CB-NET checks out that most special of V4 middleweights, the Honda VFR400R family
Honda didn’t have the best of starts to their V4 projects!
That original VF750 model of 1983 was met with derision when the whole chocolate cam-shaft crisis hit, but Honda knew that the basic layout of the engine and the concept as a whole was a good one. Hence other V4 models in various capacities – including the 400cc class (vital for Japan) were released.
Redemption came with the VF, but true V4 greatness only arrived in 1986 with the launch of the VFR750F. Finally the layout and the motor were vindicated. Again tiddler versions were of vital importance to the Big Aitch both at home and abroad.
When a 400cc version came, it was a classic… think of it. The first VFR400 was pretty much in the ballpark of the weight of an old RD400/350 but with 40-50% more power – and with modern chassis/running gear. This alone would make it a hit back home in Japan where licence laws often constrict riders to the class but this would also make the VFR400 a hit in Europe and the UK with newly-qualified riders who wanted a good first ‘big’ bike and with a motor with plenty of punch. And then of course it had excellent Honda build quality.
Clearly the motors on the VFR400s were developed over a decade, but they largely stayed the same and the feel you got from a sorted V4 400 was very special indeed. It was deceptive how the little four-pot made its power and – the torque curve – gave you the impression the thing had maybe another 150cc under the tank.
And then there was the sound… glory be 14.500rpm is a delightful cacophony! So, take a look at our family tree of the V4-R models.
1986 VFR400R NC21: The NC21 featured a box-section aluminium frame, with conventional twin-sided swing arm. 38mm conventional forks, three-spoke wheels, tyres/wheels were 100/90-16 F, 130/70-18 R. Brakes were 256mm front discs with twin pot callipers. The NC21 came with a single headlamp and a full fairing. The motor architecture was 55 x 42mm, bore X stroke with an-180 degree crank/firing order engine. 11:1 compression ratio and 55bhp. Colours Red/White/Black or Red/White/Blue
1987 VFR400Z NC21: A strange beast indeed, some were imported into the UK and many were ex-Japanese riding school machines, hence many came with crash bars and/or were restricted. Basically, the Z-model was a naked version of the NC21, with separate head-lamps. Beware that – if a UK import – only some were de-restricted so ask for proof if the seller says it was so done. Colours Red/White or Red/Black
1987 VFR400R NC24: Once more this updated version had a box-section alloy frame, but now came with the ProArm single-sided rear-end with four-bolt wheel fitting. Suspension consisted of 38mm conventional forks with TRAC anti-dive, multispoke (six at front, eight at rear) wheels 100/90-16F, 130/70-18R. Brakes were 276mm discs up front with twin pot calipers. Single headlamp full fairing. 180 degree firing-order engine 11.3:1 compression ratio with now 59bhp. Colours Red/White/Blue or Rothmans replica
1989 VFR400R-K NC30: What a beauty! Completely re-designed to make this a real mini-RC30. In came an aluminium beam frame, ProArm rear with single bolt wheel fixing, 41mm conventional damper rod forks. Six/eight spoke wheels 120/60-17 F, 150/60-18 R. Braking: 296mm front discs with four-pot calipers. Full Fairing with twin four-inch round headlamps – just like big brother! Bore X Stroke: 55 x 42mm, 360-degree crank/firing order engine with new lighter, shim-adjusted valve gear and close-ratio gearbox. J-spec models limited to 59bhp and 112 mph. Colours aped the RC30 and were red/white/blue or black/silver.
1990 VFR400 R-L NC30: UK model available with no power/speed restriction, but in 1990-1991 it would cost you a whopping £6615. Oil cooler fitted, uprated regulator/rectifier, cartridge forks and remote reservoir rear shock. Suspension upgrade also fitted to Japanese and European/UK/US models. New ‘hard-edged’ colour schemes in Red/White/Blue, Black/Silver and Red/Black
1992 VFR400R-N NC30 New ‘wavy’ colour schemes in Red/White/Blue, Red/Black and Red/White
1994 RVF400R-R NC35: Another major update to make the 400cc machine resemble the-then new RC45. Only sold in Japanese home market. Re-designed alloy beam frame with different engine position and less rigid swingarm mounting. New top shock mount allows for ride height adjustment. ProArm rear end, 41mm inverted cartridge forks. Wheels were 120/60-17 F, 150/60-17 R. Brakes were 296mm front discs with four-piston callipers. Full fairing with faired-in foxeye headlamps. 360 degree crank/firing order engine limited to 52bhp but retuned for midrange. Lighter pistons than NC30, new exhaust cam timing, wider ratio gearbox and smaller, semi-flat-slide carbs. Colour Red/White/Blue with black number boards on seat tail
1996 RVF400R-T NC35: Minor colour change to yellow fairing RVF logos.