People always seem to want what they can’t have, and motorcyclists are no exception. Just ask any American sportbike rider who’s lusted after such unobtainable exotics as Suzuki’s RGV500 Gamma or Yamaha’s RZ500.
In 1984, one of the bikes that had pulses racing on this side of the Atlantic was Honda’s VF1000R, then available only in Europe. It had sleek, racer styling, flashy paint and a big V-four motor derived from the tire-ripping FWS1000 that dazzled fans at Daytona in 1982, when only blistered rubber kept Freddie Spencer from victory.
American enthusiasts could buy a big Honda V-four of their own, but it was the VF1000F, decidedly pedestrian in comparison to its racier European cousin. And when photos of the VF1000R ran in American magazines, the F model seemed second best by comparison.
These facts were not lost upon Honda officials, who Americanized the R model for 1985 and brought it stateside in response to consumer demand.
There were a few notable differences between the U.S. version and the European model. In particular, the R model lost its distinctive dual headlight when it crossed the Atlantic. But all the trick parts that made the 1000R so desirable—the gear-driven cams, quick-release front axle holders, adjustable clutch and front brake levers and solo seat cowl—arrived intact.
And what happened? Not much. Having given American riders the bike they said they wanted, Honda waited for buyers to arrive. And waited. And waited.
Blame it on bad timing. While Honda was merely thinking about making the VF1000R available over here in 1984, Kawasaki was changing the open-class sportbike landscape with the original Ninja 900, which was lighter, quicker and cheaper. As a result, Honda still had leftover VF1000Rs available as late as 1990.
Shane Thompson, the owner of this VF1000R, was one of those who bought a leftover R.
“I got it brand new in ’87,” he says. “It still looks very modern, even though it’s a dinosaur compared to today’s bikes. But it was really high-tech back then.”