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Honda VF750F Interceptor – The Original Race Replica

The American Motorcycle Association revised the requirements for entry into their Superbike class for the 1983 season. Four-cylinder bikes were now limited to 750 cc, down from 1,000 cc, and were required to be based on production models. Honda opted to base their new contender on the same V4 engine as their recently released Sabre, but with the goal of creating a full-on race-worthy superbike. The result was the 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor.

The Honda Fight Back

 As the 1980s got underway, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha appeared determined to unseat Honda as the dominant Japanese motorcycle brand. Honda seemed to have lost focus somewhere, and while their bikes were regarded as solid and reliable, they were also clunky and out of date.

The other Japanese manufacturers had all continued to develop their own machines and had all built dual overhead cam 4-stroke inline four cylinder offerings and were starting to win over Honda’s customers whilst Honda themselves continued to rely on their decade-old single overhead cam design. Honda sorely needed a fresh idea to maintain their market lead.

It was in 1982 that Honda responded, unveiling the V45 Sabre and Magna 750 cc bikes for the American market as well as the VF750S for the European market. All had the same liquid-cooled, 6-speed, V4 engine with a 748-cc displacement and all had shaft drives.

Buyers applauded the 16-valve V4’s high-revving, high-power performance, which was at the cutting edge of engine technology. All three would go on to help Honda in regaining sales from the other Japanese manufacturers, but there was still more to come.

The Honda V45 Sabre’s 748cc, 90-degree, dual overhead cam V4 was used in the Honda VF750F Interceptor. The engine’s radiators were both situated low and immediately in front of the crankcase and behind the front wheel with ducting directing airflow inward, used to cool the engine’s internal liquid-cooling system. The split coolers were designed with the intention of reducing the frontal area of the bike and minimising weight.

Honda VF750F Review

Most of the components of the VF750F engine were identical to those of the V45 Sabre, but slight adjustments to the cam timing and combustion chambers gave the engine a slight power gain.

The Sabre’s shaft drive was replaced with a more track suitable chain drive, resulting in the transmission’s six gears being reduced to five. Honda claimed that changing the gearbox for chain drive resulted in less space for gears. Rather than making the gears narrower, which would have increased their loading to an intolerable level, Honda elected to drop one. 

The Honda Interceptor engine provided exceptionally efficient cross-bracing since it was attached directly to the all-new wide perimeter frame, unlike the Sabre engine’s rubber-mounted design.

The well-triangulated steering head, rigid cast alloy swingarm, and cross-braced front fork all contributed to the bike’s resistance to twisting loads.

The transmission also included a new slipper clutch, which was only 50% effective on the overrun since half of the clutch plates drove the hub of the clutch through sprags. In the event that strong braking reduced the traction of the rear wheels, this allowed for some slippage. A slipper clutch had never before been used on a street bike.

The race replica design was continued with a 16-inch front wheel mounted to fully adjustable, air-assist Showa forks equipped with Honda’s TRAC anti-dive system. The rear suspension was Honda’s own Pro-Link system with an air-assist Showa mono-shock that was also fully adjustable, as well as a cast rear swing arm and an 18-inch rear wheel.

Two large floating brake discs at the front and one at the rear on the Comcast alloy wheels were squeezed by Honda twin-pot brake callipers.

With narrow, flat handlebars and set-back foot pegs, the bike’s controls were made to be straightforward and imitate a racing machine by design. The half fairing design was the maximum the AMA would accept at the time but combined with the fuel tank’s intentional small size, was enough to allow the rider to tuck under them to reduce drag.

Where you were in the world determined what colours were offered. While Europe and Canada each received more variations of the primary colours—red, white or blue—with opposing stripes, the USA received just two options: white with red stripes and white with blue stripes.

One persistent engine problem with the Interceptor’s V4 was camshaft wear with owners first starting to complain about the problem in 1984. Honda first refused to acknowledge the issue, but after conducting further research, they concluded that oil flow problems were most likely to blame for the camshaft wear.

It was also thought that valve clearance problems may be a contributing factor. Honda recalled the motorcycles and replaced the banjo bolts with less-restrictive ones and installed kink-free oil lines.

They also modified the cams by drilling holes in the lobes and capping off the ends of the hollow cams. Even after making all the adjustments, the troubles persisted, necessitating more diagnostics to identify the true cause.

Honda finally realised that the camshaft bearings had too much clearance and eventually fixed this by recalling and replacing all the camshafts with new components.

Despite the problems with the Honda’s new V4 engine, all the bikes that used the flawed powerplant sold well and were extremely popular track machines, especially when updated with Honda’s $10,000 engine kit and various other aftermarket add-ons.

Honda themselves provided a wide range of Interceptor accessories, including a rear seat cowl with matching colour schemes that makes the bike even more reminiscent of a single-seated race bike.

The seat cowl included a small item storage area and could be locked as well. The engine crash bars, which extended from the top radiator’s base and followed the frame to the foot pegs, were another optional extra. By doing this, the engine was protected from damage in the event of a collision. A luggage rack and a bike cover were also available from Honda.

Despite the Interceptor’s strong sales, widespread appeal, and brilliant reputation on the racetrack, the completely faired VFR750F with gear-driven cams and an alloy twin-spar frame replaced the VF750F in 1986 after just three years without it ever receiving any updates or changes from Honda.

Numerous sources in the industry widely praised the 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor:

“The handling is a treat, the power more than adequate and the appearance, the Interceptor’s primary thrust, spells out its job: To boldly go where only race bikes have gone before.”

– Cycle World, December 1982

“On tight, twisty mountain roads the Honda does everything you ask of it; flick it from side to side, up hills or down, with the brakes on or off, and it responds willingly, instantly and precisely.”

– Cycle, May 1983

Honda VF750F Spec list

Buying a Used Honda VF750F Interceptor

Given how rarely a Honda VF750F Interceptor comes up for sale, (mostly due to Honda only produced them for a few short years) it’s a complete mystery as to why they are so inexpensive. They have race prestige, rarity, and are a fantastic overall package, yet cost almost nothing.

If you can find one, though, this presents a chance to purchase one for a pittance. Luckily, there are a few on the market right now, including the one listed here at the time of writing. A 1984 Honda VF750F with slightly over 33,000 miles on it, fully stock. It appears to be in excellent condition and the camshaft issues have been fixed, and it is only £2,495!

The story seems to be the same stateside as well with this the best example of a VF750F for sale I found, even the world’s favourite auction site comes up short with the Interceptor.

I also discovered this active VF750F owners and enthusiasts community page on FB and there appears to be plenty of parts listed for sale on it as well as a few bikes in various condition.

Verdict

The status of the Honda VF750F Interceptor makes no sense to me. It should be applauded, and held in high esteem, maybe on a pedestal in motorcycle museums across the world but it’s not.

It was the original V4 racing machine and replica that kicked off Honda’s era of dominance in motorcycle road racing and yet, it’s all but ignored.

Given the current cost of the VF750F and its rarity, it’s tempting to grab one as an investment, however there’s no denying that the original Interceptor is completely overshadowed by the successor of its successor, the Honda VFR750R RC30. This is the V4 Honda we all want to own but can’t afford to, so maybe the VF750F is worth it until a spare £30,000 comes along.

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