Power Cruiser: Yamaha V-Max “Musashi”

Yamaha V-Max Custom

Samurai-inspired V-Max from Shoogly Shed x 78 Outlaw… 

When Yamaha unleashed the mighty V-Max in 1985, a legend was born. The 145-hp V4 was a fire-breather of the first order, a Mad Max muscle bike designed to out-accelerate anything else on two wheels.

“The goal was for V-Max to be the quickest and fastest production motorcycle ever over a quarter-mile. This required an engine with an output of about 140 horsepower. However, Yamaha’s most potent engine back then – which was the V4 powering its Venture touring bike – could only produce 90 horsepower.” –Hot Cars

One of the secrets to reaching the necessary horsepower number was a special intake setup dubbed V-Boost:

“When rpm reaches 6500, a valve in a crossover manifold between the cylinders in each bank opens, allowing each cylinder to draw through two carbs. It’s something like the four-barrel-carb arrangement used in cars.” –Cruiser

While the handling and braking were nothing to write home about, the original V-Max was all about straight-line acceleration, and here it reigned supreme. Riders couldn’t get enough of the seemingly inexhaustible power on demand.

“What sets the Max’s engine apart from other powerful motors is that it has power everywhere. Off the bottom, it’s torquier than a Honda Gold Wing. On top, it hits harder than a Kawasaki 900 Ninja. And from bottom to top, the powerband is broader than that of a BMW K100.” –Cycle World

Then there was the riding sensation. Sure, some superbikes might accelerate faster, but they lay the rider down into the bike to absorb the gravitational forces. The V-Max, on the other hand, keeps the rider up in the wind to truly feel the acceleration:

“The upright riding posture of the V-Max means you feel all the acceleration ripping at your arms. You are thankful for that big backstop in the saddle, which holds you in place as the engine bellows like a Top Fuel car as it tears through first gear.” –Cruiser

Enter our new friend Euan Ryan of Shoogly Shed Motors, a Scotsman whose wife bought him a Yamaha XS250 as a pandemic project…and things escalated from there! Euan is now on his fifth full-blown custom build, and the original 6×4′ Shoogly Shed has since been supplanted with a full workshop.

Yamaha V-Max Custom

The V-Max you see here was a commission and collaboration project with Jon Beckett of 78 Outlaw Creations, who wanted to incorporate influences from Japanese samurai culture and Neo-Tokyo style, as depicted in films like Akira. For the donor, Euan and Jon eschewed the lowly 95-bhp UK-spec V-Max (sans V-Boost) for a full-power US import donor — good men!

Custom V-Max

As often happens, the project swelled from a few customizations to a full-on build, with “no stone unturned.” Highlights include a braced frame, braced and modified swingarm, bespoke Taylor Made Wheel with 200mm rear tire, R1 forks with K-Tech internals, XJR1300 front wheel, dual-disc Brembo brakes, fully serviced engine with Barnett clutch and titanium hardware, Black Widow exhaust, NWT X21 Plus electronics, and a full suite of hand-fabricated bits, including a trick flip-up rear cowl.

Custom V-Max

Tony The Engraver lent his art to the side scoops, Gary at Autotecnique laid down the paint, and Tom Hurley upholstered the seat. Named after the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings, this V-Max now boasts the craftsmanship and lightning-quickness of a samurai sword:

“Jon describes riding Musashi as endlessly fun, laughably powerful, and faster than a katana-wielding Samurai. The only thing this bike can’t pass is a gas station…!”

Custom V-Max

Below, we talk to Euan for the full story on the build, along with more photos from the talented JB Moments Photography — Jon’s wife!

V-Max Custom: Builder Interview

Custom V-Max

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

So I started customising motorcycles as soon I was learning to ride them! I’ve got a long childhood history of fettling and customising everything from bicycles and skateboards to go-karts and pogo-sticks.

My first proper custom bike build was during Lockdown 2020 when my wife bought me a scrap 1980 Yamaha XS250 to help pass the time. I still own it and ride it a lot! I’ve since stripped and rebuilt it to fix a few issues I was never happy with.

 

Since then, I’ve built coming on for five more fully custom bikes. I started out in a 6×4 ft shed and two years ago moved house and built a much more spacious workshop. The Shoogly Shed MKII has allowed me to expand my skills and get machines like my 1940s lathe to really enhance my build potential.

