The Yamaha VMAX is easily one of the most iconic and recognizable motorcycles in the industry: a brawny power cruiser driven by an awesome V4 engine, complimented with distinctive muscular bodywork. It’s an amazing machine in stock form, but it’s also a fantastic donor for custom projects – so we’ve compiled a list of the best Yamaha VMAX custom bikes ever made. If you happen to be the proud owner of a Yamaha VMAX (or V-Max, as it used to be called) and want to give it the custom treatment, then this list should provide ample inspiration.
Since 1985, the VMAX has been one of the most celebrated motorcycles in the industry, winning numerous awards over the years, and garnering critical acclaim across the board and all over the world. Between then and now, the Yamaha VMAX has come in two distinct flavors: the original Yamaha V-Max (1985 – 2007), and the new breed of VMAX we have today. The original V-Max remained largely unchanged throughout its tenure, being powered by a 1,197cc, liquid cooled, 70° V4 engine that boasted godlike acceleration and very little in the way of modern technology. By 2007 though, Yamaha decided that the VMAX needed a significant upgrade. The new breed of Yamaha VMAX was given a bigger 1,679cc engine capable of 173.4 horses and 113 lb-ft at the rear wheel, a sporty slipper clutch, muscular bodywork, and a real futuristic vibe.
Celebrating The Legendary Yamaha VMAX
There’s no denying that the Yamaha VMAX is one of the most desirable ever made – and there will definitely be purists who think that customizing an already amazing motorcycle is nothing short of sacrilege, but there are a handful of talented designers and engineers out there who have managed to do the VMAX justice and transform the wild stallion into something even better.
While there’s still a question mark looming over the Yamaha VMAX’s future, with emissions regulations making its sale in Europe near impossible and no hints of a further model beyond 2018, we’ve decided to celebrate the power cruiser by compiling a list of its best-dressed custom offspring. Whether it continues beyond 2018, we can’t say…but let’s celebrate the life that it has had by looking back at some of the most memorable Yamaha VMAX customs of the last few years.
The Top 10 Yamaha VMAX Customs Ever Made!
#10. The “Infrared” – by JvB Moto
Built in celebration of the Yamaha VMAX’s thirtieth anniversary back in 2015, this Yamaha Yard Built offering is the brainchild of Jens Vom Brauck from Germany’s JvB-moto. As you can see, it’s quite a massive departure from the original VMAX’s radical dragster styled original form. Instead, JvB-moto have turned the idea of the VMAX on its head and built an amazing new-café racer designed for muscular performance and urban street cruising. Featuring a whole host of new bodywork features including a some top notch carbon fiber work in the form of a new tank cover, rear tail piece, headlight unit, and aluminum touches like the fenders and air scoops (sourced from an old school VMAX), this custom takes everything you thought you knew about the Yamaha VMAX and transformed it into something new and fresh. Add in some Motogadget accessories, an Autometer drag rev counter, a Termignoni exhaust system, and a color scheme inspired by the 1985 Yamaha Racing GP team, and you’re looking at one of the boldest Yamaha VMAX customs ever made.
#09. The Badmax NOS VMAX R– by John Baltera
Unlike the rest of the builds on this list, this one isn’t backed by a professional company. This is John Baltera’s Badmax, and it perfectly illustrates the levels of effort VMAX enthusiasts will go to in search of ultimate performance. Calling in a lot of help from Paul Civitello of Mad Max Enterprises, John began by raking his frame to 37 degrees to improve stability, added longer fork stanchions to compensate for the lower front end, and a steering damper was added to keep things happy. Next, the engine was rebuilt from the ground up with the addition of a cool NOS system hidden inside the VMAX’s airbox. To make the most of the new NOS setup, John had the gearing adjusted for ultimate power delivery – but to make things even more interesting, he converted the final drive to a unique chain drive system. The chain drive conversion allows the bike to have some adjustable extension to help with stability when the VMAX is going full throttle. In fact, there are plenty of mods on this old beauty – far too many to list here – but we’re including it on the list for the sheer enthusiasm shown…and most of the other Yamaha VMAX customs listed here are more or less cosmetic, while this one is all about performance.
