The Yamaha VMAX is easily one of the most iconic motorcycles in the industry: a brawny power cruiser with a distinctive muscular look paired with an awesome V4 engine. It’s an amazing machine from the factory, but it’s also a fantastic donor for custom projects. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the best Yamaha VMAX customs 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, this list should provide ample inspiration.
The Legendary Yamaha VMAX
Since 1985, the Yamaha VMAX has been one of the most celebrated motorcycles in the industry, winning numerous awards and garnering critical acclaim 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-degree 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.
There’s no denying that the Yamaha VMAX is one of the most desirable motos ever made — and there will be purists who think that customizing an already amazing motorcycle is nothing short of sacrilege. However, there are a handful of talented designers and engineers out there who have managed to do the VMAX justice, transforming the wild stallion into something even better.
Top 10 Yamaha VMAX Customs
Though the reign of the Yamaha VMAX coming to an end in 2020, we’ve decided to celebrate the power cruiser by compiling a list of its best-dressed custom offspring. These are some of the most memorable Yamaha VMAX customs of recent years.
“Infrared” by JvB-moto
Built in 2015 to celebrate the Yamaha VMAX’s 30th anniversary, 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 departure from the original VMAX’s radical dragster-style form. Instead, JvB-moto has turned the idea of the VMAX on its head and built a new-café racer designed for muscular performance and urban street cruising.
The build features a whole host of new bodywork features including some top-notch carbon fiber work in the new tank cover, rear tailpiece, and headlight unit. The aluminum touches like the fenders and air scoops (sourced from an old-school VMAX) take everything you thought you knew about the Yamaha VMAX and transform 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.
Badmax NOS VMAX R by John Baltera
Unlike the rest of the Yamaha VMAX customs on this list, this one isn’t backed by a professional company. John Baltera’s Badmax perfectly illustrates the effort VMAX enthusiasts will go to in search of ultimate performance.
Calling in a lot of help from Paul Civitello of Mad Max Enterprises, Baltera raked his frame to 37 degrees to improve stability, added longer fork stanchions to compensate for the lower front end, and added a steering damper 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, Baltera had the gearing adjusted for ultimate power delivery. He also 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 while most of the other Yamaha VMAX customs listed here are more or less cosmetic, this one is all about performance.
“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. Since 2013 the Portuguese outfit has 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 hidden under the seat), the VMAX now has a slender, sleek, sports-oriented profile sculpted into a retro shape.
The build also features 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 most inventive that we’ve ever seen.
Walz Yamaha VMAX by Walz Hardcore Cycles
Based out of Germany, Marcus Walz of Walz Hardcore Cycles has become one of Europe’s most famous and respected motorcycle builders, winning numerous awards, including taking first place on the Discovery Channel’s 2006 “Bike Build-Off” series.
Famed for his iconic drag-style frame and some rather outlandish customs, Walz decided to take a more reserved approach on this Yamaha VMAX build. Walz opted to enhance the work that Yamaha had already done, creating a fierce aesthetic that complements the VMAX’s notoriously powerful and aggressive engine.
With this understated masterpiece, Walz masterfully proves 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 … though we think it would be worth quite a bit more if it went on sale again today.
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. Tasked with injecting a hearty dose of Italian flare into the heart of the Japanese behemoth, Abnormal Cycles had a tricky job on their hands.
Luckily, the guys in Milano didn’t disappoint. The team built their concept around the term “neo-vintage” and then got straight to work constructing new aluminum bodywork — crafted entirely by hand. Additionally, Abnormal Cycles installed some classic spoked wheels and upholstered an exquisite leather seat.
We think they managed to build an incredible neo-vintage-looking motorcycle that still shows off the racing heart of the VMAX. We’re not the only ones to think that, since this awesome Yamaha VMAX custom won the “Best of Show” award at the 2011 EICMA Custom Contest. Who would’ve thought that the old musclebike could be a refined show winner as well as a demon on the roads?
Carbon VMAX by Carlex
Polish automobile interior specialists Carlex may be more famous for designing and building extravagant car interiors, but when 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.
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 the carbon fiber treatment. All this is complemented by a beautifully upholstered leather saddle with contrast stitching that stands out 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 backpack. Now that’s some serious attention to detail.
“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 who had a long career as a racer that saw him break numerous records and snag an AMA championship. 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, Sands 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 idea was to highlight the most attractive part of the VMAX (the engine) and simplify everything else around it.
After moving the fuel tank to under the swingarm and building a new rear subframe (to give the rider a more aggressive riding stance), Sands succeeded in creating an iconic custom build. The VMAX now looks more like a relaxed-style sportbike, featuring huge horsepower and lots of torque, in a package that weighs almost 100 pounds less than the original.
“Hyper Modified VMAX” by Lazareth
Before Ludovic Lazereth blew all of our minds with his Maserati V8-powered motorcycle, crazy Yamaha R1 customs, or unusual quad bikes, he built this: a Yamaha VMAX custom that utilizes a whole host of carbon fiber and aluminum billet parts.
Like many designers who have taken on the VMAX, Lazereth 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, alone. His 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 finished in reserved but elegant paintwork, 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 — it can be a sophisticated, 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.
“V-Speed” by Liberty Yamaha
French Yamaha dealership Liberty Yamaha took the café racer idea to a whole new level with their incredible V-Speed creation. Drawing inspiration from the MT-OS concept that Yamaha unveiled at the 2005 Paris Motor Show, Liberty Yamaha got to work.
Boasting one of the coolest half-fairings ever seen, the V-Speed is a testament to the dealership’s engineering skills, with the vast majority of the parts 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, a larger rear rim, and a new quick-shifter, 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 custom is a fitting tribute.
Mad Max VMAX by Carlex
When the Polish outfit was 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 this post-apocalyptic, dieselpunk machine.
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 jewelry atelier. Using a mystery process involving silver flakes and a lot of secrecy, the jeweler team managed to 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.