Virago History Highlights

      The subject of Virago model numbers may draw a yawn from many riders, but a few of us aging diehards actually have an interest in this kind of thing. So for those of you who do--pop a fresh battery into your pacemaker, and buckle up your helmet! You're about to get into some really exciting stuff. Presented here is the result of a little research on how Yamaha assigned model numbers to its Viragos, followed by a rundown of all the US models. This information is as complete and as accurate as we could make it, and carries no warranty for being totally error free. Comments and particularly corrections will be most welcome. Now let's take one of the most complex and mysterious model numbers, break it down, and try to figure out what each letter and number means:

Our model is XV 700 CSC

"X" Back in the seventies Yamaha used XS to designate their bigger street machines by this model designation. Some of these bikes were were: XS650, XS750 triple, XS1100, etc. "RD" was used for two-strokes. "SR" was used for singles. Apparently when the V twins cam along, Yamaha decided to retain the "X" which I think we can assume means "street".

"V" Almost surely stands for "V-twin"

So, RULE #1 would be that XV stand for Street V-Twin.

700 The "700" is easy. That's the displacement of the engine; although, as we know, this number does not always reflect the exact displacement. In this case the engine was actually 699 cc., bringing it under 700 cc., to avoid import tariffs.

So, Rule #2 would be that the number stands for the 'nominal" engine size-the size used in ads.

But now the plot thickens! As a general rule, the letter right after the displacement number reflects the model year of the bike - the year the bike was made. Yamaha uses these letters for most of their bikes-not just Viragos Here are the letters for the years the bigger Viragos were offered.

1981-H
1982-J
1983-K
1984-L
1985-N
1986-S
1987-T
1988-U
1989-W
1990-A
1991-B
1992-D
1993-E
1994-F
1995-G
1996-H
1997-J
1998-K
1999-L

You will note that the letters don't run sequentially.

Also, if there was something special about the bike, a letter designating this would be inserted before the letter for the year.

So we have a number of models with these special letters inserted:

1981 RH
(not technically a Virago, it was a chain drive. The "R' may have stood for "Euro".
1982 RJ
Same
1983 XV 920 MK
(where "M" stood for Midnight Special-an all-black bike with gold trim.) Also applied to the 81 750.


And years 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 where we saw the XV 535 SF,SG, SH and SJ models where "S" stands for "Special"

And years 1996,1997, and 1998 where we saw 1100 SH, SJ, and SK models where "S" also stood for special.

So, rule #3 is that the letter after the displacement tells us the year, except where there is something special about the model.

Finally, we come to the easy one. Rule #4 is that whenever you see a "C" as the letter after the year letter, it means "California Model." As in XV 1100 JC (1997 California model) (A primary difference - maybe the only one - between California models and other models is the addition of an evaporative emissions control system consisting of a charcoal canister which collects gas evaporating from the fuel tank and carburetor. This gas is then sucked into one of the carbs when the engine is running.)

So now you should be able to look at the model number: XV 700 CSC and rattle off exactly what it stands for. It's a Virago Series, 700 cc, Cast Wheels, 1986, California Model, Yamaha motorcycle.

Finally, a few comments on some of the models. From '81 - '83 all Viragos were shaft drive, mono-shock, with the exception of the "Euro" models which were also mono shock but had chain drive. In '84 Yamaha went to the more cruiser-like look. As part of this, the mono-shock was dropped in favor of dual shocks for all models from then on. From '83 on, all large models were shaft drive.

The 535 was first seen in 1987. It dropped out of the line-up in 1991/2, but came back in 1993 and lasted through the 2000 model year.

The 250 came into the lineup in 1988, dropped out from 1991 to 1994, and may still be a current model at this time.

A WHOLE DIFFERENT SET OF IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS/LETTERS WERE USED FOR SOME MODELS IN CONJUNCTION WITH SERIAL NUMBERS. FOR SOME OF THESE GO TO THE FRONT OF THE CLYMER MANUAL.

US Virago models by year:

1981

XV750H
XV920RH (Chain Drive)
1982

XV750J
XV920JXV920RJ (Chain Drive)
1983

XV500K (Only one year)
XV750K, XV750MK (M=Midnight)
XV920K, XV920MK
1984

XV700L, XV700LC
XV1000L, XV1000LC
1985

XV700N, XV700NC
XV1000N, XV1000NC
1896

XV700SS, XV700SSC (Spokes)
XV700CS, XV700CSC (Cast)
XV1100S, XV1100SC
1987

XV535T, XV535TC
XV700ST, XV700STC (Spokes)
XV700CT, XV700CTC (Cast)
XV1100T, XV1100TC
1988

XV250U, XV250UC (Route 66)
XV535U, XV535UC
XV750U, XV750UC
XV1100U, XV1100UC
1989

XV250W, XV250WC
XV535W, XV535WC
XV750W, XV750WC
XV1100W, XV1100WC
1990

XV250A, XV250AC
XV535A, XV535AC
XV750A, XV750AC
XV1100A, XV1100AC
1991

XV750B, XV750BC
XV1100B, XV1100BC
1992

XV750D, XV750DC
XV1100D, XV1100DC
1993

XV535E, XV535EC
XV750E, XV750EC
XV1100E, XV1100EC
1994

XV535F, XV535FC
XV535SF, XV535SFC (Special)
XV750F, XV750FC
XV1100F, XV1100FC
1995

XV250G, XV250GC
XV535G, XV535GC
XV535SG, XV535SGC (Special)
XV750G, XV750GC
XV1100G, XV1100GC
1996


XV250H, XV250HC
XV535H, XV535HC
XV535SH, XV535SHC (Special)

XV750H, XV750HC
XV1100H, XV1100HC
XV100SH, XV1100SHC (Special)

1997

XV250J, XV250JC
XV535J, XV535JC
XV535SJ, XV535SJC (Special)

XV750J, XV750JC
XV1100J, XV1100JC
XV100SJ, XV1100SJC (Special)
1998

XV250K, XV250KC
XV535K, XV535KC

XV1100K, XV1100KC
XV100SK, XV1100SKC (Special)
(XV-750 Discontinued)
1999

250 L, LC
535 L, LC
1100 L, LC
2000

250 M, MC
535 M, MC
2001 (On)

250 N, NC

Special Thanks to Mac McCurdy for researching this information.
Visit his website for more Virago Information:
http://www.drpiston.com/


VOC Webmaster


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