#08. The “CS_07 Gasoline” – by it roCks!bikes
The team at it roCks!bikes have a history of creating fantastic monocoque creations, so when they were given a Yamaha VMAX to play with, we expected nothing less than a one-piece monocoque beauty – and it roCks!bikes delivered. Since 2013 the Portuguese outfit have been working hard to make monocoque arrangements their trademark design, and this Yamaha VMAX is no exception. Since the VMAX has long been referred to as a muscular drag bike, the guys at it roCks!bikes decided to take that idea and run with it, turning the VMAX into something that’s more speeding bullet than motorcycle. Boasting a hand built monocoque unit built from a single sheet of metal that incorporates the seat, tail, and tank – though the tank is a false tank only, with the real one now hidden under the seat – the VMAX now has a slender and sleek, sports-oriented profile sculpted into a retro shape. Also featuring handlebars, switches, and signals from Motogadget, a handmade leather seat, and a vintage Yamaha paint scheme, this Yamaha VMAX custom is easily one of the more inventive that we’ve ever seen.
#07. The Walz Yamaha VMAX – by Walz Hardcore Cycles
Next, we have this incredible offering from Marcus Walz of Walz Hardcore Cycles. Based out of Germany, Marcus has become one of Europe’s most famous and respected motorcycle builders, winning numerous awards, being featured in hundreds of magazines and even winning first place on the Discovery Channel’s Bike Build-Off back in 2006. Famed for his iconic drag-style frame and some rather outlandish customs, Marcus decided to take a more reserved approach on this Yamaha VMAX build. As a firm believer that you don’t tamper with a classic, Marcus opted to enhance and improve the incredible work that Yamaha had already done by working to create aesthetic that visually carves out an fierce yet subtle appearance to compliment the VMAX’s notoriously powerful and aggressive engine. What we have here is an understated masterpiece, with Master Walz proving that sometimes the less is more approach yields superior results. Interested? Back in the day, this exact model was up for sale for $57,530…but we think it would be worth quite a bit more if it went on sale again today.
#06. The Yamaha VMAX Hyper Modified – by Abnormal Cycles
Brianza-based Abnormal Cycles had their work cut out for them when they were commissioned to work on this Yamaha VMAX. As we’ve already established, the VMAX is already impressive looking machine, so when tasked with the job of injecting a hearty does of Italian flare and fashion into the heart of the Japanese behemoth, Abnormal Cycles had a tricky job on their hands. Luckily, our guys in Milano didn’t disappoint. Building an idea around the term “neo-vintage” the team got straight to work constructing new bodywork crafted entirely by hand from aluminum. Additionally, Abnormal Cycles installed some classic spoked wheels and upholstered an exquisite leather seat; combined with the beautifully polished aluminum bodywork, we think they managed to build a truly incredible neo-vintage looking motorcycle that shows off the racing heart of the VMAX without going too far. We’re not the only ones to think that, since this awesome Yamaha VMAX custom actually won the “Best of Show” award at the 2011 EICMA Custom Contest. Who would’ve thought that the old musclebike could be such a refined show winner as well as a demon on the roads?
#05. The Carbon VMAX – by Carlex
Polish automobile interior specialists Carlex may be more famous for designing and building extravagant car interiors but when they get given a challenge, they certainly rise to it. In fact, this is one of two Carlex Yamaha VMAX customs that make this list, because they’ve made two very different and very special machines in their time. This first one takes the standard Yamaha VMAX and turns it into a refined and elegant machine, adorned with bespoke carbon fiber features. And we’re not talking about a couple of little design points – we’re talking about almost everything. The tank is carbon fiber, the side panels are carbon too, even the iconic VMAX air scoops weren’t spared from the carbon fiber treatment. The carbon fiber is complimented with a beautifully upholstered leather saddle with stitching that contrasts nicely with the stark carbon and black leather finish. What we particularly like about this build is the fact that Carlex went beyond the bike and even made a matching set of accessories including a wallet, an open faced helmet, and a matching back pack too. Now that’s some serious attention to detail!
