The Truth About Cars » Yamaha The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 01:30:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Yamaha Yamaha to Likely Build the Motiv, Based on Gordon Murray’s City Car, Using Murray’s iStream Assembly Process Wed, 20 Nov 2013 07:32:42 +0000 gordonmurrayyamaha

With most of the new cars and concepts leaked weeks ago there hasn’t been much real breaking news from the Tokyo Motor Show, so it was a bit of a surprise that Yamaha announced that it will be the first automotive manufacturer to embrace master automotive designer Gordon Murray’s revolutionary iStream assembly process and that it will use the iStream process to build a lightweight two-seat city car called the Yamaha Motiv. The Motiv, based on Murray’s T25 and T27 concepts, will be available in both gasoline and electric versions and targeted at the European market.

The project still needs to be approved for production by the Yamaha conglomerate’s main board of directors, but it has been fully engineered for mass assembly. Gordon Murray Design and Yamaha first began discussing a possible project five years ago but the worldwide recession put it on the shelf until 2011, when they started to jointly develop the Motiv.


“Forming a partnership with Yamaha is a dream for us,” said Gordon Murray, who started developing the iStream concept of building cars more than a decade ago. “Yamaha has completely embraced the principles of iStream, and could not be a more ideal partner. They have huge technical resources, but their team on this project has been tightly-knit, very skilled and very quick-acting.”


The main concept of iStream is to abandon the traditional stamped metal, spot welded construction, used almost universally by the auto industry for more than 60 years, and replace it with one based on relatively simple tubular steel frames reinforced with sheets of composites that make up the floor, firewall, bulkheads and roof structure. The outer skin is made from non load bearing impact resistant plastic.  Murray claims class-leading stiffness and crashworthiness.

The Motiv is about the same size as one of Daimler’s Smart cars, about two inches narrower and lower, with the same 2,690 mm length, but it’s about 100 kg (220 lb) lighter.


Unlike the three seat layout with a central driving position similar to Murray’s superlative McLaren F1, Yamaha decided to make the Motiv a two seater, using Murray patented thin shell composite  seats. The instrument panel and controls are said to reflect Yamaha’s musical instrument and audio equipment heritage.

The Motiv is a midengine design with the compact powertrain mounted low in the car, in front of the rear axle. Another GMD concept, iLink, a simple strut-type independent rear suspension system, is used, an improvement over the beam axles typically found in city cars. The EV version, labled the Motiv-e, uses drivetrain components by Zytec including a 33 hp electric motor, while the gasoline version will use a 1 liter three cylinder engine, purpose designed for the Motiv by Yamaha, driving the rear wheels through a 6 speed DCT.


The Motiv-e will have a top speed of 65 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 15 seconds, intended to be exclusively used in the city. With 70 to 80 hp on tap, the combustion powered Motiv will be a bit quicker. With a power to weight ratio of about 100 horsepower per ton, 0-60 times should be under 10 seconds with a highway capable top speed of 100 mph. No estimated mileage or range figures have been released.

It’s possible that enthusiasts may embrace the Motiv. Low weight, midengine layout, a stiff chassis, a low center of gravity and all four wheels independently suspended, not to mention Murray’s reputation as one of the premier sports car designers of all time, means that the the gasoline Motiv may have more than just pretensions when it comes to sporty driving.

While officially it’s just a concept to test public reaction, Autocar reports that if the Motiv is greenlighted by the Yamaha board, a new factory for using the iStream process could be built and the car could be ready for sale by 2016. No prices have been quoted but Yamaha and GMD say that the Motiv has been designed as a “semi-premium” product so it will likely be priced similarly to the Smart, about £8000-£12,000 (~$12,900-$19,350). Murray says that the iSTreem process can support an annual output of up to 200,000 cars.

Nothing is guaranteed, but Murray is optimistic that the Motiv will see production. “This is Yamaha’s car, not ours,” he says, “and it is up to them to decide whether it goes into production. But they’re fabulous partners, and we are very optimistic for the car’s prospects.”

