Vinago: Billy Joel’s Vincent-Inspired Yamaha Virago

The Vinago, Greg Hageman of Doc’s Chops’ custom Yamaha Virago Vincent built for Billy Joel.

| May/June 2013

The Vinago
Claimed power:
62hp @ 6,000rpm, 62.7 ft/lb torque @ 3,000rpm (1998 Virago)
Top speed: 112mph
Engine: 1,063cc air-cooled OHC 75-degree V-twin, 95mm x 75mm bore and stroke
Weight (dry, stock 1982 Virago): 467lb (212kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.2 gal (12ltr)

Combine Vincent and Virago and you get Vinago. It’s a marriage of old and new — homage to one of the most sought after classic machines of all time built on the humble bones of a much more modern cruiser.

From his Florida-based shop Doc’s Chops, custom bike builder Greg Hageman has turned the clock back some 60 years on the venerable Yamaha Virago. Greg’s been making a name for himself building café racers based on a variety of Japanese machines, but he’s taken a particular liking to the Yamaha XV Virago, and custom builds based on the V-twin model have become something of his hallmark.

Greg’s long been aware of the Virago’s similarities to the English-built Vincent motorcycle — most notably the big V-twin engine hanging down below the gas tank and, in the case of the early Viragos (1981 to 1983), an under-the-seat rear suspension system. In 2012, Greg built a Virago custom for a customer in Tallahassee. While Greg wanted to go in a full-on Vincent direction for that build, the client had other plans. “That one doesn’t have as much of the Vincent’s lines,” Greg explains. “For that build, I drew from a bunch of different British bikes, including both Vincent and Norton.” But that nod to British design is all it took for Greg to come to the attention of Billy Joel — yes, that Billy Joel, the Piano Man — and Alex Puls of 20th Century Cycles, the company Billy founded to build, store and service his growing collection of vintage and specialty motorcycles.

Billy Joel’s Vinago 

“I’d recently bought a Yamaha 750 Virago, but I didn’t like the mag wheels on it,” Billy says. “I thought it would look much nicer with wire wheels. So my mechanic, Alex, started to do some research and he found Greg. At the same time, I was looking closely at the Virago and noticed similarities to the Vincent — and I thought it would be cool to do an homage to Vincent with a Virago.”

Alex is head mechanic and curator of Billy’s collection of more than 90 motorcycles. While they have a 1952 Vincent Rapide among the machines, Greg was asked to interpret the classic Vincent with modern running gear.

Tim Kern
6/27/2013 12:11:58 PM

Well, the modern 1100 engine system explains how he gets a 1982 Virago 750 to start. (Why oh why didn't they put a kick on those, or at least design a starter circuit that worked?) With the reliable engine, this is one nice bike!

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