|Polaris, a Minnesota company with sales of approximately $1.8 billion per year, was one of the earliest
manufacturers of snowmobiles. Polaris also manufactures ATVs and, until recently, personal watercraft. Seeking
to diversify its product line, and observing the sales enjoyed by Harley-Davidson and other manufacturers, the
company decided to produce a large motorcycle built entirely in the United States.
Victory vehicles follow the larger (and louder) American style of motorcycle defined by Harley-Davidson, rather
than the more racing-inspired designs of Japanese manufacturers such as Yamaha and Kawasaki Heavy
Industries, or the European styles of Triumph Motorcycles and BMW.
In 2010 Polaris engaged in a major expansion of production and marketing of the motorcycle.
The first model, the V92C, was debuted at Planet Hollywood in the Mall of America by Al Unser in 1997. Production
began in late 1998, and the first official model year was 1999. At 92 cubic inches (1,510 cc) the V92C was the
largest production engine available at the time, and sparked a race among motorcycle manufacturers to build
bigger and bigger engines. Triumph, now holds that honor with the 2294 cc Rocket III. All components were
manufactured in Minnesota and Iowa, except the Italian Brembo brakes and the British-made electronic fuel
injection system. Victory engines debuted with five-speed transmissions (later six), single overhead cams, dual
connecting rods, hydraulic lifters, and fuel injection; most fuel-injection components are standard GM parts. The
V92C engine was designed to be easily tuned by the owner.
The 92 cubic inch Victory engine carries 6 US qt (5.7 L) of oil in the sump, about the same as most automobiles.
This makes it unlikely the engine will be damaged by low oil, but also makes it dimensionally larger than other
motorcycle engines, such as Harley-Davidson, which carry oil in tanks. The sheer volume of oil can also impede
engine performance in a racing environment. Top speed is about 120 mph (190 km/h) at 5,500 rpm; the ECM
contains a rev limiter which can be overridden by reprogramming the EPROM. The Victory engine is air-cooled,
and also circulates crankcase oil through a cooler mounted between the front frame downtubes. A section of the
rear swingarm can be removed to change the drive belt or the rear wheel.
The motorcycle's designers had approached several European manufacturers, particularly Cosworth, about
designing and producing the engine, but ultimately decided to design and build it in Osceola, Wisconsin. Several
variations on engine-frame geometry were tried until the best configuration was found, with the crankshaft
geometrically aligned with the axles, a concept developed by Vincent Racing in the late 1950s. The V92C weighed
about the same as a Harley, approximately 650 pounds (290 kg). The original V92C engine produced about 55
horsepower (41 kW) at the wheel; with high-performance cams and pistons, this could be boosted to 83 hp (62
kW) and torque of 86 ft·lbf (117 N·m).
1999 Victory motorcycles were priced at approximately $12,000, somewhat less than the comparable
Harley-Davidson, but considerably more than comparable Japanese bikes. Reviewers did not find the V92C, with
its functional styling and square cylinders, particularly attractive. One magazine said it "looked like a self-propelled
In its advertising Polaris emphasized the bike's American manufacture, not its performance, which was surprisingly
nimble for such a large motorcycle. Many buyers wondered whether Victory would survive, and adopted a
"wait-and-see" attitude. Excelsior-Henderson had recently gone into bankruptcy, but there remained stiff
competition from Harley and other manufacturers, such as Titan, which produced expensive cruisers based on the
Harley design, using S&S engines. Indian Motorcycles of Gilroy, CA were also selling well using modified S&S
engines. Japanese producers, Yamaha in particular, soon began producing comparable motorcycles at
much-lower prices, and Harley-Davidson introduced the V-Rod.
Victory had a distinct advantage over Titan, Indian and Excelsior-Henderson: its parent company, Polaris, had
deep pockets and long experience in manufacturing recreational vehicles. Polaris hoped to tap into the Harley
market but was aware Victory's sales might remain flat no matter how many they made. There were rarely more
than 25 on the payroll, and initial production runs were about 2,500 units a year.
Both Indian and Excelsior-Henderson built new factories based on unrealistic sales projections
(Excelsior-Henderson tooled up to produce 20,000 motorcycles per year), and ultimately went into bankruptcy.
Dealers came and went because the Victory alone could not support a dealership. The engine covers were
sandcastings, and chrome tended to flake off.
In 2002, the Freedom Engine was introduced. It had the same dimensions as the old engine but better power
output, and with rounded cylinders and smaller oil cooler it was much more attractive visually. The V92C became
known as the Classic Cruiser, and was phased out of the model lineup after the 2003 model year, but remains a
favorite with Victory riders. There was also a Special Edition version featuring special upgrades in 2000 and 2001
model years, and Deluxe models for several years. Polaris, Victory and Indian Sales were up 40% over 2012.
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