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Capsule Review: Yamaha V-Star 1100 Silverado Thu, 13 Sep 2012 13:00:03 +0000

TTAC’s readers are a brave group, and nowhere is that better-proven than in their willingness to let me abuse test their personal vehicles. From Time Attack Mustangs to Malaise Cadillacs, the Best & Brightest have consistently helped us bring them reviews of interesting vehicles. And I ain’t killed one yet.

Still, it takes a special sort of courage to loan out a motorcycle for a late-night ride up to San Jose’s Skyline Boulevard, particularly given the fact that upon receipt of the keys I then turned to Vodka McBigbra, my infamous traveling companion, and announced, “I’m gonna put you on the back of this bike and we’re gonna go riding down by old man Johnson’s farm, if you know what Prince meant by that, and I think you do.”

The V-Star 1100 was the affordable big-bore option in Yamaha’s lineup for nearly a decade, but the gigantism which affects cruisers and their leather-clad owners has caused the old soldier to fade away in favor of a V-star 1300. The new bike doesn’t have the handsome lines of its predecessor, at least in my opinion. I’m no judge of cruiser aesthetics but to me the 1100 looks right. Not too offensively West-Coast-Cialis-two-fattest-twins-in-the-Guiness-World-Record-Book-big, not too Sportster-883 tiny.

The 55-degree night caused V. McB to decide she’d be better staying back at the ranch and spending the evening smoking some, uh, locally-grown tobacco. Although I was wearing some Betabrand Seersucker Shorts which promised to in no way halt the impending flash-freezing of my reproductive organs, I don’t turn down a free motorcycle ride so in just minutes I’d rolled the V-Star out of its garage and headed up towards the 101.

Why do people buy cruisers? It’s a fair question, and in my Ninja-riding youth I figured it was down to some sort of testosterone deficiency coupled with mild retardation. After all, even though the average cruiser bike is fast by automotive standards (the V-Star has been clocked by the cycle press at 13.92 seconds in the quarter-mile, more than strong enough to wave good-bye to the Scion FR-S and BMW 328i) it has the lowest handling limits of any vehicle you can easily purchase off a showroom floor as a regular citizen. I’m not kidding. An F-150 will run away and hide from a cruiser on most twisty roads. Everything about a cruiser — the too-long wheelbase, the hideous fork rake, the usually-substandard brakes, the tires chosen for aesthetics over performance — keeps the pace slow. If you attempt to push the limits a little on a freeway ramp, you will scrape something in a hurry. My Seventies-era CB550, Kellee, would dust this thing around any racetrack out there, at least until the track straightened out. Performance just isn’t on the menu. Period.

So what. Within a half-mile, I was thoroughly and completely charmed by the vintage-looking Yamahopper. By throwing away any pretense at aggression, performance, or conventional go-fast virtues, the V-Star turns regular riding into a thoroughly pleasurable activity. A modern sportbike eggs you on to go faster, and faster, and oh my G-d I just blew by a cop back there doing 140 on the freeway and now I have to runnnnnn. The V-Star suggests that you relax. Look around a bit. It’s like being a passenger in a convertible, only even better. You can see the pretty girls, the nice-looking cars, the happy little trees. Unlike Kellee, who requires a tricky 3000-rpm launch at every stoplight and often chugs if I’m too conservative with the throttle, the V-Star rolls off from idle and can’t possibly be stalled. There are footboards instead of pegs. That’s kind of nice, although they seem awfully close to the ground in corners.

Around town, the 1100 has instant torque in all gears and throatily throws you towards the gaps in traffic. The brakes, which appear to be about the same thing you find on a Camaro SS caliper-wise, stop quickly without the front-wheel lockup that often plagues long-wheelbase bikes. Everything is very comfortable. There’s a backrest. This particular V-Star had an expensive CHiPs-looking front windshield which took the annoyance, but not the pleasure, out of the rushing wind. Although the only helmet I had was my Impact! Air Draft Carbon, I wasn’t bothered by it’s low neckline. This isn’t an R1 or S1000RR; you don’t need to actively look up to see the road, so you don’t need a relief cut in back. And yes, I obviously looked like a total idiot riding a cruiser around in a top-vented NASCAR helmet.

