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Honda VF 750C Magna V45
The first generation 1982 V45 Magna had chrome headlight and fenders. The front disc brakes have straight grooves, dual piston calipers, and TRAC anti-dive. The speedometer reads 80 mph. The redline is 10,000 rpm. The engine is a 748 cc DOHC 16-valve liquid-cooled 90-degree V-4 linked to a six-speed transmission with a hydraulically actuated wet-plate clutch and shaft drive. Compression is high, and the stroke is short.
The 1983 V45 Magna was available had chrome headlight, instruments, and fenders. The fuel tank and side covers were the basic color. The front disc brake grooves were curved. The speedometer had a 150 mph (240 km/h) limit. The engine was a 748cc DOHC four-valve liquid-cooled V-4 linked to a six-speed transmission and a shaft drive.
(1983 starting SN JH2RC071*DM100011)
"The message isn't that when better Harleys are made, Honda will make them, but simply that the classic American Roadster can be multinational, too."
Somewhere outside of Tokyo, away from the flash and hustle that is the Ginza, lies Little Milwaukee. You won't find it on any tourist map, and indeed, the locals deny its very existence. But it's there. And in that tiny transplanted bit of the American heartland, they understand the blinding spark that forever welded together a big vee engine and the thought of street cruising in the collective conscious of generations of American street riders.
Little Milwaukee didn't spring up overnight. A succession of factory customs, each a step closer to the original American role model, has been issuing from that region since the mid-Seventies. But despite the gradual increase of crypto-chopper design elements, from pullback bars to teardrop gas tanks and finally to big vee engines themselves, there's always been a reluctance to address Old Milwaukee outright. There still is.
But with its 1982 Magna, Honda has' taken a giant step closer to the original. And unlike the last vees to emerge from Little Milwaukee, Yamaha's 750 and 920 Viragos, Honda has chosen a more literal styling interpretation in emulating the archetype. While the Viragos displayed a few of their own hi-tech touches, including Monoshock rear suspensions, the Magna affects a cast-in-the-same-mold-as-Harley look. Understand, though, that despite the Magna's subtle and not-so-subtle styling licks—from oversize, Harleyesque shock mounts to a stash-pouch toolkit to the strangely familiar sweep of its sissybar, the Magna is still emulation, not reproduction. It isn't a cloning of the gear that made Milwaukee famous.
It couldn't be. For all the Magna's obvious adherence to the visual touchstones of the classic American street cruiser, beneath the cosmetic overlay it is a different breed entirely. True, the Magna's centerpiece is an eye-catchingly big vee, but its cylinders lie 90 degrees apart, not in the 45-degree configuration of a Harley-Davidson. And the Magna's powerplant, vee though it is, is liquid-cooled, with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder—coupled to a shaft drive as well. Hardly a Harley—or even traditional—by anyone's standards. And consider the Magna's anti-dive front suspension, underseat secondary fuel tank, hydraulic clutch and six-speed gearbox. You won't find those on production Harleys—or as a part of the mystique of the all-American street bike.
No, those elements more properly belong to the genre of sport motorcycles, which must include the Magna as well. Its credentials for membership are not inconsiderable: Start from the fact that the Magna's engine is identical to the Sabre's, down to valves and even internal gear ratios. Only the Magna's air-box, exhausts and final reduction ratio (to compensate for its shorter 16-inch rear tire) distance the two engines. Then add in double discs with Honda's twin-piston calipers and Torque Reactive Anti-dive Control to make better use of the brakes by slowing the bike's tendency toward fork compression under hard braking. What you've got in the Magna is a custom, all right, by virtue of the recognized sizes, shapes and general configuration. But what's underneath the makeup labels it a high-performance bike. Split the difference and call it a high-performance custom, and the way it delivers its performance is as remote from the classic American roadbike as the way it opens its valves. A touch of the Magna's starter button confirms the Honda's separate identity. With the thumb-operated choke full-on, a few seconds of starter whine is followed not by the rolling thunder of an H-D lighting up, but with a sound more like a BMW idling at three grand. Little mechanical noise on our test bike could be heard above the exhaust note—a function of the exhaust itself as well as the engine's coolant jackets.
