V-Max Reborn!

V-Max Reborn!
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Yamaha VMAX – Design of Japan’s Dynamism
Atsushi Ichijo, Takeshi Umemoto

On March 10, 2009, the New VMAX motorcycle was released after 24 years at the National Art Center, Japan in Roppongi, Tokyo.  While the initial model of VMAX was launched in 1985 for the U.S. market, the new VMAX was developed for the global market.  The new VMAX was developed as a power vehicle with the concept of dynamism.  Here, the new and conventional VMAX models will be compared, and aesthetics applied to the new VMAX will be introduced.

From American Spirit to a Global Icon – 1st VMAX
Personal vehicles in the United States are meant for traveling on the huge land.  Speed and high mobility were symbols of the American worldview in the 20th century.  The common expression in various vehicles presents the values of the machine civilization in America.
The first VMAX model released in the United States in 1984 had a silhouette close to a cruiser.  The elements of an internal combustion engine, breathing air from the intake, burning it by the engine, and emitting the exhaust from the muffler were impressively visualized with the icon.  The strong power from the engine was conveyed to the unusually wide rear tire, and the figure that the tire made a heel produced the image of dynamic power.
However, we designed the VMAX not as a wild and powerful machine, but as a sensually looking machine that also had elaborately calculated curves and curved surfaces.  A sexy look is an important design element for vehicles in the United States.  Thus, the first VMAX model became a unique motorcycle with power,beauty and a sensual appeal to the five senses at the same time.
“Powerful and beautiful.”  This symbolism attracted admiration not only in the United States but also in the world.  The unique aesthetics have become a global icon in the motorcycle market.


Succession and Recreation of VMAX
Later, the first VMAX model was sold in Europe, Japan and other countries.  Because of its distinguished originality, the model remained an exceptionally long-selling high-performance motorcycle, staying ahead of competitors.  It has been recognized as the leading motorcycle both by customers and Yamaha Motor itself.  As time passed, however, gaps between the first model and the newest technologies became apparent.  The new VMAX must aim to realize Yamaha’s motto of “creating man-machine excitement.”  The design theme for the new model was to give shape to the spirit of VMAX with a “surging accelerating sensation” by adding latest technology inputs to the value that the first model has developed.
A lot of time was consumed for discussions on the identity and value of VMAX.  In conceiving an uncompromising product, we looked into ourselves. Our rival was the VMAX within ourselves.  Japanese products manufactured for export tended to respond to the needs of the target market.  As VMAX had permeated into the world market with its unique aesthetics, we should once again present our own identity.  Yamaha Motor is a Japanese company, and VMAX is originally produced in Japan.  We determined to design the new VMAX model as a product originated in Japan.
The prerequisite design theme for it was that it be a form to be in harmony with the V-type 4-cylinder engine.  It breathes air, burns and turns it to energy, while cooling water and oil are circulating inside like blood.  The real excitement of engine design is to find organisms like those of the human body and the heart inside a machine and to visualize it in a form.  We had to express a form in which energy from the engine clad with an enchanting design will push forward the whole body wth its vibrations.

Japan Design that the New VMAX Aimed for
Industrial products in Japan have built their firm positions in the world supported by the integration of technology and traditional craftsmanship and culture.  Japanese culture is generally characterized by terms such as “tranquility” and “simplicity” as typically symbolized by Japanese gardens, shrines and temples.  Design approaches also have been expressed using terms such as “simple,” “clean” and “compact.”  These features are presumed to be based on the nation’s mental culture to keep harmony between human, materials, and nature.
To design a motorcycle that gives the feeling of man-machine unity beyond the function of a machine for transportation, dynamism, exaltation and other dynamic emotional elements are valued.  The first VMAX model enjoyed the ultimate dynamic “power expression” in America.  This process of exploring the form for the new model was to question whether dynamic sensation, exaltation and a dynamic form were expressed or not.  It was a path to show our pride in our culture by expressing “Japan and Power,” and “Japan Design.”


Japanese Dynamism and the new VMAX
We noted the statue of a guardian god at the temple gate and the composition of ukiyoe paintings.  Ukiyoe painters freely manipulated their focal distances.  They freely and boldly drew their objects disregarding how they looked actually.  It is greatly different from the western perspective representation.  In western culture, humans exist at the top of all living things, and the beauty of the anatomy of the human body is sought in western art.  Whereas in Japan, humans live in harmony with nature.  The creativity in the guardian god statue is found in its bold and intentional emphasis on the power which resides  in the god, and its extraordinarily dynamic expression.  It is a sculpture expressing overflowing power and dynamism.  Using the human body as its motif, the spirituality of the god was sharpened and turned into a dynamic expression beyond the reality.  It is a result of conception not sticking to any style.  This dynamic expression is unique to Japan, and here is the essence leading to the design of the new VMAX model.   What we attempted in the new VMAX was to review Japanese creativity afresh and to reflect it onto the motorcycle design.  It was the recreation of Japan Design filled with dynamism and powerfulness.


The design of the new VMAX is a counter movement to the current design trend in Japan inclining toward gentleness and passiveness.  Motorcycles are a tool for us to restore our inner wildness and nature.  Motorcycles must maintain aesthetics to respond to human yearning for power and beauty.  The new VMAX model is a message from Japan, Yamaha Motor and GK.  Continuation and re-creation of the original model.  The spirit of the VMAX was sublimated to the new model embodying Japanese values from the first model aiming at the U.S. market.  Thus, the press release meeting of the new VMAX was held in a museum a first for motorcycles.

Atsushi Ichijo, Vice Presedent, GK Dynamics

Takeshi Umemoto, GK Dynamics