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The Midnight Special featured a traditional Japanese inline four-cylinder engine rather than the V-twin found in most cruisers. See more motorcycle pictures.

The 1981 Yamaha 1100 Midnight Special motorcycle featured "cruiser" styling but had inline-four power and shaft-drive, a powertrain configuration that made it faster and smoother than most cruisers of the day.

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Yamaha was one of the first Japanese manufacturers to embrace "cruiser" styling in the late 1970s, beginning with the vertical-twin 650 Special and culminating in its V-twin Viragos.

The success of those models quickly spawned copycats (and to be fair, the Virago itself attempted to mimic offerings from Harley-Davidson). But some of Yamaha's copycats grew out of Yamaha's own product line.

One such example was the 1981 Yamaha 1100 Midnight Special motorcycle, one of several models adorned with a unique black-and-gold color scheme.

Based on the company's big XS1100 sport-tourer introduced in the late 1970s, the 1981 Yamaha 1100 Midnight Special motorcycle differed from most of its ilk in having a traditional Japanese inline four-cylinder engine rather than the trendy V-twin.

It also featured shaft drive, likewise carried over from the XS.

While an extended fork, teardrop tank, and stepped saddle made it clear this was a cruiser, the double-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine gave it powerful performance unmatched by contemporary V-twins.

Parts that would normally be chromed were covered in "black chrome," such as the exhaust pipes and handlebars, or "gold chrome," as were the air-cleaner cover and rear grab rail.

But while the cruiser trend continued, Yamaha's various Midnight Specials had a fairly short run. And in the case of the 1100, it was also a small run.

With just 250 built for 1980 and another 250 in 1981, they are rare commodities today.

Continue to the next page to see more 1981 Yamaha 1100 Midnight Special motorcycle pictures.

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