The Cat that got the Cream…
When launched in 1996, the Thundercat was derided for its portly looks and dated technology, a few years on however and those in the know have a different opinion. Dealers cant get enough of them and although there is plenty of good examples around getting your hands on one isn’t easy, we take a look and find out what the fuss is all about.
What is it about the good old Thundercat we thought. One dealer offered the best analogy “its like that girl you wouldn’t look twice at when at school but a few years on, and with the acne and glasses gone forever, she is a real peach, unfortunately she is now married to the bloke that saw through all that in the first place”. He was right of course, us fickle bikers tend to go for the latest model and forget the rest and yet all the time under the cats supposedly ugly clothing sat a real beauty waiting to be kissed. The Thundercat, or YZF600R to give it its proper title, was the turning point in Yamahas battle against the mighty Honda, certainly in build quality, although a few did suffer with small cracks in the fairing particularly around the screw holes, in general the yam keeps it looks well. With brake borrowed from the Yam superbikes of the day that department can be relied upon, although the alloy calipers are prone to attacks from the UK’s salted roads requiring regular service to prevent sticking brakes and the resultant warped rotors that soon follow. Whatever you do never be tempted to undo the blue anodized bits that look like they can be, they are there simply to aid the manufacture of a one piece caliper and these bits are bonded in after machining of the two piston recessed, removing it will almost certainly require a new caliper so be warned especially if you have a mate with a lorry sized set of torque bits.
The salt also makes light work of the exhaust down pipes and rear shock on high mileage examples, the symptoms of which are all too obvious s get on your knees and have a look in the fairing and between the swing arms to see if all is clean or price accordingly. These apart however and the YZF is a great machine, the engine having been developed over a ten year period to the state where failures are simply not heard of. The forward slanted, 16-valve design, proving to be willing and able to project the YZF to heady speed well over the 145mph mark. Its all well having that kind of ability but in the real world the bit that matters is well below those kinds of trajectories, this is where the Cat comes into its own, out pouncing most up to 8000rpm, even the bike that replaced it, the R6 struggles to keep its meowing pal in touch when it comes to mid range stomp, few 600cc machines have surpassed the levels of torque that this well sorted engine can churn out. Yamaha did a good job wit the overall package that is the YZF, it had some stiff opposition too, not least from theCBR600F series as well a tow pronged assault from the ZZR and ZX6-R from Kawasaki. Using these machines as a benchmark, and relying upon tried and tested technology dating back to the earliest of modern day yam designs, the Thundercat was developed into a solid and dependable machine that is more than capable of multitasking, suiting the biker new to the middle weight scene or the experienced pro alike.
Often though of as a lardy machine the results are most deceiving, don’t forget this was Yamaha’s answer to the leading 600 race bikes of the day and, as such, albeit in a highly tuned state, the Thundercat won many a Supersport race. The bulky bodywork, rather than just some designers pipe dream, actually being the result of much wind tunnel testing, giving the power plant an easier time at speed, while also making it a comfortable high-speed machine for the long distance rider. This can be made better still with a flip screen and makes the Cat a great all rounder, more than content purring away on the European motorways while sipping away at its large capacity fuel tank, or chasing bigger prey around the back routes. The YZF is finding a new set of fans even though the type was removed from the line up in 2004 after 8 years of production, many finding the ease of use, low, 810mm, seat height and low running costs too tempting to resist. The only problem would appear to be finding one.
<h2>1998 Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat </h2>
- Engine – 599cc
- Bore & stroke – 62 mm x 49.6 mm
- Power – 100 bhp @ 11500 rpm
- Torque – 49.4 ft-lb @ 9500rpm
- Transmission – 6-speed chain final drive
- Frame – Deltabox allow beam
- Brakes – 298mm discs 4-piston-calipers, 245mm disc 2-piston-caliper
- Wheels – 120/60 x 17 160/60 x 17
- Fuel capacity – 21 litres
- Dry weight – 178 kgs
- Top Speed – 145mph
<h3>Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat Road Test Gallery</h3>
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