Yamaha introduced the "XV" Virago in 1981 as its first V-twin engine motorcycle. Previously, Yamaha-produced engines were upright twin or four-cylinder models. In its quest to achieve the smooth ride associated with motorcycles like Harley-Davidson, Yamaha created a shaft-driven V-twin motorcycle which would challenge Harley, and cause other Japanese manufacturers to follow suit. First produced in 1981 and the last designated Virago manufactured in 2003, the Virago featured different engine sizes; from 200 to 1100 cubic centimetres. Virago identification is accomplished through decoding either the frame serial number/Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the engine serial number.
Find the frame serial number. According to The Virago.co.uk, the frame serial number is located in two locations -- stamped on the right side of the frame while sitting on the motorcycle, and on a sticker attached to the frame. The sticker is usually on the steering neck below the handlebars, visible when the front tire is turned completely right. From 1981 through 1999, the serial number is a nine-position alphanumeric code, "1TW-080657," for example.
Write down the VIN number and cross reference it against the listing found on The Virago.co.uk's VIN listing page. The prefix is the primary Virago model identifier and is unique to that year and size engine, with the following six digits being the sequential production number, or the order in which that particular Virago rolled off the assembly line. The example, "1TW-080657" is a 1998 XV1100 Virago.
Identify the Yamaha engine number. Stamped on the right side of the crankcase while sitting on the motorcycle, the crankcase engine number is alphanumeric with a prefix followed by the general part number. The three-position prefix identifies the Virago model, with the following digits being the general part number. The prefix should match the frame number prefix.
If the VIN is the 17-position code used on later Viragos, enter it on Motoverse.com's Yamaha VIN decoder. This VIN decoder, as most web-based VIN identifying sites, can only accommodate the newer 17-position VIN.