The Honda Magna was a cruiser motorcycle made from 1982 to 1988 and 1994 to 2003 and powered by Honda's V4 engine taken from the VF/VFR. The engine technology and layout was a descendant of Honda's racing V4 machines, such as the NS750 and NR750. The introduction of this engine on the Magna and the Sabre in 1982, was a milestone in the evolution of motorcycles that would culminate in 1983 with the introduction of the Interceptor V4. The V45's performance is comparable to that of Valkyries and Honda's 1800 cc V-twin cruisers. However, its mix of performance, reliability, and refinement was overshadowed by the more powerful 1,098 cc "V65" Magna in 1983.
While Honda's release of their V4 technology in the Magna (and other bikes like the Sabre and Interceptor) was certainly a bold move, it was somewhat overshadowed by at least one problems. One was the decline of motorcycle sales after the boom in the 1970s. While Honda quality was a given and the number of features provided in these bikes was great, they were still relatively expensive bikes at the time. An expensive, complex bike was difficult to sell in a down market. The second was the manufacturing and engineering problems encountered after the release in 1982.
Though criticized for its long-distance comfort and lauded mainly for its raw acceleration, the Magna was the bike of choice for Doris Maron, a Canadian grandmother and accountant-turned-traveler who toured the world solo by motorcycle. She made the trek without the benefit of the support crew that usually accompanies riders in adventures depicted in such films as Long Way Round.
The Honda Magna of years 1982–1988 incorporated a number of unique features into a cruiser market dominated by V-twin engines. The V4 engine configuration provided a balance between torque for good acceleration and high horsepower. The 90-degree layout produced less primary vibration, and the four cylinders provided a much smoother delivery of power than a V-twin. Good engine balance, plus short stroke and large piston diameter allowed for a high redline and potential top speed.
Besides the engine configuration, the bike had water cooling, a six-speed transmission for good economy at highway speed, and common on other middleweight bikes for Honda in the early 1980s, shaft drive. While the shaft drive is very convenient with virtually no maintenance required (and no oil getting slung around), it also robbed some power from where it was more evidently lacking on in town or lower speed riding. Features like twin horns, hydraulic clutch, and an engine temperature gauge add nice touches to the bike. A coil sprung, oil bath, air preload front fork with anti-dive valving was an improvement, although the Magna did not benefit from the linkage based single shock that was on the Sabre and Interceptor.
The V-65 Magna and other large-displacement Hondas were assembled in the Marysville Motorcycle Plant in Ohio for US delivery and in Japan for other markets. In 2008, Honda announced plans to close the plant, their oldest in North America, in 2009, which had been still making Gold Wings and VTX cruisers.
The first generation 1982 V45 Magna has a round chrome headlight and fenders. The headlight is a sealed beam type. 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 DOHC16-valveliquid-cooled 90-degree V-4 linked to a six-speed transmission with a hydraulically actuated wet-plate clutch and shaft drive. The compression is 10.5:1
The 1983 V45 Magna is the same as the 1982 model with some differences. Early in the model year, the headlight was changed to a non-sealed beam unit with replaceable halogen bulb. The fuel tank and side covers are black. The front disc brake grooves are curved. The speedometer reads to 150 mph (240 km/h). (1983 starting SN JH2RC071*DM100011)
The US government imposed tariff rate hikes for foreign-built motorcycles over 700 cc in order to combat their rise in sales in North America, and to aid the domestic motorcycle manufacturers, namely Harley-Davidson. So for 1984 Honda responded by reducing the engine size for the VF750s to 698 cc, and the Magna became the VF700C in the USA. The headlight changed from round chrome to a rectangular chrome housing. The seats were changed to a wider 2 piece design in an attempt to improve rider comfort. The rear shocks also changed to eliminate the extra fluid reservoir. The wheels were different as well. Honda only made the VF700 for the late part of 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987, then back to the VF750 after that. The first part of 1984, the Magnas were VF750.
Models from 1982 to 1984 were unique in their use of a larger primary fuel tank and smaller sub-tank. The sub-tank is located almost in the position of a side cover, well below the level of the carburetor banks and has a low-fuel sensor incorporated into the body. Owing to the low seat height (much lower than in a standard street bike) and cruiser styling of the bike, the main tank is relatively small. Because the bottom end of the sub-tank is so low, all bikes in this family have a fuel pump to get the fuel up into the carburetors. In practice, the fuel pump adds more complexity to a carbureted bike which otherwise doesn't need pressure fed fuel.
Beginning in 1985 models, the sub-tank was dropped in favor of a slightly larger and wider main tank. Again because the reserve level of the tank was below the carburetor, the requisite fuel pump and series of fuel lines was kept.
The large displacement 1,098 cc (67.0 cu in) V65 Magna attracted attention as Honda's entry in the 1/4 mile wars between manufacturers at the time, causing Suzuki to respond with the 1200 Madura (which had a 1/4 mile time of 11.66 s at 115.7 mph), and going up against such competition as the Suzuki GS1150E (10.47 s at 128 mph). The V65 lay somewhere between these two in performance, posting a quarter mile time of 11.29 s at 119.2 mph (191.8 km/h).
The 1983 V65 Magna was tested at a top speed of 224 km/h (139 mph). In a 1983 Popular Mechanics achieved a top speed of 225.49 km/h (140.11 mph), ranking it third of four motorcycles tested, less than 3.2 km/h (2 mph) slower than the Kawasaki GPZ1100 and Suzuki GS1100s.
