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The History of Honda's V-FouR VFR

By Paul Peczon

The history of the VFR, as explained in a concise article prepared under great stress in less than an afternoon on deadline in the CA Bike days with naught but a stack of Motorcycle Reports and a phone. Thanks, Pat (you probably don't even remember).

Harken ye back to 1983, when ye olde AMA changed it's displacement limits for fours to 750 ccs, and 1000 ccs for twins. There was much rending of hair and gnashing of teeth and the Japanese fabricators brought forth new bikes. There was the GPz750 and the G750E and there was the Interceptor, which was initially introduced just to homolgate the bike for racing. "Hark!" said the motorcyclasti, and "Ho!" said the raceri, who engaged in battle most ferocious. In those dark and mysterious days there was much racing and the Interceptor was the winner.

The Interceptor was a radical departure from then current technology, borne from early design exercises which also created the infamous NS bikes. Honda firmly believed in the 90 degree v-four, with its unique power delivery and narrow frontal area. The streets had already seen the V45 Magna, and the track had been dominated by the legendary FWS1000 the year before. The Interceptor hit the streets as a unique repli-racer.

It was the first bike to have a 16 inch front rim, all the rage in racing at the time. Stout 39mm fork tubes rose to a new steel frame which was painted the color of aluminum. The motor was based on the V45 Magna's but the direction of rotation was reversed so that the engine spun in the same direction as the wheels. The gearbox was updated, chain drive fitted, and horsepower was up to 86hp. Short bars, a boldly styled nose fairing mounted on the frame, and a chin dam gave it the extreme looks of a real sportbike. It also had the large fuel petcock mounted into the tank, a feature that owners came to love. It's short 58.6 inch wheelbase, trick front tire, and wide 120/130 series tires made it he best handling 750 of the time. There was that wide powerband that ended up giving it the best quarter mile times, top speed, and lap times of the class. And it was "the "street bike of the time.

The Interceptor kicked major butt on the racetracks that year. It took the AMA championship, and its sister, the RVF took the World Endurance Crown and the Suzuka 8-hour Endurance race. Privateer clubracers found that it was prone to overheating without antifreeze, and the street riders sometimes had problems with the hardfacings on the cams and rocker arms, which was warranteed. But there was universal consensus that the Interceptor was the bike of the year in 1984.

Nothing changed for 1984, that is, until the ITC tariff on bikes 750 ccs and over (known in some circles as the Save Harley tax) produced the VF700F2 Interceptor. The 750 was still available in limited quantities for an additional $800. The displacement reduction was effected by destroking the motor from 48.6mm to 45.4mm. Connecting rods were lengthened in the oversquare (70mm bore to 45.4mm stroke) motor, and the bike lost almost 10 horsepower. A tooth was removed from the countershaft sprocket to compensate for this, and the bike remained popular. Meanwhile, the sportbike market was really starting to heat up, with Yamaha's release of the FZ750 and the introduction of the first GSXR.
From: Ron Phillips
To: "'racerx@info.com.ph'"
Subject: Slight misinformation
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 16:59:07 -0700
MIME-Version: 1.0
Great article on the VFR! But I have to correct a little mistake :

The bike you list as the '87 VFR was actually available as a 1986 model - that year, Honda offered 3 VFRs in the U.S., the 750F, the 700F (both bikes white with red and blue pinstripes) and the 700F2 (white with gold decals/accents). The "F2" was carried over to '87 unchanged, and interestingly it sold for the same price ($4500) as the 700F. The sides of the bike have a graphic that reads "Interceptor", so despite what they told the insurance companies they were still selling a model under that name. I have the '86 VFR 700 F2, and it is the first modern sportbike - full bodywork, integrated fairing that covers the engine, modern aluminum perimeter frame - and it'll hold its own with the current crop of sportbikes on any day. The only bad thing about this bike is that the wheel sizes are smaller than current sportbikes, and the tire choices are very limited. Fitting the CBR 600 rear wheel to this bike is a popular modification, and one I am considering this winter as a rainy day project.

Ron Phillips
"If you don't believe I have a VFR, I'll show you the heat rash on my right calf."

Hello there

regarding: http://www.dot.com.ph/uncle/vfrhist.html

I think you should check your AMA records.

In its first year of racing the VF750F in the AMA Superbike Championship,
Honda fielded six riders - and went down to Wayne Rainey on the Muzzy
Kawasaki GPz750 - an AIR-Cooled, two valves a cylinder in-line four beat the
hordes of Honda water-cooled 16-valve V4s.

Second point. Crankshafts.

I think you will find the VF750s had a 360 degree crank and this was switched
to a 180 degree crank for the VFR750.

However, when HRC kitted the VFRs for racing, it used a special 360 degree crank.

I think the stated reason at the time for the 180 degree crank was to do with
exhaust plumbing and noise...

Also had different firing interval s to the 360 crank.

Maybe worth updating your info for historical accuracy.


Michael Esdaile
New Zealand


Insurance companies noticed the sportbike wars, and when the 1986 VFR750/700F was released, it was no longer called the Interceptor. The new bike was heavily redesigned, and it had lost 49 pounds, as Belinda Carlyle of the Go-Go's was to also do shortly thereafter. A 50% stiffer aluminum frame made of large rectangular tubing peeked out from beneath a sweet new full fairing. (Belinda started wearing bikinis) Graphics were simple and tasteful. But the big news was the engine updates, based on lessons learned at the track. Higher revs were needed for racing, and the streetbike got the cam gear drive of the Superbikes. Precise cam control and reduced internal friction resulted, as well as the signature engine sound that still signals the arrival of a VFR. Each valve got its own rocker arm, as opposed to the forked rockers of old. This drastically reduced the load on the lobe facings. Intakes grew a millimeter, but the valves grew lighter and flowed better with undercut stems. The reciprocating valvetrain mass was further lightened with 33 percent lighter valve springs. Honda went the extra effort to make this assembly durable and routed individual oiling to each lobe.

