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.
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