Remembering Japans hot 700cc bikes from the 80’s

Mailman

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I saw this for sale in Phoenix Craigslist. It looks like a really well preserved 700cc Honda Sabre.

https://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/mcy/d/mesa-1984-honda-vf700c-sabre-great/7333414254.html
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It made me remember the mid 80’s when Harley was floundering and got the US government to get involved by imposing steep tariffs on any import motorcycle over 700cc. There! That’ll slow down the sales of Japanese bikes and save Harley! Not!!!

The Japanese manufacturers thought about it for about two seconds and said , you know all of our best selling 750cc bikes? How about if we make the bores a teensy bit smaller, or the cranks have just a little less stroke and BAM! We got us a brand new 700cc motorsickle! And while we’re at it, why don’t we mess with the cams and carburetors and make it even faster than the bike it’s replacing, and oh yeah , we’re going to lower the price too! :laugh2:
Not only did they do just that, but all the 750’s that were already here, we’re not affected by the tariffs and they offered some really good deals on remaining inventory.
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My former son in law bought a Yamaha 700cc Fazer in the early 90’s. Four cylinders, five valves per cylinder , for a total of 20 valves to adjust! I was riding a 1000 BMW at the time with 1/5 the number of valves! :laugh2: I rode that little Fazer and it was hotter than a two dollar pistol!
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And the rest of the tariff busters,
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The tariff began in 1983 and ended in 1988, and in the end, it wasn’t the tariff that saved Harley from financial ruin. They did it themselves by totally revamping their factory, making product improvements and overhauling their management. But it was an interesting time, and every once in a while you can find a little gem like the Honda Sabre at the top of this article.

By the way, if you really want to see what the Japanese factories are capable of……do a little research on when the Japanese government tried to crack down on their home market in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They didn’t want their citizens riding around on large powerful motorcycles, so they put all kinds of financial barriers in place on any motorcycle over 400cc. This led to a whole slew of insanely fast 400cc and 250cc pocket rockets. They were little four cylinder race bikes with 17,000 rpm redlines, that were basically street legal race bikes. But that’s a whole nother story!
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Later Bob.
 
The Japanese manufacturers thought about it for about This led to a whole slew of insanely fast 400cc and 250cc pocket rockets. They were little four cylinder race bikes with 17,000 rpm redlines, that were basically street legal race bikes. But that’s a whole nother story!
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Later Bob.

I actually have a couple of these! Great little run arounds, the engine sounds like a jet turbine at 18,000 RPM.

Cruising the main roads at 70mph in 6th the engine is at 12,000RPM and it’s happy enough tbh.

Takes a little bit of getting used to.

Yamaha FZR250R
 

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I actually have a couple of these! Great little run arounds, the engine sounds like a jet turbine at 18,000 RPM.

Cruising the main roads at 70mph in 6th the engine is at 12,000RPM and it’s happy enough tbh.

Takes a little bit of getting used to.

Yamaha FZR250R

That is a great little bike! I was watching YouTube videos of those little 250’s yesterday. It’s absolutely amazing to hear those things accelerate, they sound like a Grand Prix race car. Power doesn’t really start building until about 13,000 rpm and starts to fall off just above 15,000 ( or so I’ve read ) , means you really have to tap dance on that shifter to keep them accelerating hard. And they’re also very light. What fun!
 
one son had a FZR250/4 the other had a FZR400 I squeezed myself into those bikes just to see what they are like, why oh why did they come after my hoon days what fun I would have, amazing bikes thanks for the history of the 700s I never new that detail as we had no restrictions like that here in Kiwi land.
 
Thanks @Mailman, never heard about any of that. Not having the same tariffs in Britain, I don't think any of those 700s came here. Except probably as grey imports?

In the late '80s, I ran an early ZXR750 which was not a very common bike. But then lots of Japan home-market ZXR400s - picture below - began to arrive in the UK. As well as putting heavy restrictions on bikes over 400 cc, the Nippon government also sought to keep the car and bike industries buoyant by imposing very strict MoT rules so that vehicles over two years old found it hard to pass the annual inspection. That's when many of the British grey importers first started up. They would head to Japan and buy up container loads of s/h, low-mileage bikes for pennies and ship them over to Britain where there was a ready market for these exotic pocket rockets.


