Fail­ure leads to great­ness

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Vfr400r -

IT’S UN­DE­NI­ABLY true that, as with the RC30 and VFR750F, a sig­nif­i­cant part of the suc­cess of the VFR400 is due to the fail­ings of the pre­ced­ing VF V4s.

The sec­ond 750 ver­sion to be in­tro­duced, the VF750F sport­ster, is in­fa­mous to­day for its soft cams while the later ‘ju­nior’ ver­sion, the VF400F fol­lowed by thevf500f2, suf­fered crank prob­lems de­spite be­ing more ro­bust.all of which was nearly enough to kill off Honda’s V4 project en­tirely.

In­stead, Big H re­dou­bled its ef­forts to get its new project ‘right’, lead­ing to all-new en­gines fea­tur­ing geared cam drives in­stead of chains – in turn pow­er­ing some of the best bikes Ja­pan has ever built.the first, fa­mously, was the orig­i­nal VFR750F in 1986.A rac­ing ver­sion, the RC30, fol­lowed two years later. Less cel­e­brated but ar­guably just as im­por­tant ju­nior, 400cc ver­sions – de­signed specif­i­cally to ad­here to Ja­pan’s do­mes­tic 400cc/59bhp/180kph li­cence reg­u­la­tion – were in­tro­duced at the same time, pri­mar­ily for the home mar­ket.

The first of these was the 1986-’87 VFR400R, also known by its in­ter­nal model des­ig­na­tion as the NC21.AT its heart was an all-new en­gine which was ef­fec­tively a ju­nior ver­sion of the 750cc gear-driven cam set-up and de­signed specif­i­cally to fully meet the Ja­panese do­mes­tic li­cence reg­u­la­tions – which it did. In ad­di­tion, it was de­fined by a full fair­ing com­plete with sin­gle head­light, a con­ven­tional dual-sided swingarm with a sin­gle shock, hy­draulic clutch and forks fea­tur­ing the then-trendy anti-dive sys­tem, in this case Honda’s ‘TRAC’ (Torque Re­ac­tive Anti-dive Cir­cuit) sys­tem. The naked VFR400Z

In this guise the new en­gine had a 180-de­gree fir­ing or­der and a 13,000rpm red­line. It was also of­fered as THEVFR400Z, a half-faired vari­ant, plus (even more oddly) as a po­lice-spec VFR400P. Pri­mar­ily sold in Ja­pan, where it proved an in­stant hit, a few NC21S were also ex­ported to New Zealand.

Back in the mid-’80s, how­ever, com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the Ja­panese ‘Big Four’ was as fierce

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