Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Honda's VF750F Interceptor Was the Bike That Changed It All, On & Off The Track


Sam McDonald can be seen looking over his #29 McDonald Racing/HRC/Wiseco-backed Honda RS250 in what was the paddock area at Road America in June of 1984. His like-sponsored '84 model VF750F Interceptor AMA Superbike sits with it's seat/tail section removed being readied for battle in the Honda Super Cycle Weekend event at the sprawling Elkhart Lake, WI. track. Besides being the '82 AMA 250CC GP Champion, 'Super Sam' was also a HRC-sponsored AMA Superbike top contender for several years in the mid 80s, finishing the '84 season ranked fourth in the standings. The Oklahoman comes from a long lineage of motorcycle racers, among them his brother Phil, who contended the AMA Flat Track Championship Series in the mid '70s carrying National #58, and father Norm, who is the 'N' in K&N Motorcycles out of Oklahoma.

Honda hit the street AND the track hot and heavy with the early Spring of '83 release of it's legendary VF750F, V-45-designed Interceptor. It was the first true sport bike with the racing inspired chassis, looks and handling, and on the street, Honda dealers were out of stock within days of their release. Read more below about on the street!

On the track, Honda had Freddie Spencer (for Daytona only), Mike Baldwin, Steve Wise, Roberto Pietri, Dave Aldana and Fred Merkel on factory bikes. They also had Sam McDonald, John Bettencourt and several other top running privateers mounted on the new wonder in varying degrees of semi-sponsorhip from HRC. Even with tipping the scales on the track, Honda lost the '83 championship to Wayne Rainey on a Rob Muzzi Kawasaki inline four/eight valve design. Merkel went on to win the '84-'86 AMA Superbike Championship and the rest, as they say, is history.

This particular bike sports a blue tank/red stripe which indicates the bodywork is from the '84 model year, whereas the fairing sports the blue/blue stripe scheme to indicate it is from the original release '83 model. At the time, Honda would sell the HRC-spec motor kits to top ranking privateers for around $10K U.S. If I remember correctly, you could also get the HRC-spec pipes for hundreds more. McDonald reportedly in the day got bikes as part of his package. Indy area racer Terry 'RT' Hampton piloted his #72 privateer VF750F to 10th place in the 1984 AMA Superbike Championship in what at the time (and still is!) considered a major accomplishment, with the help of one of HRC's spec V-45 motors.
While doing some reading the last couple of days I came acrossed a series of great articles about THE bike that changed it all for motorcycle sport riding in the early-mid '80s. In 1982, Honda came out with a new, revolutionary line of V-45 designed, 750CC machines in it's Sabre and Magna line of bikes and by 1983 the V-45 was fit into a race-inspired steel frame with 16 inch wheels and clamp-on style bars and released as The Interceptor. It was undoubtedly THE first true mass-produced sport/race bike to hit the public.

From the time this bike hit the pages of motorcycle print in late '82 upon news releases of it's pending arrival, to the time it hit Honda's dealers in late March/early April of '83, everything about motorcycle sport riding riding changed dramatically. Guys like myself on CB750/900Fs, or GS750/1000Es or GPZ750/1100s suddenly were turned into 'old school' sport bike riders, as the Interceptor was THE bike to have if that was the way you rode (and it was in those days, not that I condone sport riding on the street, mind you.) Honda dealers were out almost on arrival of the 'new thing' and bikes were being brokered from across the State of Indiana and even further for those that didn't get in on the initial rush for demand. Six or seven of the 9-10 guys I rode with regularly or semi-regularly owned an Interceptor. We probably helped keep Dreyer Honda and Greenwood Honda here in Indy in business to a certain extent. You remember those days, don't you?!

But without a doubt, the Interceptor was THE bike that created the biggest buzz in the world of sport bike riding in this part of the woods, and probably in your part as well. It changed the face of sport riding as we knew it, bringing legions of sport bike riders together, while changing the face of racing as it motored into history.

Cycle World.com's John Burns penned Part One of Honda's release of the V-45:


Part Two of John Burns' article from Cycle World.com, the Interceptor years:


Honda's Racing News department released this history of Superbike racing from 2003:


Larry Lawrence's The Rider Files.com has this great article about the Interceptor's first race at Daytona in Spring of '83:


1 comment:

  1. The VF750F indeed changed the rules. To call it mass produced though ... Honda thought it too narrowly focused to have much appeal, so they initially made only enough to make it Superbike rules legal. I bought one of those early 83 bikes and still have it.

    Only the front wheel was a 16". The V45 was the designation given to the engine, not the name of the designer (spell check problem?). Surprisingly it was a comfortably ride, I did some all day XC rides with my BMW mounted friends no worse off than they. Stock it was heavy for a Sport 750 of the day just three years laternin 86 Suzuki hit us with the first GSXR with aluminum frame and F1 bike ergs...made my Interceptor feel like touring machine.

    Man those were some crazy and innovative few years!


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