Kawasaki ZXR400SP 90.jpg
 
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XJ700 Maxim-X I believe this is 5 valves per cylinder.
In the CycleWorld Test Magazine; they wrote this of the X-Bike.

"The X distinguishes itself from all the other XJ's by being the quickest incarnation yet. Yamaha's XJ900 Seca, a rocket, just two years ago-posted a respectable 11.82-second, quarter mile, our stock Max-X ran a scalding 11.79-second quarter at 112.82 mph. Furthermore, its 0-60 acceleration is closer to Kawasaki's potent 900 Ninja than to anything in its-own class. Its top-gear roll-on figures from 45-70 mph place it deep into big-bike territory and prove that the Maxim X doesn't sacrifice mid-range for blinding top-end."

The red bike is a Maxim and not a Maxim-X. The Maxim-X was water cooled. It's a small motorcycle, but I still think I'd like to have one. It's faster than my XS1100!
 
So many of those mid 80s bikes are gone. Thrashed, crashed, and trashed. I was stationed in California and remember the nearly weekly fatalities near Alice’s Restaurant when kids with more money than skill went racing through the roads in the hills. Police all but shut down the roads because it got so bad. Because of the glut of early 80s models still on the showroom floors years later you could crash on Sunday, buy another on Monday.
 
In the CycleWorld Test Magazine; they wrote this of the X-Bike.

"The X distinguishes itself from all the other XJ's by being the quickest incarnation yet. Yamaha's XJ900 Seca, a rocket, just two years ago-posted a respectable 11.82-second, quarter mile, our stock Max-X ran a scalding 11.79-second quarter at 112.82 mph. Furthermore, its 0-60 acceleration is closer to Kawasaki's potent 900 Ninja than to anything in its-own class. Its top-gear roll-on figures from 45-70 mph place it deep into big-bike territory and prove that the Maxim X doesn't sacrifice mid-range for blinding top-end."

The red bike is a Maxim and not a Maxim-X. The Maxim-X was water cooled. It's a small motorcycle, but I still think I'd like to have one. It's faster than my XS1100!
I had a 900 Seca, bought it lightly used in 1984 or 85. It was pretty fast for its time. As I recall, yamaha had a hole in their product line after the XS1100 was discontinued. They needed something in the over 750 class.
So they took the Seca 750 engine and bored and stroked it as much as they could. So much stroke that the big end rod bolts had to be installed upside down to clear the crankcase.
Unfortunately, mine was stolen and thankfully never found. I figured if they found it, it would have been trashed.
Many years and many bikes later, I stumbled into a guy that was selling one because he didn't ride it anymore. He was selling it cheap because it needed work.
When I realized there were title issues I started offering less than his already cheap price and...
He said, "Hell with it, I'll just give it to ya"! He signed the title and gave it to me free!!
Life has intervened and I haven't touched it in a long time. Now that my street tracker build is pretty well finished. I've got to get the 1974 GT380 running again and then, I'll start on the 900.
Wanna see some pics? Sure ya do! Ha ha
First the 900 Seca, then Street Tracker, then GT380...
 

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I had a 900 Seca, bought it lightly used in 1984 or 85. It was pretty fast for its time. As I recall, yamaha had a hole in their product line after the XS1100 was discontinued. They needed something in the over 750 class.
So they took the Seca 750 engine and bored and stroked it as much as they could. So much stroke that the big end rod bolts had to be installed upside down to clear the crankcase.
Unfortunately, mine was stolen and thankfully never found. I figured if they found it, it would have been trashed.
Many years and many bikes later, I stumbled into a guy that was selling one because he didn't ride it anymore. He was selling it cheap because it needed work.
When I realized there were title issues I started offering less than his already cheap price and...
He said, "Hell with it, I'll just give it to ya"! He signed the title and gave it to me free!!
Life has intervened and I haven't touched it in a long time. Now that my street tracker build is pretty well finished. I've got to get the 1974 GT380 running again and then, I'll start on the 900.
Wanna see some pics? Sure ya do! Ha ha
First the 900 Seca, then Street Tracker, then GT380...
I like all three!
 
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