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Victory Hammer

Twin Peaks

Future collectibles series: Victory motorcycles

It came, it made promising noises and it went again. Is there something worth rescuing from the Victory catalogue?


(by Guy Allen - Motorcycle Trader mag #340, Oct 2018)

Back in the mid-1990s, Harley-Davidson was really the only big game in town when it came to building motorcycles in America. Buell, a minnow by comparison, was next in size and doing fairly well at the time, but in a very different market niche. As for the rest, they were tiny outfits that weren’t about to frighten the mighty Milwaukee giant, which at the time was surfing a wave of expansion and success.

Then came Polaris, one of the few companies with the USA base, the cash and the engineering expertise to have a serious go at cracking the lucrative American cruiser market. Better known for its powersports and light industrial machinery (ATVs, snowmobiles and the like), the company had modest ambitions. It was launching just one model for the first year (see sidebar), in two colour schemes. There would be ‘just’ 200 dealers nationwide, though one day that might grow to 500-600.

In reality, the company enjoyed solid progress, with its motorcycle division showing a modest profit after several years. All that was largely academic to Australian audiences, which didn’t get to see the machines here until 2008, a full decade after the brand launched.

When the marque was finally unveiled here – at that year’s Ulysses Club AGM in Townsville - it was a rounded brand offering a range of cruiser variants including power cruisers, high-riders, baggers, tourers and the like.

That’s all fine and dandy, but were they any good? The short answer is yes. Victory frequently outgunned the mighty H-D when it came to performance and handling for motorcycles in the same class. While punters had every reason to wonder if the machine they were buying would have halfway decent resale value, they could rest easy in the knowledge that the engineering was excellent. Plus, the initial purchase price was often very competitive.

For some, buying a Victory was their own little protest vote. The sheer popularity of Harley meant there would always be a section of the market who wanted something – almost anything – other than the world’s most popular cruiser brand, and Victory scratched that itch while still having the American background.

Over the years, the company built some truly stunning models and I’m not sure they were always given due credit. For me, the three stand-outs were the Hammer S power cruiser, the Jackpot ‘factory custom’ (always loved the inherent oxymoron in that term), and the completely out-there Vision full tourer. In all three cases, we’re talking of the 106 cubic inch (1731cc) generation, from circa 2010.

Even now, the Hammer S qualifies as a powerhouse when it comes to V-twin cruisers – particularly when you’re talking of an air/oil-cooled powerplant. The first gen (2005-on) 1600 claimed 85 horses, while the second-gen 1740 (2010-on) packed a whopping 97 horses. That’s a big number for an air-oil-cooled V-twin and was enough to give the model some serious off-the-line grunt.

Victory Hammer S

Several colour schemes were done over time and my personal pick is the second-gen blue with white stripe that mimicked Ford Cobra livery. In any case, these things were lookers, running minimal chrome, twin discs, USD front fork and massive 250-section rear tyre.

As with all the 1740-generation bikes, the performance was stellar with an unsurprising emphasis on midrange delivery. Meanwhile the six-speed transmissions were sweet and, in the case of the Hammer, top gear was really for highway use only.

Handling on this chassis prioritised straight line drags. Running a substantial 140mm trail and a reasonably conservative 32.7 degrees of rake, it required a little nudge on the handlebars to get it turning. You tended to also get some bump steer from that giant rear tyre, though overall it was a stable enough package.

That’s kind of underselling the machine, however. What it offers is the true V-twin muscle bike experience, in a well-sorted package, for not a whole lot of money. Mid-teens will pick up a good example, which is a lot of motorcycle for the money.

As much as the contradictory term ‘factory custom’ makes me squirm, it has been accepted over the years as a shorthand for any cruiser model that has been dressed up to within an inch of its life to make a visual splash. And the Victory Jackpot (or Vegas Jackpot as an alternative), particularly the 2013-on versions, qualify on that score.

Victory Jackpot

Produced in a lairy orange or marginally more subtle red, the stand-out feature is the colour-matched frame. We’re talking lots of chrome, wild-looking wheels, skinny 90-section front tyre contrasting with the 250 rear and a l-o-n-g wheelbase. At 1706mm, it was 36mm longer than a Hammer.
In keeping with the custom look, you got conventional front forks, a single front disc and a slightly smaller fuel tank.

Like the Hammer, it had plenty of straight line urge, but was less capable as a handling package – unsurprising, given the spec. Still, that was the price of fashion and it was still an enjoyable enough thing to take out for a day ride. What it lost in handling ability, it made up for with huge visual appeal.

Prices are around the $15-17k mark. If you want something ultra-special, there was a limited Corey Ness (son of legendary stylist Arlen) edition, which will set you back considerably more at low to mid-twenties.

