Archive for May, 2008
May 15, 2008
Staff Training and Demo Rides
‘…whats the buzz… tell me whats happening’ JC Superstar 1970
Taking a break on the SRX story this week except to say I found some more pics of the very first OMV body prototype and the following clay model. I need the time to figure out how to explain to George, how it is that the SRX was our last 2-stroke project and not the SXViper. I think, technically speaking… you got me George but I’ll still spin up my version for you -later.
The black flies are out in earnest in central Ontario which can mean only one thing. It’s time for our annual ‘gathering of the minds’ with all our our sales and service staff. They will arrive end of next week and we all move into a resort on a small lake outside of Parry Sound. This year, similar to last will have us locked sown for a full day to network and debrief on many subjects. The second day (the best part) will be a full slate of demo rides.
Big blue will be there full of 2008 motorcycles. A second rig is hauling in the ATV’s and the Yamaha navy is arriving courtesy of a fleet of Tundra’s and Tacoma’s. Side bar to the latter-we (Yamaha USA) owns a boat company in the states called G3. We started importing and distributing them ourselves a couple of years ago. So far this has been a real success story. Our G3 boat sales are going through the roof as more people discover the quality and value built-in. Pontoon’s, ‘tin-boats’, deep V’s, they are all worthy so if you are in need of something to keep you busy while we wait for snow…
I’m a bit concerned about our ATV ride. The trail we have chosen is quite flooded in places with the water level being the highest I can remember. It doesn’t help much that a big ATV rally was held on the same trails a couple of weeks ago and they haven’t had a chance yet to repair some of the sippy holes. It always impresses me to see how our sled trails look in the summer. For the most part, aside from a few scratches on the bigger rocks, you’d never know several thousand machines had passed along them. Impact? What impact!
The motorcycle riding in Parry Sound is excellent. Probably one reason the annual Sport Bike Rally has been so successful there. The community opens their arms to motorsports in general. They have even hosted two rounds of the World Enduro Championships which I was fortunate enough to have spectated last season. If the rain doesn’t become an issue, our guys are in for a real good ‘dig’ on the bikes.
Getting back to the navy, I understand we will have at least one new prototype outboard to play with and a fleet of G3’s with various power. We won’t have the 350 V8 this year which is probably just as good with gas at 1.40+ in the bush. I’ll just have to get my ‘squeeze’ from the Waverunners, I really do like the boosted SHO.
Is there anything new you ask? Well of course -both motorcycle and ATV- but you are going to have to check back here on June 6th (or any of our web-sites). I’ll take some pics of the event with my new Canon XSi, digital SLR, which btw, I have been dreaming of owning for a very long time. Funny how it goes, now I am feeling the need for an iMAC.
Next week I am participating in the MESH conference downtown but will try to scribe something of interest to post from my hotel. But for now I gotta get over to the Bass-Pro to grab a new bug-shirt and replenish my supply of Muskol
…time to buzz-off… cheers cr
May 8, 2008
SRX Launch and Marketing Story
Well this week it’s time for me to come clean on some more SRX stuff. Lets start with the name. I was dead set against using SRX based on my experience with the infamous 1981 model debacle. For those who don’t know or may have heard the rumors. The 82 SRX production run (or Vmax as some would have it) was canceled in the name of damage control and to cannibalize the crankshafts for owners of the ill-fated 81’s. Reason being an unfortunate combination of clutch / crankcase assembly and carburetors doomed the TSS SRX to a life of broken crank-shafts. The name was dropped along with the engine and styling, to return as the first V-Max 540 in 1983.
I’m not particularly superstitious, but the thought of naming our new performance sled after the 81 cylinder grippin’ crank-eater seemed somewhat of a marketing Faux pas . But my thoughts didn’t matter because we could not seem to come up with a better name, plus the US guys seemed quite good with the SRX handle and so it was born. The irony in all of this came to light shortly after the first pre-pros hit the snow. Reports of a nasty vibration in the running boards trickled in, which spread quickly into the handle bars… uh-oh. –Long story short-… a welding booth was set up at the end of the crank assembly line and every new SRX crank was hand checked, trued if required and the end pin spot-welded before proceeding. As far as I know, this was the first (and only) time we had a production crank, welded at factory.