Once on the freeway, the V-Star isn’t quite as wonderful. The V-twin, each cylinder of which packs the same cubic capacity as the cylinders of a Town Car or the entire engine of my Honda CB550, starts to sound and act exactly like a paint shaker. I don’t mean this as some sort of odd metaphor. I mean it is exactly like a paint shaker. I worried that the engine would come apart for a while, but it’s just designed-in behavior. Unlike, say, an AMF-era Harley-Davidson which might die at any moment from unbalanced combustion activity, the V-Star’s shake n’ bake is pure artifice, as harmlessly authentic-ish as the lumpy idle on a Track Key-equipped Boss 302. This is a modern Yamaha. It won’t break.

As a matter of fact, the V-Star 1100 is well-known for its reliability, despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that it is air-cooled and was one of the last Yamahas without fuel injection. They are available at reasonable prices and usually with a lot of additional aftermarket equipment bolted on; the bike I rode had multiple expensive options for which the current owner, who bought it on the used market, didn’t have to pay.

Cost and reliability aren’t solid reasons to buy a cruiser, however. These bikes sell on the intangibles, so let’s cut the Yamaha’s heart out and weigh it, Anubis-style, against the demands of the class. The biggest problem with the V-Star is that it isn’t a Harley-Davidson. The majority of the chopper culture in this country — hell, a major part of the motorcycling culture in this country — is built around the Harley-Davidson brand. As a Yamaha owner, you’ll forever be on the outside looking in. You will have to explain again and again that your “Harley” isn’t one. You will be the target of contempt from the sort of people whom you might normally hold in contempt yourself. There may even be places where you wouldn’t necessarily want to park the bike lest it be the target of unfortunate behavior; I suspect that sort of thing doesn’t happen very much in the year 2012 but it’s certainly a possibility, particularly in the Midwest. The bottom line is that the V-Star isn’t a ticket to the full American chopper experience.

If you don’t care about that experience, the decision becomes a lot easier to make. The V-Star is a genuine pleasure to ride at legal speeds, which is a statement that couldn’t possibly be made about any sportbike since about the debut of the GPz750. It’s cheap to buy, insure, and operate. There’s room for luggage and/or Apollonia Kotero. The performance envelope isn’t large but it adequately covers the spectrum of potential use. It couldn’t be easier to ride or operate, almost regardless of physical size (the bike’s owner and I are separated by about ten inches of height). It looks cool, sounds nice, and starts right up when you want it to. In my humble opinion, it’s better-looking than the Japanese competition, which makes it the obvious choice for the money.

There’s no cruiser in my immediate future — the idea of the “standard” still has too strong of a hold on me. Even if I wanted a more modern non-sportbike, I’d be more likely to look at a V-Max. This sedate and stylish Yamaha did make a pretty positive impression on me, however. If you’re riding one, and you see me riding, or perhaps pushing, my Honda, please make sure to wave, okay?

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Curbside Classic: The Revolutionary 1971 Datsun 240Z Tue, 26 Jan 2010 06:25:19 +0000

The Datsun 240 was as a true revolutionary, smashing the long-stagnant sports car market of the sixties into smithereens. It was long overdue too; folks were getting cranky for the messiah: a truly modern sporty two seater with four-wheel independent suspension, a zippy OHC six engine, dazzling styling, all served up at a reasonable price; say $3500 (about $20k adjusted). The hole in the market for such a car was begging to be filled. And Datsun stepped up and delivered, with a grand-slam home run. But like most revolutionaries, the Z was anything but truly original. But then neither was Che nor Lenin; they studied Marx. And Datsun? They took their studies seriously too.

Prior to 1970, the sporty two-seater segment was over-ripe for change. The creaky and outdated British roadsters were rolling relics begging to be put out of their misery; the superb Porsche always was pricey and quickly getting more so; the attractive but none too cheap nor reliable Italians were barely hanging on by virtue of their pretty faces; and the Corvette wasn’t exactly budget-priced and was entering the long dark decade of the seventies.  Nissan took note and sent its Z right at the bulls eye of that target market. And where did their inspiration come from? How about another famous Z?

