1981 Yamaha XS850 Midnight Special
Frame no. 4H1002785
The late 1970s/early 1980s witnessed the birth of what are termed factory customs: models with laid-back cruiser styling inspired by what Harley-Davidson owners had been doing to their machines for decades. Soon no motorcycle was safe from such treatment, which has even descended as far as single-cylinder 125cc learner bikes. One of the very first factory custom, limited edition (LTD) models announced was Kawasakis Z1-based Z900LTD of 1976, which effectively established the style of this new kind of motorcycle and was later copied by all the other Japanese manufacturers.
Yamaha applied this new look to its existing XS850 sports-tourer in the form of the Midnight Star. The XS850 was a development of the XS750 that had first appeared in 1976 as Yamahas flagship sports bike. An all-new design, the XS750 triple was Yamahas first large-capacity multi-cylinder motorcycle and broke further new ground for the Hammamatsu firm by employing shaft final drive, a feature that was carried over to its XS850 successor. The XS850 stands in its own right as a completely new motorcycle, despite its heritage, reckoned Bike magazine. Its undergone not a simple change but a radical metamorphosis from a cumbersome caterpillar into a beautiful black butterfly. Its not just the styling that has been changed, but the entire nature of the beast, its heart and soul.
Britains No. 1 motorcycle journal found that Yamaha had indeed addressed the XS750s shortcomings, producing a machine capable of seeing off anything in its own class and many above it. For specifications, performance and all-round ability, it has to be one of the best big bikes currently available. At 520lbs it weighs in no heavier than some 750s and with nearly 80bhp on tap, it is low, lithe and very rapid. Up to about 5,000rpm, it'll rumble along with only a hint of latent aggression. Let it loose beyond that and it will pick up like a rocket ship dialed into warp.
Its name invoking a sense of excitement and curiosity, the Midnight Special version was painted entirely in classic black - even the exhaust pipes were given a pearlescent black finish. To further distinguish the model, Yamaha developed a synthetic gold finish, which was applied to various trim parts, enhancing the custom look and feel of the model. This well-preserved example displays a total of 8,083 miles on the odometer and is presented in as delivered condition.
- Lot 826, a 1981 Yamaha XS850 Midnight Special, is titled as a model year 1980.