In spite of this, the V65 Magna appeared from 1986 to 1989 in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest production motorcycle with a "design speed" of 278 to 283 km/h (173 to 176 mph). During this period the production motorcycle with the fastest tested speed was the 151–158 miles per hour (243–254 km/h) Kawasaki GPZ900R.
The Honda VF500 is one of Honda's second generation V4 motorcycle engines produced in a series of motorcycles designated with VF and VFR initials. For 1984-1986, Honda produced the 498 cc, V4 DOHC VF500 for the VF500C Magna V30 (1984/85) and its sister bike, the VF500F (1984–86). This engine is an evolution of Honda's original domestic market 400 cc engine, originally deemed too small and underpowered for certain markets - notably the United States and Europe. Focusing on adding power and versatility to its motorcycle offerings, Honda bored the original 400 cc motor and improved its power and performance. The engine is almost entirely identical to the version in the Interceptor VF500F sport bike, and while Honda sold the VF500C Magna in the United States, it advertised it as the "most powerful midsize custom in the world".[better source needed]
This standard motorcycle was introduced as a balanced bike that was just as enjoyable yet easier to ride in town than its larger Magna siblings, with good power and a broad torque band. Thanks to its V4 design, power in the 500 engine is not peaky and ample torque can be found throughout the rev band, and the six-speed transmission ratio was unique to this bike versus the ratio on the VF500F.[better source needed] The engine produced between 64-68 horsepower, and combined with its low weight and low center of gravity, the bike was lauded by critics as an easy to ride and entertaining motorcycle.[better source needed]
L: 2385 mm / 94 inches W: 810 mm / 32 inches H: 1155 mm / 45.5 inches
27.8 in (706 mm)
13 L / 3.43 US gallons
Various mechanical and cosmetic changes were introduced over the years, but the basic core of the Magna remained the same. The second generation Magna of '87-'88 was dubbed the Super Magna by aficionados of the bike, though it was not an official Honda name. In 1987, the 700 cc engine produced 80 bhp (60 kW) @ 9,500 rpm, with torque being 46 ft·lbf (62 N·m) @ 7,500 rpm. In 1988, the Magna grew back to its original size of 748 cc.
In countries other than the US, the Magna continued as a 750. The Magna V-four has endured through the first and second generations of the VF and VFR Interceptors - both come and gone by 1988. Like the original 750 Sabre and VF 750, this 750 Magna engine uses a 360-degree crankshaft and chain-driven double-overhead camshafts. Thus, the VF750C unit is technologically quite different from Honda’s last V-four sport bike engine, the VFR750 Interceptor, which had gear-driven overhead cams and a 180-degree crankshaft.
The Super's cams are also line-bored (a feature first seen in the Euro 1985 VF1000F & F-II, and 85/86 VF1000R, 1986 VF500F, 1986 VF700C Magna), which greatly reduced the premature cam wear that plagued the earlier models, together with changed oil ducts.
The 1987 V45 Magna was available in either Candy Wave Blue or Candy Bourgogne Red (1988 dropped Blue in favor of Black). For 1987, the fake airbox covers were wrinkle black with a "Magna" emblem. The fake airbox emblem changes to "V45" for the 1988 model.
The 1987 Super Magna had a silver, grey & black Honda "wing" tank decal, while the 1988 model had a silver "MAGNA" tank decal.
The exhaust system was now an upswept 4-into-4 set of pipes, truly unique in the cruiser world. Although the exhaust pipes were a beautiful sight, they were not friendly to the use of saddlebags as they were too high. The rear wheel was a solid aluminum disc. The chin fairing was unfinished black plastic for the 87, and color-matched for the 88. The second generation was also the first to have the lower seat height of a mere 27.8 inches (706 mm), more than 4 inches (102 mm) lower than its predecessor. A total of 16,000 units were built for the 1987 model year, while only 3500 were built for 1988. (1987 starting SN JH2RC280*JA100001)
The Magna 750 was launched in 1993 as an early release 1994 model. Honda sought to capture the market for powerful cruisers by lifting the engine from the VFR750 and slotting it in a cruiser chassis. The engine itself was beautified by the addition of chrome and some extra fins, and by the chromed 4 into 4 exhaust. The seat was kept very low, at 28 inches, with the passenger seat being detachable. The all new frame was complemented by 41 mm forks, dual shocks, and a single disc on the front. A drum brake was used on the rear. A few internal changes were made to the VFR engine for use in the Magna, including a different crankshaft, a 5-speed transmission and chain driven cams. Smaller carbs were also utilized. The changes resulted in a stronger mid-range pull, and a very broad band of power.
The design of the 3rd generation Magna remained relatively unchanged over its lifetime. The tank decal was changed in 1995, and a miniature fairing was available on 1995 and 1996 Deluxe models.
2004 saw the demise of the Magna, along with other Honda stablemates such as the V-Twin Shadow ACE and Shadow Spirit, as well as the 6-cylinder Valkyrie.
^Brown, Roland (2006), The Ultimate History of Fast Motorcycles, Bath, UK: Parragon, pp. 214–215, ISBN1-4054-7303-7
^Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Field Museum of Natural History, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (2001), Krens, Thomas (ed.), The Art of the Motorcycle, Guggenheim Museum, ISBN978-0-8109-6912-4CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)