GM’s John Z. DeLorean saw the same market hole: something below the ‘Vette in price and yet smashingly more attractive than the MG or Triumphs. And he saw it years earlier. The 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept had the formula nailed: Pontiac’s new OHC six wrapped in a delicious and highly advanced bod. It’s styling foreshadowed the ’68 Vette, but without the exaggerations. The nearly production-ready Banshee was nixed by the timid GM brass, fearing the market wasn’t big enough for it and the Corvette both.

An iffy speculation? Perhaps, but the story of the 240Z’s origins and paternity is endlessly intriguing and rife with rumor, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw another ingredient into it. In the early sixties, Nissan wanted an image-mobile to spicy up its stodgy rep. Albrecht Goertz, a protege of renowned stylist Raymond Loewy, went to Japan around that time to help Nissan develop their clay modeling expertise. Nissan and Yamaha entered into a development project for a sporty coupe using a Yamaha engine, and Goertz did the design. To be called the Nissan 2000GT, the project was still-born, and a restless and eager Yamaha took it to Toyota.

In need of some image polishing themselves, Toyota bit and the result is the stunning and legendary Toyota 2000GT. Toyota claims their own designer Satoru Nozaki did the final work, and that may well be. But Goertz’ influence on both the Toyota and the 240Z is undeniable. But the expensive production GT was much more of an image-mobile in the mold of today’s Lexus LFA than what the Banshee promised and the 240Z finally delivered.

The Z may have numerous claims on its parentage, but a few are too obvious to discount, in lieu of DNA tests. The Datsun 510, a revolutionary car in its own right, and the subject of a recent CC, was a key genetic donor, in that its new OHC four sprouted two more cylinders to make the Z’s six. And given that Yatuka Katayama (Mr. K) had helped shepherd that into its final form, and that he fought successfully for a renaming of the Z’s Japanese Fairlady moniker, he certainly can take a bow.

The Datsun 1800 donated its front suspension, and other pieces from the corporate bin were used wherever possible. The rear suspension was new, but so similar to the Lotus’ that it is rightfully called a Chapman strut. And then there is that body that wrapped it all. John DeLorean would have been proud; it’s decidedly un-GM-esque in detail, but the long flowing hood, the clear lines, the well set-back cockpit, the bulging  hood, the delightfully resolved tail; there’s just not a bad angle, line or detail on this Z.

I mean that generally and specifically; this particular car was a nice find, because it’s hard to find one of the early Zs that is as clean, untampered with, and shows off its designer’s intent as well as this one. They tend to look too fussy, burdened with too much trim and emblems. But this one, having lost its hood ornament, looks as good as as any Z I’ve ever seen. It has almost a concept car’s purity, and every angle is a joy to behold. I’d forgotten just how terrific and timeless a design this car was until I stumbled unto this one.It was hard to stop shooting and walk on.

Of course, things went only down hill after the first few years of Zdom. It’s a depressing tale; I know there are fans of the later cars and its successors, but for me there will only ever be the early 240Z  to speak its brilliant intent and execution. Light, lithe, with a motor that still had some genuine Zing in those last days of pre-smog choked dullness and crankiness. Yes, the 240Z was far from perfect, its handling exhibiting some of the same twitchiness at the limit like its 510 little brother. Nissan would soon take care of that all too well; it slowly morphed the Z from a poor-mans XK-E into a bloated Camaro wanna-be.

But the Z’s decline into plushly upholstered boulevard cruiserdom was soon exploited by Mazda with their gem, the RX-7. Taking the original Z formula (minus the IRS but with a rotary), and keeping it tight and light, the RX-7 carved out as nice a chunk of the market as it carved canyon curves. Of course, the RX-7 lost the way too eventually, until the Miata reclaimed it for good. It’s taken a while, but it was inevitable that someone would eventually find the sweet spot and stick to it as religiously as a warm tire on a hot back-road curve. Just imagine if the 240Z had been available as a roadster too, and stuck to its mission: revolution would have become orthodoxZy.

More new Curbside Classics here

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