I had a good ‘I told you so…’ over some pints with Rit and Greg, but fortunately our crank woes of the 81 never manifested in the new SRX and the engine went on to prove itself quite bullet-proof.
Heres some random pics: From left,-the product development team from US, Europe and Canada, next- myself and Tim Nakano (Saito in the background), -the first prototype used for CG mock-up, and finaly-a 600 proto-engine in field testing:
I’ll put on my marketing hat for the next story. Spring 97, I was the ‘cover boy’ for all of the 98 SRX brochures. The shot was taken by none other than Dave Bush who is well known in the industry for his photography talents. I guarantee you have seen many of his shots in different power-sports magazines and brochures… but I digress.
May 1, 2008
SRX Development Story Pt2
SRX development part 2.
In this second installment on the SRX story I’ll touch on some of the features which we introduced on SRX. First we had to get clearance from the senior directors to proceed. Saito had to go before Hitoshi Nagayasu who was then second in command at YMC and running the snowmobile show. Saito told me he ‘sold’ the concept based on confidence alone. He had no data or test results to refer to, only belief and a deep desire to challenge our people to build the highest performing, production snowmobile ever offered by Yamaha. The magic number being 200hp / liter. It should be mentioned here that the job of the senior directors is not to measure how ‘cool’ a new product is. That is not the point at all. The project has to clearly make sense in dollars and return on investment. We amortize our tooling over two years of production and the model must be able to survive on its own merit. Good thing Nagayasu understood the importance of horsepower and had a warm spot for snowmobiles because he signed off and we were good to go into development. And so here we go…
We were not the first to have power-valves on a sled but we were the first to have electronically controlled, servo driven (instead of diaphragm / pressure actuated) slide valves. see the OW73 (TZ750) GP bike raced by the King. This offered a couple of advantages. One, the slide opening could be regulated based on engine demand and secondly a cleaning cycle was designed in to give the slides a full swipe at start-up to help keep the valves from gumming up. (Yeah I know, it was still a maintenance item especially on the early models).
Another new feature that helped give SRX legs was the introduction of RAM air. The testing data averaged out at 160kph an additional 6mq was achieved which translated into 3hp or 2 kph. This is a small increase but it’s the small details like this that helped put SRX into the top of its class. Saito also concentrated on air management with separate ducts to direct air-flow to help cool the crank shaft and brake rotor.
A new headlight was designed which Saito was quick to remind me also appeared on the Mercedes Benz SL500. Limited by standard DOT approved, 55/65 watt bulbs, the glass optics were designed to efficiently concentrate as much light as possible into the area needed most. I remember after first riding the SRX at night, the Vmax felt like it had a flashlight taped to the shroud.
The triple pipes were nestled into an all new die-cast bulkhead and an unsymmetrical hood. A hot debate between myself and Rit Lefrancois-acting product manager for YMUS at the time- ensued on this unique styling direction. He didn’t like it / I did. In the end the design proved better for engineering purposes and Canada’s vote sealed the deal. The body design moved to the wind tunnel to determine the best combination of wind protection and wind resistance. This was the first sled which Yamaha put a lot of effort into rider position as well as body shape to determine maximum performance.
To make it ‘pretty’, we decided to apply the Yamaha Racing Strobes against a bright Yamaha blue metallic paint scheme which has since become a stable color combo giving Yamaha a distinct recognition in the market. But heck most of you reading this bleed blue right? So you must know when it all started… I also remember some heated discussions trying to get a ‘Scotch-lite’ reflective graphic material for the strobe graphics but if i recall correctly we had to settle for a slightly less expensive version in the second go-round.
Yokohama rubber came to the table with an all new track belt for SRX, which worked pretty well. It was certainly more efficient than past efforts using a poly weave (opposed to the kevlar winding of the Ultrabloc) but in the end our volumes (combined with some durability issues) led us to a new vendor –Camoplast– which marked the end of Yokohama snowmobile track production.
Next week I’ll be back in the office and will start scanning some of the old docs and images I have collected so the next installment will be quite visual. I’ll also start penning some of the testing stories and insights on the final development and marketing. Stay tuned… cr