In the early 1980s, Honda found itself in a difficult position. It had come to light that its VF models were susceptible to problems with their camshaft bearings which were causing problems that cost owners extra money and time — and greatly impacted perception of Honda as a brand.
As Honda had based its success on its reputation for reliability, they had to do something to make it up to their loyal customers, and fast. Their answer to the problem was the new VFR750, which was first released to the public in 1986.
Though it took some time for consumers to trust Honda again, any hurt feelings were soon smoothed over. The VFR750 was just the right bike for the job and it helped make angry Honda buyers come back around to see that Hondas really were reliable bikes and worthy of their hard-earned money.
What happened, Honda?
It’s still not clear what went so terribly wrong with the V4 models that caused numerous owners to experience camshaft issues. The problem was so common it even picked up a nickname: “the chocolate camshaft”. As the nickname suggests, the camshaft was nowhere near as durable as in previous models and were prone to, for lack of better terminology, melting due to overheating.
Can the ‘86 VFR750 save the day?
Because Honda was so desperate to gain back the trust of consumers, they went into manufacturing the VFR750 fully aware that they would be taking a financial hit on every bike. Undeterred, Honda developed a new motorcycle that was so impressive that it was still on the market over a decade later.
In order to redeem itself, Honda built a complex, high-quality bike when it released the VFR750.
The V4 engine came complete on a newly developed, technologically advanced aluminum chassis, gear driven shafts, and anti dive forks. This allowed this sport-touring model to hit an impressive 105 bhp at 10,500 rpm.
The public’s reaction to the new offering was overwhelmingly positive when, at the 1986 Transatlantic Trophy race, Ron Halsam rode to victory on a stock VFR. Able to easily overtake the competition, the underdog finished in first place. This victory helped to change the public’s negative, skeptical view of the new machine.
In the following years, not wanting to tempt fate, Honda made minimal tweaks to the VFR750’s design. These were mainly cosmetic changes to the bike and changes to the size of the wheels. Because the bike was so popular, Honda could practically sit back and relax while the bike sold itself. It’s safe to say that consumers had regained their confidence in Honda.
The last hurrah
One of the main modifications that can be credited to the VFR750 was in relation to the addition to a single-sided swing arm. This feature was previously available to only racing bikes and was added to the VFR750, allowing the rear wheel to be removed and changed with minimal effort, whereas in the past, that task was a difficult and inconvenient process.
Once the new decade came around and Honda felt more secure in its position with the public, the maker decided that it was time to add a bit of pizazz to the bike’s appearance. The swing arm added to the bike’s sleek appearance, as this feature had previously been reserved for exotic racing bikes.
In 1994, Honda decided to give this model more mods, including around 200 changes from the prior models. The majority of those changes were in relation to weight and performance.
One of the most notable updates was a design change that made chain lubrication much easier than prior models.
As it moved to the VFR800 model, Honda ended production of the VFR750 in 1997. Though that was the end of the road for the 750, it had had a good ride.
Second chances make all the difference
In its eleven-year tenure, the Honda VFR750 not only managed to turn Honda’s damaged reputation around and saved the company from an uncertain future, it also
reignited the public’s passion for Honda’s motorcycles.
Though no longer in production, the VFR750 continues to be a favorite of bike collectors and will, no doubt, continue to be so for a long time to come. Honda’s second chance made all the difference.