5k: Granpappy’s Superbike: 1986 Honda VF1000R

Yesterday, DT Reader Cody commented on our Coffee Break that we should consider including some vintage motorcyles in our mix of posts. As it turns out, I try to keep an eye on a couple of bikes, and came across this 1986 Honda VF1000R currently bidding for $3,500 in Coarsegold, CA on EBay with just a day left to go. This bike calls to me as I’m a huge fan of someone restoring and tweaking a bike to make it their own. Having ditched the original Red/White/Blue Honda livery in favor of contrasting blue/orange this bike looks decades newer than it is.  The addition of a non-stock extended windscreen creates more of a highway appearance than its original proned-out riding position.

The VF100R is considered by many to be the grand-daddy of all of today’s sportsbikes. At 600+ lbs, these are not lightweights, but with 122 hp and significant torques from its 998cc V4 with gear driven cams, these are bikes that you can flog until you get tired of it.

VF1000R’s were only available in the US for the ’85-86 model year and never sold in huge numbers;  not because they weren’t the bad boy of their day, but because the US had huge tariffs on imported motorcycles over 700cc in an attempt to insulate the nearly bankrupt Harley Davidson brand, making these extremely expensive.Visually about the only way to tell the difference between an ’85 and
’86 is that the ’85 had a large single headlamp and the ’86 had the compound lamp shown below.

The seller has modified dome of the body panels to  make up for some broken ones which is understandable given the low numbers of salvage parts available. The seller’s use of expanded metal is reasonable, as even the stock panels left the mechanical bits visible. The seller comments that this bike is the frankenchild of two bikes, which also calls out to me as in the early 1990’s I resurrected one from two wrecked VF1000Rs.  I tackeled the repair all the body work and chose the black/silver combo shown below.  I also preferred to keep the cover over the passenger’s portion of the seat which helps keep the rider planted a little further forward.  (20 years later it does look like Vader’s ride)

If you’re considering buying wrecked 80’s bike, their body panels are totally
rebuildable, if you’ve got the patience to build your own wax models for
copying fiberglass body panels and are don’t mind the smell of burning ABS for fixing the smaller bits with a
soldering gun and ABS cement!

One of my frustrations owning my VF1000R (in the days before the high speed internet) was not being able to find a suitable 4-into-1 exhaust. Unlike the Ferrari smooth sound of the smaller VFR 750, the VF1000R’s have a slightly lumpier sounding exhaust note.  This particular bike is running F1 (Cobra) dual pipes with nothing in them. I can tell from having listened to this combination before, that this bike will sound like a tractor at idle, but above 5K rpm it will sound heavenly.  He’s also incorporated some barely visible turn indicators which work very well wit the bike’s overall look. 

The biggest drawback to riding the VF1000R is its split cooling system. There are two sets of radiators, one of which is behind the triple tree and above the engine. With a full tank of gas and the radiator mounted that high, mine always felt like I had an 8 year old kid sitting on the triple tree at all times, causing the bike to plow a bit when pushed in a turn and always feeling like it wanted to high-side.  You get used to it, but its not as confidence inspiring as the more tossable VFR 700/750/850

One of the axioms I’ve always lived by is that any running motorcycle of 1,000 cc is worth $3,000. The better their condition, the lower their numbers the more expensive they become. Really nice VF1000Rs can still be had for $5k, but there are a lot of junkers out there at $3K.  Given this bike’s updated appearance and the care taken in powder coating and brushing the shiny bits, it would seem to indicate that it was thoughtfully done and worth a look if you can figure out how to get a PPI up in the Coarsegold, CA. If nothing else, the ride home would be worth it.

As I get older, my rule for motorcycles is simple; there ain’t no replacement for displacement!  I haven’t had the opportunity to ride the new VFR1200 but am looking forward to it. I may not stay with my younger friends in the twisties but at least I could still catch them in the straights!

See another classic bike ready for a new rider? tips@dailyturismo.com