Honda’s 1984 VF500F

Honda’s 1984 VF500F interceptor enters a new capacity class by scaling up a smaller engine and scaling down the chassis.


  • Years produced  1984-1986
  • Claimed power  53hp (rear wheel) @ 11,000rpm
  • Top speed 132mph (1984 model)
  • Engine 498cc (60mm x 44mm) liquid-cooled DOHC V4
  • Transmission   6-speed
  • Weight 419lb (dry)
  • Price then/now $2,898 (1984)/$2,000-$5,000

To enter a new capacity class, is it better to scale up a smaller bike, downsize a bigger one, or start from scratch? Many bike makers over the years have “stretched” a smaller capacity engine to create a larger one. While that may offer the best return on investment, is it a sound idea?

In creating the engine for the VF500F of 1984, Honda went with scaling up. The new 500 was based on the Japanese/European market VF400F, but used cylinder dimensions and cylinder head design from the V-twin VT250. The result was effectively two side-by-side 90-degree 250s on a common crankcase, but with a strengthened bottom end. More on that later …

Inside the VF500F, duplex chains drove four overhead camshafts acting on 16 valves via finger-type followers with threaded adjusters. The hydraulically operated clutch was geared to the crankshaft and drove the 6-speed transmission. This featured planetary gears, which gave a “crisp feel” and “encourages a light touch on the shift lever,” said Cycle World. The 60mm x 44mm V4 screamed all the way to 12,000rpm, but yet had useful power all across the rev range that made for relaxed around-town riding.

But for the VF500F’s chassis, Honda effectively scaled downward. It shared almost all the sophistication of its bigger brother, the VF750F (including air-assist Pro-Link rear suspension and TRAC anti-dive fork) in a nimbler, more compact package.

Testers universally praised the VF’s quick steering, attributing much of that to the 16-inch front wheel; yet also admired its straight-line stability and powerful brakes. Said Cycle World, “…there’s nothing commonplace about the VF500F’s handling … the chassis lives to bend its way round corners. The bike really shines on twisty backroads,” they wrote, and “could very well be the quickest way to snake from Point A to Point B.” “The little Interceptor is one of the finest handling motorcycles around,” wrote Cycle Guide. “The 500 can be flicked through turns with almost no effort on virtually any line … that kind of performance pumps up your confidence and urges you to go faster. Nor was there any shortage of cornering clearance … the bike can be whipped over until the horizon approaches vertical, and still nothing drags on the pavement.”

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