Feeding in the Magna's hydraulically actuated clutch doesn't offer as much feel as working most mechanical clutches, and until you learn that the progression of clutch engagement is more rapid than most, rollaways from a full stop can be a little abrupt. It's a short learning experience, though, since the engagement is consistent and not jerky if the rider does his part. And if he doesn't, the lesson is likely to be equally short—by reason of a fried clutch. Our test bike devoured two cluches in eight dragstrip runs.
Once the engine's running and in gear, though, there's a graphic reminder of why Honda built this vee-four in the first place. Considerable torque is on hand from about 3000 rpm on up, and any shift point up to the Magna's 10,000-rpm redline can be used without bogging the engine. The combination of the perfect primary balance of a 90-degree vee engine and rubber engine mounts means that precious little vibration reaches the rider. The engine's operation is so smooth that keeping an eye on the tachometer makes good sense, since the Magna happily will run into the red zone if you grab a handful of throttle.
That willingness to rev extends to the Magna's freeway attitude as well. Even lugging along in the Magna's tall sixth gear—"OD" for overdrive, as the blue indicator light on the dash panel calls it— the bike will accelerate strongly in response to throttle. All the while the mirrors are dead-calm; and with the reservoired rear suspension set at its softest preload and six-to-eight psi in the fork, the Magna offers a stable freeway ride that's still a touch too stiff at the rear end. The major machine glitch in cruising came when the Magna's bank of 32mm Keihin carburetors produced lean surge in steady running between 6000 to 7000 rpm. Our test Sabre (with identical carbs) suffered no such problems, so we will check out the Magna and report the findings in our After The Fact column.
But if machine shortcomings for highway cruising are few, among them must be counted the Magna's riding position, billed by Honda as "the most laid-back riding position yet designed for a custom motorcycle." While the exaggerated riding position, mostly the result of the bike's forward-mounted footpegs, works surprisingly-well in casual sport, around-town or short-distance riding, it limits the Magna's effectiveness as a long-legged freeway mount. The hump in the seat offers welcome back-support, but the combination of pullback bar and forward footpegs turns a long haul on the Magna into just that: a long haul into the wind to stay upright. And after a few hundred miles of freeway riding, the required isometric posture takes its toll in tired shoulders and wrists.
Pure sport riding on the Magna is more successful, despite the radical riding position. A low seat height, low center of gravity and a narrow engine all made possible by the vee configuration make the Magna easy to heel over at speeds that will have other factory customs over their heads; and if undercarriage bits gouge the pavement—and they do—it's largely because the Magna reaches respectable lean angles with deceptive ease. The bike is rendered even easier to ride fast because of the full-flex powerband. There's no need to dig into the gearbox when simply rolling on the throttle—or yanking on it—will produce fast corner exits.
But you pay for an overactive throttle hand, in gas mileage figures that plummet from a high of 46 mpg at real 55-mph cruising to a low of 30 mph when the road beckons and you respond. The problem of mph is exacerbated by the fact that the Magna's petcock (located inboard of the rightside cover) has no reserve position. The reserve notification is handled by a fuel warning light, but one with no self-check circuit. You have to trust that the system will work when you're low on fuel. Our Magna's did, throughout the test, but the smoke-tint plastic panel that covers the warning bulb makes learning whether or not you've got any fuel left difficult in open daylight. The problem will go away as the rider learns the fuel limitations of his bike, but until then he faces a hike to the gas station.
Low mileage; no vibration; low-end torque and high-rpm horsepower; state-of-the-art brakes and a tandem vee-four? No, even by loose accounting the Magna, this product of Little Milwaukee, isn't the classic American roadster reincarnated or even approximated. Despite the lookalike exteriors, there are simply too many differences. But, armed with an engine that's the shape of things to come, the Magna promises to be a classic nonetheless.
Source Cycle Guide