Off radar

The Fallen Stars
Yamaha OX99-11

The V12 of the Rising Sun

Photo credit: Yamaha, Wheelsage

Those who have tied their image to the world of motorcycle racing and engine technology, might be tempted to think of four wheels. Four high-performance wheels, of course, particularly if your name is Yamaha. Four successful wheels, if you in possession of that Japanese culture which morally commits those who engage in sport to honouring their country.

The meticulous design of the Yamaha OX-99 that mimics the shape of a single-seater

The path taken by Yamaha at the end of the 80s for automotive engines was to seek maximum thermodynamic efficiency, proving to be veritable precursors of what is today the priority for current Formula 1 engines. However, the results obtained from tests with different engine sizes ranging from 6 all the way up to 12 cylinders, were insufficiently convincing in terms of reliability.

Compact with a very forward driving position, air scoop and large side air intakes to cool the 3,500cc V12 engine that could rev up to 10,000 rpm

The collaboration with Cosworth and the adaptation of the classic DFW engine for Yamaha’s experiments gave results only in the Japanese Formula 3000 series. The road to Formula 1 was a particularly fierce one, so much so that after several attempts, it was abandoned. 

The central driving position with the passenger sat in line with the driver just like on fighter jets, gave Yamaha the possibility to design a wrap-around dashboard that could be easily read by the driver

This was the context of the idea to propose a road-legal car that, in reality, was conceived as a Formula 1 with covered wheels, central driving position and in-line seats just like on fighter planes. The V12 engine, detuned to 400 horsepower and a rev limiter set to 10,000 rpm promised a maximum speed of 350 km/h and just 3.2 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h.

From this image, it’s easy to understand the function of the large front spoiler that dominates the front of the OX-99

More charming than beautiful, painted in red for easily imaginable reasons, a single door with a gull-wing opening, weighing just 1,150 kg, it might well have been an attractive impulse buy for a clientele that was passionate about supercars. But in 1990, the price they were asking was beyond all market levels: $800,000 was simply too much and the three prototypes they built did not find a home. Almost as if destiny said, “let’s stop here and continue to win with our bikes”.

A single gullwing door, in this image that shows the three examples built but which never went beyond the prototype phase
Testing a car capable of 350 km/h and from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds
Massive rear extractors generated downforce suitable to the performance of the car
A beautiful idea but not a very charming realization: the pursuit of efficiency did not reward the aesthetics of a car that at the time should have cost something like $800,000Photo credit: Yamaha, Wheelsage