Saturday, February 25, 2017

Yamaha TDR 180, a Brazilian makeshift approach to the overseas TDR 250

Brazil has always held some peculiarities when it comes to the local vehicles market, not just the cars and commercial vehicles but naturally the motorcycles too. It's important to point out there were restrictions against imports from '76 to '90, which in a market where motorcycles previously had been considered more like a leisure vehicle than an affordable commuter, low-displacement models were setting the change to that point of view. Stricter local content policies were also not so inviting to set a local production of a wider range of models in higher displacement classes, since not just the domestic market demand for them wouldn't justify the investment but the logistics to export most of the output posed as another challenge.
So, while a motorcycle culture was starting to ressurge in the '80s, the easiest way to provide newer models presumably more up-to-date with the international offerings was the adaptation of whatever locally-built engine available. One of the makeshift versions from that period is the '89-'93 Yamaha TDR 180, which relied on the very same single-cylinder air-cooled engine fitted to the DT 180 at that time instead of the liquid-cooled parallel-twin from the '88-'93 TDR 250 marketed elsewhere. It might be quite arguable that a milder version of the parallel-twin from the Brazilian Yamaha RD 350 LC could have been a better choice in order to retain a performance level more consistent to its purpose, but once again it's worth remember the Brazilian economy downturns right after the end of the military government, and then the choice for a cheaper engine to be shared with the DT 180 makes some sense.
Other cost-cutting measure that might spark further controvery is the rear drum brake, in opposition to the all-around disc setup fitted to its foreign counterpart. Though back in the day it didn't really seem to bother anybody so badly, now it's occasionally pointed as an example of disregard to Brazilian customers who were offered a supposedly "inferior" product much like the automobile industry still does nowadays. Nevertheless, in spite of any criticism that may arise against either its performance or other features, the Yamaha TDR 180 was actually an interesting development once we consider the context of the period it was introduced. And it still looks cool at all.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Honda CBR 450 SR Aero Sport made only in Brazil

Honda had been the most popular motorcycle manufacturer in Brazil since it started local production in '76 with the utilitarian CG 125, which is still a best-seller, but it also had ventured in other segments and even developed some models according to peculiarities of the local market such as the restrictions set against the imports that lastes from '76 to '90. Among the most interesting ones, there is the CBR 450 SR Aero Sport introduced in '89 which, surprisingly, soldiered on until '94 when the competition brought by the imported motorcycles was embraced even by Honda itself.
Unlike the considerably more advanced 4-cylinder engines used in other models of the CBR series in the international markets, this beauty relied on the well-proven parallel-twin that was already fitted to the CB 450N (then known in Brazil as CB 450 DX). On the other hand, its frame, suspension, brakes and styling cues were up-to-date with their Japanese counterparts, bearing some close resemblance to the JDM 4-cylinder '87 CBR 250 RR MC17. It held the distinction of being the first 4-stroke sports motorcycle with a full fairing to be made in Brazil, and even had some discrete presence in regional export markets.
Beyond its performance orientation, the Honda CBR 450 SR Aero Sport is also regarded as a good commuter for both city and roadway use due to its compact size that favors the maneuverability and the responsiveness of the parallel-twin that is actually more suitable to the low-end torque compared to a higher-revving 4-cylinder.
It would only find and indirect replacement on the CBR 500 R introduced in 2013, but the old 450 simply refuses to die and some can still be seen roaming around.