#04. The “VMAX Hyper Modified” – by Roland Sands Design
Even if you’re not familiar with the world of custom motorcycles, you’ll surely have heard of Roland Sands? With a long career as a racer that saw him break numerous records and snag an AMA championship, Roland Sands knows a few things about motorcycles. Since his retirement, he’s built some of the most beautiful custom motorcycles that we’ve ever seen, from sensational Indians to incredible Ducatis. For this Yamaha VMAX, Roland and his team at RSD decided to maintain most of the stock elements of the legendary machine, making the most of its original parts. In essence, the ideawas to highlight the most attractive part of the VMAX (the engine) and simplify everything else around it. After relocating the fuel tank to under the swingarm and building a new rear subframe, and giving the rider a more aggressive riding stance, the VMAX now looks more like a relaxed-style sport bike, featuring huge horsepower, lots of torque, in a package that weighs almost 100lbs lighter than the original.
#03. Lazareth “Hyper Modified VMAX” – by Lazareth
Before Ludovic Lazereth blew all of our minds with his Maserati V8-powered motorcycle, his crazy Yamaha R1 customs or unusual quad bikes, he built this: an awesome Yamaha VMAX custom that utilizes a whole host of carbon fiber and aluminum billet parts to transform the VMAX into something really quite special. Like many designers who have taken on the VMAX, Ludovic was reluctant to change too much about the bike’s original styling and thought it best to leave the VMAX’s more iconic parts, like the air scoops, well alone. The main challenge was to modify the motorcycle without sacrificing the spirit of the VMAX – and we think the finished result is a resounding success. Featuring subtle but beautifully fabricated additions, and now finished in a reserved but elegant paint work, the Lazareth VMAX takes the Yamaha to new levels. This custom has proven that the Yamaha doesn’t have to be personified as an aggressive drag racer, but it can be a sophisticated and refined ride too. It’s a lot like James Bond in its own way: a gentleman on the surface, but a formidable force should you want to put it to the test.
#02. The “V-Speed” – by Liberty Yamaha
French Yamaha dealership Liberty Yamaha took the café racer idea to a whole new level on their incredible V-Speed creation. Taking a bit of inspiration from the MT-OS concept that Yamaha unveiled at the Paris Motor Show back in 2005, Liberty Yamaha have brought a stunning café themed roadster to the table. Boasting one of the coolest half-fairings ever seen, the V-Speed is a testament to the dealerships engineering skills, with the vast majority of the parts featured being one-off hand-made units. While the front is instantly eye-catching, the rear isn’t without a few surprises of its own. Thanks to a new rear-subframe, a race inspired tail, and a larger rear rim, and a new quickshifter, this Yamaha VMAX is an absolute acceleration machine. The whole bike has also been lowered and sports some elegant aesthetics featuring carbon fiber and aluminum components. This amazing build was also dedicated to the legendary French Yamaha icon Jean-Claude Olivier, who tragically lost his life back in 2013. This Yamaha VMAX is a fitting tribute.
#01. The Mad Max VMAX – by Carlex
Carlex may be better be known for making exquisite car interiors, but when they turn their attention to motorcycles, something magical happens. When the Polish outfit were tasked with giving a Yamaha VMAX a touch of the Carlex treatment, the team decided to ride the Japanese machine into a dystopian future, giving us the post-apocalyptic dieselpunk machine that you see in front of you. What do master upholsterers know about custom motorcycles? Well, Carlex decided to play to their strengths and employ materials that they’re already familiar with. In this case, it was leather. And a lot of it. After wrapping whatever could be wrapped in leather, the team at Carlex sewed and distressed the whole lot, making for an odd but satisfying finish. For the metal parts that couldn’t be upholstered, Carlex called in some favors from a jewellery atelier. Using a mystery process involving silver flakes and a lot of secrecy, the jeweler team managed give the air scoops, metal covers and rear end a majestic patina…which looks even better when you have no idea how it’s done. Carlex explained that their VMAX “resembles the skin of a wild beast and perfectly corresponds with the character of the motorcycle,” – and they’re not wrong.