This strange venture
THE STORY OF the unveiling of the first V-max at ayamaha dealer meeting in Las Vegas in October 1984, and the waves it caused worldwide, is well documented. So, too, is the journey of its development team to create such a machine: a request for a US hotrod rival to Honda’sv4 Magna, and the inspired transformation of theventurev4 to power it.
In the early ’70s Yamaha, along with all the Japanese ‘Big Four’, were frenziedly exploring all manner of different engine configurations and performance possibilities.
One keyyamaha project at the time was the development of a high performance four-strokev4 1000 to counter the success of Kawasaki’s Z1. Initially undertaken by its race department, this resulted in the unveiling at the 1977 Tokyo Show of a prototype 90-degreev4 racer called theyzr 1000 or OW34 complete with liquid-cooling, fuel-injection, double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and a claimed 135bhp. However, because of the continuing success of racing two-strokes, the project stalled and was transferred toyamaha’s road department where it gained the 001 designation, shaft drive and the hope of becoming a basis for a Yamaha road engine for decades to come.
Things changed again in 1979 when Honda revealed its revolutionary, oval-pistoned, four-stroke NR500 GP racer.anxious to cover all possibilities,yamaha reignited the OW34 racer project, designed a new, 500cc version (now dubbed 001A) and, in the pursuit of maximum power, experimented with versions with five, six and even seven valves per cylinder.this final version, dubbed 001V, is said to have produced 125bhp at a heady 18,000rpm.
Alas, due to the failure of Honda’s NR this 500 V4 never raced (although aspects of its multi-valve technology would resurface on 1985’s five-valve FZ750).AS for the road-going V4, that finally surfaced in detuned, 72-degree, 1200cc form asyamaha’s riposte to Honda’s hugely successful Gold Wing – the Xvz1200venture, although in this spec it was only producing 90bhp.
After all that, in 1981 a senior-product planner atyamahaamerica, Ed Burke, was asked to develop a new rival for an expected new wave of Japanese/americanv4 power cruisers.the first of these was from archrivals Honda and officially unveiled in two forms the following year: the 750cc, liquid-cooled, 90-degreev4-poweredv45 Sabre (thevf750s in Europe) and thev45 Magna power cruiser. In ’83 Honda followed those up with the 1100ccv65 Magna which, in the US, quickly became the bike to beat. V4s were suddenly the engines of the future.
Without the budget for a clean-sheet design and yet mindful of its previous performance V4s, Burke looked to the imminent Venture’s