Since we’ve raised the Ness family name, it was for a time widely influential with Victory’s styling and no more so than with the gobsmacking Vision tourer. It was a courageous move to put this shape into production, as it was instantly polarising – people tended to love or hate it. I was one of its fans, figuring it was refreshing to see someone try something bold in this class.

victory vision

Underneath the dramatic panels, it was running the usual 106 engine, in 92-horse (68kW) form with a slight retune for a low-midrange focus. The six-speed transmission was topped by a proper overdrive, which enabled very relaxed cruising revs.

Initially with optional ABS and an optional power windscreen kit, it wasn’t necessarily the most technically advanced motorcycle on the planet, but it certainly stacked up as a package.
It was comfortable, with good legroom and a reasonably plush ride. It also steered very acceptably for a motorcycle in this class and gave every indication of being able to show a full-house Electra Glide a clean set of heels.

Over time, it picked up much of the techno gear it initially missed. By 2013-14 it had ABS standard on the linked brakes, cruise control, standard electric screen, plus heated grips and seats. Though a seriously large piece of motorcycle, and weighing near enough to 400kg ready to roll, it remained an easy enough package to handle.

The Vision sold in tiny numbers, so used examples are thin on the ground. You can expect to pay anywhere from mid-teens for a first-gen to early twenties on a later model. This is one of those motorcycles that I strongly suspect would be a very satisfying thing to own – visually a little out there, and very good at its job.

So what’s the future for Victory motorcycles as collectibles? It’s unlikely they’ll ever develop the reputation of legendary redundant marques such as HRD Vincent. However they ended up being a substantial part of American motorcycle history and there were unquestionably some engineering successes in the mix.

You wouldn’t plan your retirement around one of these things, but they represent decent value in the market and will always have interest as a talking point. And, they’re a pretty decent ride…

For
Well-engineered
Good performance

Against
Production ceased

****

Victory V92C

The first Victory
As with any brand, the first in a series will most likely eventually have collectable status, and in this case that would be the V92C, launched in 1997 for the 1998 model year.
The 1507cc engine was fairly advanced for an American V-twin, boasting single overhead cam (no pushrods!), four-valve heads and fuel injection, with somewhere in the vicinity of 75 horses – or enough to give Harley-Davidson a serious fright.
Its launch was attended by legendary Indianapolis racer Al Unser junior and the bike, on paper at least, was well and truly competitive with the Milwaukee product it was trying to steal market share from. However, sales were relatively modest for what was to many people an unknown quantity.
Road tests of the era were generally positive, with some criticism of the looks of the engine. Overall, the styling needed a little refinement.
Priced at US$13,000 when new, they’re now valued around US$2500. You know what? For that sort of money it would be tempting to add one to a collection just for the sheer hell of it. The only catch, of course, is they were never sold here. So the only economical way of getting one in would be to throw it in with a larger shipment.

****
Snatching Defeat
Though Victory over time established itself as a brand with a following, it never managed the cultural traction of arch-rival Harley-Davidson. That’s not entirely surprising, as H-D did enjoy the advantage of a 94-year head start.
The Polaris decision to buy the historic Indian brand in 2011 (110 years after it was established), and produce a new range of machines from 2014, effectively signed Victory’s death warrant. At first the hope was to run the two marques side-by-side, but the exercise was proving to be marginal when it came to profitability and by 2016 there were clear signs the situation was about to change.
In January 2017 Polaris made the decision public: Victory was to shut down. Warranties were to be honoured and parts supply would be kept going for a decade, to support existing owners. Indian was to be the motorcycle focus.

****

What about parts & service?

Victory promised 10 years of supply from closure (2017) and there seems to be a number of places that support them. In Melbourne (Australia) it's Rick Thomas at All American Motorcycles.

SPECIFICATIONS
Victory Jackpot 2014
ENGINE:
Type: Air/oil-cooled SOHC 50-degree V-twin with four valves per cylinder
Bore and stroke: 101 x 108mm
Displacement: 1731cc
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel system: EFI
TRANSMISSION:
Type: 6-speed constant mesh
Clutch: Wet multiplate
Final drive: Belt
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame type: Twin-loop steel
Front suspension: Conventional 43mm fork, no adjustment, 130mm travel
Rear suspension: Monoshock, preload adjustment, 75mm travel
Front brake: 4-piston 300mm disc
Rear brake: 2-piston, 300mm disc
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Dry weight: 296kg
Seat height: 653mm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres
WHEELS & TYRES:
Front: 2.15 x 21-inch Anvil billet alloy with 90/90-R21 Dunlop Elite 3 tyre
Rear: 8.5 x 18-inch Anvil billet alloy with 250/40-R18 Dunlop Elite 3 tyre
PERFORMANCE:
Max power: 72kW (97hp) @5500rpm
Max torque: 153Nm (113lbft) @2900rpm
OTHER STUFF:
Price: $23,995 on the road ($22,995 in red)
Test bike supplied by: Polaris Australia
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited km

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