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

This bike started out as a mostly stock 1st Gen US Import 1985 Yamaha V-Max 1200 in fantastic condition – it was a huge commitment to strip it apart!

Custom V-Max

• Why was this bike built?

This bike was a commission and collaboration project with Jon Beckett from 78 Outlaw Creations. Jon wanted a custom bike built that he could input on the design but leave the fabrication and build process to me. We started out considering just a few customisations and then as the project grew, we left no stone unturned and ended up customising probably >90% of the bike!

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

The V-Max design concept was Neo-Tokyo and Japanese Samurai styling. Jon is a big fan of this design style but wanted to add his own unique flair.

Custom V-Max

• What custom work was done to the bike?

I started out by shortening the back-end and fabricating a flip-cowl to house the fuel cap for the underseat tank. We fitted a custom Monza-style fuel cap and installed a modern float fuel guage.

Custom V-Max

The swingarm was modified and braced to accept a fully custom rear wheel by Steve from Taylor Made Wheels. This allowed the upgrade to a meaty 200mm tyre. Suspension upgraded to Mupo fully adjustable rear shocks and a Yamaha R1 front fork with custom billet yokes and extenders.

Custom V-Max

We fitted frame braces and engine hardmounts to improve overall ride quality. I fabricated custom side panels with mesh inserts. I modified the fake tank panel with a shroud for a Motoscope Pro.

Custom V-Max

Front wheel is from a Yamaha XJR1300 with matching twin Brembo front discs and pads, plus a billet adapter to run the same disc and caliper set-up on the rear.

Custom V-Max

I turned custom knurled footpegs, engine sliders and foot controls. Tail tidy and plate hanger was fabricated from scratch and a fully-custom rear “infinity” light became a labour of love but the result was worth it!

Custom V-Max

The exhaust system is a full Black-Widow system with carbon end cans and all finished in black ceramic coating. The engine got a full service, upgraded Barnett clutch, new starter clutch and stator windings, full paint job, powdercoated valve covers, and titanium fixings all around to finish it off.

Custom V-Max

The bike is running a full NWT X21 Plus electrical system with momentary button controls. The real stand-out finishing touches are the fully custom engraved side-scoops by Tony The Engraver, the unbelievable paint job by Autotecnique, and the custom seat upholstered by Tom Hurley on a handmade steel seat pan made by myself.

Custom V-Max

• Does the bike have a nickname?

The bike is named “Musashi” after the legendary Japanese Samurai warrior.

Custom V-Max

• Any idea of horsepower or weight numbers?

The bike hasn’t been dyno tested or weighed, but given the upgrades, we reckon it has definitely shed a few pounds and Jon assures me it pulls like a freight train!

Custom V-Max

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?

Jon describes riding Musashi as endlessly fun, laughably powerful, and faster than a katana-wielding Samurai. The only thing this bike can’t pass is a gas station…!

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

As the main builder of this bike, it’s hard to single out one particular feature or fabrication job. I really can’t emphasize how many little and major jobs add up to the bike you see. So many details are easily lost on first inspection!

Custom V-Max

If I were to draw anyone’s attention to one particular part of the bike it would probably have to be the flip-cowl and rear light. I bent and shaped the cowl by hand, created L-hinges on the lathe, and welded them together. Hand-shaped the catch, utilising the quick release mechanism original to the bike, and made sure it flips smooth as butter. The infinity light was a design concept Jon liked and he tasked me with the job of making it come to life. Handmade alloy housing, two strips of red LEDs, reflective mirrored acrylic, plus a double layer of laser-cut red and smoked lens acrylics. The end result, tucked neatly under the cowl, makes the whole cowl assembly probably my proudest achievement on the build.

Custom V-Max

There is a full video series documenting the build on my YouTube Channel: @shooglyshedmotors

Follow the Builder

Instagram: @shooglyshedmotors
Jon Beckett (JB): @78_outlaw
Photos by JB Moments Photography, Jon’s very talented wife!

2 Comments

  1. steven livingston

    I’ve always like the VMax, except for one detail that drives me out of my Vulcan mind: Those stupid fake air scoops on either side of the “tank”. Just once, can’t somebody build one of those out without those ridiculous appendages?
    If I had the dough, I’d buy one just to do that.

  2. Avrei voluto provarla almeno una volta, deve avere una coppia da paura!

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