Intakes were straightened, pistons and con rods lightened, and a 360 degree crankshaft was fitted in place of the 180 degree unit. This made for improved scavenging in a lighter exhaust system which no longer required a huge plenum chamber and coincidentally yielded a less droning exhaust note. Flywheels were 20 percent lighter. Peak power went up to a claimed 105 hp, torque was up 22 percent, and the whole thing revved 500 rpm faster. The transmission was updated to 6 speeds, and the cases were lightened and cast into a smaller shape. The legendary torqueing motor with such linear response had gotten better.

Honda had already decided to make the VFR more of a bike for the masses and the ergonomics verify this. The second generation VFR was extremely comfortable, and to this day remains a very desirable sport touring machine. The same balance of handling and power that made every rider feel like a better rider was retained. It has a very reliable motor which is known to be good for 100k miles before a major rebuild. However, like all v-fours, it is more difficult to work on than a corresponding inline four. On the streets it has a reputation for chewing up the stock rear shock after the first 25,000 miles (just like Honda cars of the same era), and some owners have reported slight galling of the rear rotor locating link, which can be addressed with a light sanding and a touch of grease. Frequent fork oil flushings also help this VFR keep that precision touch.

In 1987, Honda decided not to import the 750, leaving the American masses only the VFR700. Refinements were subtle. The shift lever was shorten to lessen the effects of its long throw. Compression and rebound damping were increased, and a new rear shock provided separate valving for lighter compression and firmer rebound, as well as a stiffer spring. This made the bike sweeter over bumps, and increased cornering clearance, although most street riders will never be able to touch the exhaust pipes down. The centerstand disappeared, unfortunately, and the blocky instrument pod replaced the dials and optional analog pointers of 1986. During 1988 and 1989 the VFR simply wasn't imported into the U.S.. On race circuits, the RC30 appeared, and was worshipped.

The third generation VFR750F appeared alongside the RC30 in 1990, ready to retake the class that it had opened up. The bikes shared some styling cues and some hardware similarities such as the Elf inspired single sided Pro-Arm swingarm, but the lines were drawn. The VFR was strictly a streetbike, and the new sister bike would go on to racing glory. The difference allowed the VFR to become an even more sophisticated and refined streetbike for the real world, while the 750 offerings from the other three Japanese manufacturers became more and more of a compromise between the demands and cost limitations of the track and the street.

The 1990 VFR's motor was a direct evolution of the old V-four. The rocker arm and screw-type valve adjusters of the VFR700 were replaced by a directly actuated, shim under bucket tappets. Carbs grew into 34mm CV downdrafts. The valves grew, and the net effect of the engine changes was to maximize torque over a wide powerband - at the expense of high rpm power. The third generation VFR had the most streetable powerplant of any motorcycle on the market. Numerous roll-on comparisons confirmed that the VFR was the torque king of the 750 class. Indeed, it had more midrange than many larger sportbikes, and midrange is what makes a streetbike a damn good streetable bike.

The 1990 VFR came only in red, with otherwise subdued graphics, and critics loved the way it looked. The new fairing cut a decent, comfortable envelope around the rider. The new five-sided aluminum beam perimeter frame was suspended by 41mm cartridge style forks up front, and a single shock regulated forged aluminum swingarm. 17 inch tires front and rear allowed the bike to ride on the finest rubber. Fit and finish were of the same level that brought Honda cars to the top of the JD Power survey year after year. Riders loved the comfortable seating position, and the neutral, confidence inspiring handling. This handling felt light; in spite of a 41 pound weight gain to 515 pounds, which nobody seemed to mind. What people did mind, however, was the $7,000 price tag - a full grand over the nearest competitor, the Katana.

1991 saw only a color change - on the rims, which went from white to gold. The 1992 VFR was black, with a refined exhaust system and an even more finely adjustable suspension. In 1993 the color reverted to the pearl white of the 1987 bike.

I swear,I look fat in this picture because I had a big fat folder inside my Aerostich All VFR's cook the rider's ankles a bit. They all have pessimistic fuel gauges. So if you have one, get used to it because nobody can fix it. The engine on all the later models doesn't lend itself to much do-it-yourself horsepower increasing, and that's fine. Without exception, each year's motor provides a powerband that forgives the rider's mistakes, and allows you to concentrate on technique, or perhaps take in the view without worrying about rowing through the gears. The gearboxes and clutches are durable, and seem to get smoother as the miles pile on. The VFR has always had neutral handling, all the way past most riders' limits, without a penalty in ride comfort. Fit and finish on running parts and bodywork have consistently been of the level that Acura owners expect. Even the controls have been noted for being precise and well thought out. Time after time the VFR was the winner in 750 class comparisons by numerous magazines, even besting supposedly faster bikes. If you've never ridden one, maybe you ought to beg and plead your way onto a VFR. Then you'll really understand the attraction firsthand. - Paul Peczon


The 2002 – 2006 models were part of a Honda recall due to some electrical defects, the bike has remained a popular choice for enthusiasts over the years. Who knows – it may have even caught the eye of consumers in the market for new or used cars and given them a wonderful new hobby!

Research for this story was greatly simplified by motorcycle reports from Ian Smith Information, who can sell you a thick stack of reprinted articles on just about any motorcycle. Call him (and Louise) at (505) 820-7844 for a report on your bike. back to the main page

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since October 1, 1997
mildly updated Dec 09.


Created by Paul Peczon