QLD | 7,865Kms
2008 Victory Vegas/Jackpot SPOTLIGHT
JUST Bikes 03/08/2012
By 2008, Victory Motorcycles had reached a significant milestone – their tenth year in the American motorcycle market. Over the course of the decade, the Polaris-owned brand had established itself as a bonafide competitor to Harley-Davidson, with a range of models on offer to suit most cruiser buyers.
2008 was also an important date here, as it marked the first local appearance of the ‘New American Motorcycle’. The Victory range made its local debut at the Ulysses Club AGM in Townsville. Big displays at the Australian Motorcycle Expo and other events followed, with Victory’s first Australian dealership opening in Melbourne in the same year.
One of the most popular and prominent of the 2008 US range was the ‘Vegas’ model and its offshoot, the ‘Jackpot’. Essentially Victory’s competitor of the Harley Sportster, the 2008 offerings in the Vegas range were split across six distinct models: the Vegas; Vegas Low; Vegas 8Ball; Jackpot; Arlen Ness Jackpot; and Cory Ness Jackpot. The same order reflected the ‘mild to wild’ offerings in the Vegas range, with the Ness models definitely representing the ‘wild’! The Vegas and Jackpot were part of an overall Victory range for 2008 that comprised 14 different models.
With its low stance and deep rake, the basic Vegas already looked like a full custom machine. Billet wheels, custom scalloped fuel tank, a custom headlight and other touches characterised the stock Vegas. The Vegas Low offered the same basic package, but with a lower seat height, narrower tank, pullback ‘bars and repositioned footpegs to suit shorter riders. The Vegas Low was also sold as a solo only, with no pillion seat or pegs offered. The Vegas 8Ball was the ‘blackout’ model, shedding chrome for all-black wheels, ‘bars, triple trees, mirrors, belt guard, sprocket and more. Satin black paint on the swingarm and fork shrouds completed the look. The Vegas Jackpot upped the custom ante a bit higher, with the distinguishing feature being the fat 250mm rear tyre. The Jackpot also rolled with chromed fork shrouds, colour-matched frame & tinware, deeper rear guard, and a distinctive ridge that ran along the front guard, fuel tank and rear guard.
While these were appealing, for some the ultimate Vegas’ for 2008 had to be the Arlen and Cory Ness Signature Editions. Part of the ‘Ness Custom Series’, these limited edition models were produced in collaboration with the famous custom bike building family, continuing an association between Ness and Victory started three years earlier. Each unit was numbered and carried a plaque with either Arlen or Cory’s signature. Based on the Vegas Jackpot, each model featured distinctive colours – candy red for the Arlen model, and metallic purple on the Cory design – with bold graphics in contrasting colours. Both also replaced the Victory tank badge with a decal – in gold leaf for Arlen’s, and silver leaf for Cory’s. Seats were custom shaped and hand-stitched and, as you’d expect, each version was fitted with Ness Custom accessories, like wheels (‘TriBar’ for Arlen, ‘Landshark’ for Cory), mirrors, handlebars, footpegs and grips. Chrome was used extensively throughout, while the engine cooling fins were diamond cut for a bit of extra bling. An individual touch for the Cory Ness Jackpot was Cory’s logo on the EFi cover. Arlen’s version carried the distinctive Arlen Ness ‘A’ logo.
While styling differences distinguished each model of the Vegas, the 100 cubic inch ‘Freedom’ 50-degree v-twin was common to all versions. This had been re-engineered for 2008 to deliver 85 horsepower and a beefy 106 ft/lbs of torque, while the closed loop fuel injection system was claimed to offer more consistent, more responsive engine performance. In line with this, braking was also upgraded, and the 6-speed transmission featured a higher ratio top and lower ratio bottom gear for better cruising and acceleration. Aside from this, most other mechanical components remained unchanged. New rider comfort features (on all except the Ness Signature Series) included redesigned handlebars, levers and grips. Heated handgrips and a hydraulic clutch were options for 2008, along with a laundry list of over 200 other factory accessories that were available across the Victory range.
For all its eye-catching appearance, the Vegas and Vegas Jackpots made sure they could walk the walk as well as talk the talk. The ride on the 2008 models was smooth, with that feeling enhanced on the versions with the 250 rear. Handling for a bike of its type and weight was given a tick in road tests of the Vegas models when new, as was the performance from the revised Freedom v-twin. The hydraulic clutch option made shifting smoother, but the altered gearing on the 2008 models had, to a large extent, addressed what was lacking in the existing transmission.
Like any big v-twin cruiser, the Victory Vegas/Jackpot is designed for open roads and long highway miles. While it can handle the traffic, that’s not where a bike like this is best enjoyed. Styling is pretty slick across the range, but the ‘look-at-me’ element of the Ness Customs isn’t for the shy, so maybe avoid this one if you don’t want to be bailed up at the servo with endless questions! There’s a degree of collectability with the Ness Signature Series models, too, as they were only produced in limited numbers, with the graphics and colour schemes changing each year.
Over all this, one other thing Victory offers is an alternative to Harley, which is important for some riders. With Harley lore arguably less entrenched in Australian motorcycling culture, Victory has been readily accepted by local buyers, but a potentially greater impact in the local market was limited by circumstances outside of Victory’s control. Without the impact of the GFC, the first blows of which coincided with Victory’s arrival downunder, we may well have had a stronger Victory presence in this country and a lot more Vegas’ on Aussie roads.
All in all, there’s a lot to like about the Vegas and the Vegas Jackpot. A lot of the enjoyment with cruisers like this undoubtedly comes from their looks as much as their rideability. The Vegas delivers on both fronts. Find one and it’s a ride you’re sure to enjoy.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2008 Victory Vegas Jackpot (Ness Custom Series)
Engine: 100ci (1634cc) SOHC 8V 4-stroke 50-degree v-twin
Bore/Stroke: 101 x 102mm
Power/Torque: 85hp @ N/Arpm / 106lb/ft @ N/Arpm
Fuel System: EFi w/45mm throttle bodies
Cooling System: Air/Oil
Electrical System: 12 volt
Transmission/Drive: 6 speed manual/gear primary, belt final drive
Front Suspension: 43mm telescopic forks, 130mm travel
Rear Suspension: Swingarm with adjustable (preload only) monoshock, 100mm travel
Front Brake: Twin 300mm floating discs w/4 piston calipers
Rear Brake: 300mm floating disc w/2 piston caliper
Front Wheel: 2.15 x 21-inch
Rear Wheel: 5.0 x 18-inch
Front Tyre: 90/90 21 (Dunlop)
Rear Tyre: 180 55-B18 – 250mm (Dunlop)
Seat Height: 673mm
Fuel Capacity: 17 lt
Top Speed: N/A
The Arlen Ness association with Victory went back to 2005, when the first Ness Signature Series Vegas – the ‘Purple Haze’ - was released. Cory joined the party in 2006, adding his own Ness Signature Vegas version alongside that of his father.
The ‘diamond cut’ effect on the Ness Custom engines requires over 1,000 notches to be cut into the engine cooling fins – all of which were done by hand on the 2008 models.