I should have won the title but Mick Grant protested and got me thrown out of the Snetterton results over a wrongsized pilot jet or something stupid like that, so I lost the title by three points. I got to ride Granty's Suzuki GSX-R750 years later for an MCN feature and discovered he'd bloody out-cheated me by using a full race-spec ECU!
“The Superstock series was the main championship in the UK at the time and when I became team boss for Loctite Yamaha we won the title in 1986 with Kenny Irons and in 1987 with Keith Huewen. Even though the FZ was a big old girl compared to the TZ500S I had been used to riding, it handled and was a great package. It was ahead of its time and right up there with the GSX-R. It was the first of Yamaha's great fourstroke sportsbikes but it was never quite the sales success it should have been because the GSX-R just looked much more sporty – don't forget the original FZ750 only had a bikini fairing. Yamaha tried a big pitch on the FZ having five valves per cylinder but it wasn't enough to improve sales.”
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