The mighty V-Max is thirty years old this year. And it’s still making the news—for both the right and the wrong reasons.
Its creator, Kenji Ekuan of GK Design, died a few days ago. Ekuan isn’t as well known as European designers such as Massimo Tamburini or Miguel Galluzzi, but he should be. His portfolio includes the Komachi bullet train, the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, and dozens of Yamaha motorcycles from the past half-century.
Now for the happier news: Yamaha has swung the spotlight back onto the V-Max by commissioning a custom build from Jens vom Brauck of Cologne-based JvB-moto.
Called Infrared, it’s based on the current model VMAX, which ended the extraordinary 23-year run of Ekuan’s original ‘V-Max’ in 2008.
Vom Brauck is famed for his lithe and sporting custom Ducatis, which have graced our pages many times in the past. So this 102 cubic inch, 690-pound behemoth is something of a departure. (The wheelbase, Lord help us, is even longer than a Honda Gold Wing’s.)
“Normally the VMAX would not be the typical JvB-moto bike,” says Vom Brauck. “But once you feel the power delivery, you are addicted and forget about the weight. And you just cannot find a better bike for a dragster-meets-café racer concept…”
With 174 hp on tap, the VMAX does not require any performance upgrades. “When you accelerate, you feel the brutal power of the V4 engine,” says Vom Brauck. “So I wanted to bring out the bike’s dragster genes.”
The look is flatter and more purposeful, with a low-profile carbon fiber tank cover and new air intake scoops modeled after the ones on the first-generation V-Max.
Carbon is also used for the custom headlight bucket, the wheel covers and the tail unit, which sits on top of a modified subframe. It’s an exceptionally pert and attractive back end, and the plan is to make a fiberglass version for retail.
Aluminum is the other material of choice, used for the new under-seat fuel tank and a vestigial front fender.
The exhaust system is especially neat; the enormous mufflers that sit on either side of the stock VMAX have been replaced by a single Termignoni muffler, fed by four-into-one collectors.
The dragster theme carries over to the cockpit. Nestling between the clip-on bars is a single large rev counter made by Auto Meter, an American company that has specialized in competition gauges since 1957.
The obvious color for an ‘official’ Yamaha custom with a strong performance slant would be yellow. But Vom Brauck has chosen a shade closer to that used on the Yamaha racebikes of the mid-80s, notably Eddie Lawson’s Marlboro-Yamaha YZR500. There are no ‘Speed Block’ graphics, but Infrared still screams Speed.
Would Ekuan-san approve? We think so. Top marks to Yamaha’s Yard Built team for choosing Vom Brauck—and here’s to another 30 years of politically incorrect horsepower.