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A motorcycle produced by Honda between 1984 and 1986, the VF500 came in two basic models, a faired sports model, the FII (named the Interceptor in the US) and a cruiser model, the Magna. The VF500 was the middleweight bike in Honda's radical new V4-engined series (hence the "VF" prefix), and hopes were high that it would become a big-seller.

Some basic statistics:

Well, all fine and dandy and about what you'd expect from a mid-80s midweight sports bike. Where the VF500 really excelled was in its handling. An almost identical frame and suspension setup was used from its big brother, the VF1000, but having to only cope with the smaller power output of the 500 this was a superb-handling bike. Most of the press reviews of the time used the cliché "corners like it's on rails", simply because it was such an apt description. There were even reports of riders on sticky rubber leaning it so far over that it went off the rim of the tyres!

The VF500 was ultimately doomed however, not because of any of its failings, but simply by association. The flagship of Honda's V4 range, the VF750, developed some serious mechanical problems. Most importantly it was possible that the cam chain tensioner could (and did) fail, thereby causing catastrophic destruction of the engine. As reports of dead VFs started coming in from around the globe, sales of the entire series declined and then came to a virtual halt. Despite the fact that the problems only occurred on the 750cc and to a lesser extent the 1000cc models, people didn't want their pride and joy disintegrating beneath them and stayed away from the VF500 just as much.

Desperate to save its reputation which had been built almost entirely on the reliability of its motorcycles, Honda withdrew the range. The engineers and designers were ordered to salvage something from the debacle, and two years later the VFR750 was born, this time using mechanical gear-linkages to drive the camshaft and ensure that the earlier problems could never re-occur. This was most definitely an over-engineered and costly solution, but it worked, because even today over ten years later, the VFR750 (or its new successor the VFR800) is still recognised as one of the great all-round motorcycles ever produced.

On a personal level, I have one of the original VF500 bikes. At the moment it is sadly not running, but once I get it rebuilt it will produce more smiles per mile than anything currently available on the market. It really is enormous fun going out on a 15-year-old piece of machinery that you know can out-perform most modern bikes on twisty roads.

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