The "Other" American V-Twin Manufacturer Strove to Create its Own Identity

Victory Motorcycles is an American manufacturer of V-Twin cruiser and touring motorcycles. It is the motorcycle division of Polaris Industries, who established its reputation in powersports by producing snowmobiles. It also makes all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), including the popular side-by-side UTV, the Polaris RANGER.

Established in 1998, what started out as a small group of spirited engineers, designers, and mechanics out of Medina, Minnesota, celebrated its title as producers of “The New American Motorcycle” in 2009 by producing its 50,000th motorcycle. Victory has made a name for itself by designing cruiser motorcycles with progressive styling, opting not to follow the classic, traditional formula for V-Twin cruisers already established by the other American V-Twin manufacturer. Full production of its first motorcycle, the V92C, began in Spirit Lake, Iowa in late summer of 1998.

By the following year, the V92C was already receiving “Motorcycle Cruiser of the Year” awards from the press. It also began expanding its dealer and model lineup, introducing its sport cruiser, the V92SC, at Sturgis in 1999.

In 2001, Victory came out with its line of Arlen Ness Signature Series Accessories. It was a savvy marketing strategy. What better name could you have associated with your motorcycles than Arlen Ness, a legend in the custom building world? This would be the beginning of a longstanding friendship and working relationship between the Nesses and Victory Motorcycles.

The following year, the Minnesota-based manufacturer introduced its Freedom 92/5 V-Twin, a 92 cubic inch engine mated to a five speed transmission. The new Freedom Engine had rounded cylinders and a smaller oil cooler and provided greater power output than the previous mill. This engine would serve the company’s newest platform well as it debuted the Victory Vegas in 2003. The new cruiser was an instant hit with the media.

Arlen Ness recognized the customizing potential of the motorcycle. In 2004, Victory launched the Arlen Ness Signature Series Vegas, taking the relationship with Ness to the next level as Arlen added his touch to the bike. The Vegas took numerous “Cruiser of the Year” awards in various publications. Polaris Industries celebrated its 50th anniversary as well that year.

Victory continued to expand its model lineup in 2005 with the introduction of its Hammer, a muscular power cruiser with a 250mm rear tire and the Freedom 100/6 engine. It also began offering its cruiser motorcycles with the blacked-out treatment, using the styling scheme on its Vegas 8-Ball.

In 2006, both Arlen and his son Cory Ness selected the Vegas Jackpot to customize for the Ness Signature Series. The custom-inspired motorcycle was equipped with the same Freedom V-Twin powerplant and gearbox as the Hammer.

Victory would again demonstrate its forward-thinking in 2008 with the release of its radically-styled, luxury touring motorcycle, the 2008 Victory Vision. With a chassis composed of three big castings and an integrated 11-liter airbox incorporated into its design, it also featured the company’s proprietary Air Victory Brakes. Designed by Lead Industrial Designer, Michael Song, the aerodynamic, futuristic-looking luxo-tourer created plenty of ripples when it hit the market.

For 2009, Victory offered a 10th Anniversary Victory Vision. With an Antares Red and Black paint scheme that pays tribute to its first motorcycle, the V92C, the limited edition Vision includes a reverse gear and tons of luxury touring amenities like heated grips and seats. Only 100 were made, all of which were scooped up within seven minutes in an online bidding war. Victory has also made a point of offering various models in Low versions, with seat heights and controls better suited to smaller riders, specifically targeting the burgeoning women rider’s demographic.

Victory also enlisted the services of young custom builders Roland Sands and Zach Ness (Cory’s son) to build a one-off custom using the Victory platform. Zach tricked-out a Jackpot, changing up the look of the front end with a unique fork with diamond-cut boot seals, custom wheels and mini-apes. Sands gave a Vegas 8-Ball the racing treatment, decking it out with slick pipes and a side-mounted race plate, RSD vintage bars and drilled hole patterns on the wheels, air filter and bar ends.

Victory also continues to enjoy a strong presence in the ATV world with a variety of performance and utility ATVs. Its Sportsman XP models are real workhorses that include electronic power steering and electronic fuel injection, while the Polaris Outlaw 525 continues to be popular with the ATV sport performance crowd.

Victory Motorcycles Timeline:

  • 1997 V92C debuts. Full-scale production begins in ’98.
  • 1998 First production model V92C is built July 4. Not long after, full production of the motorcycle begins in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
  • 1998 The 92 cubic inch, 1500cc V92C is released. The V-Twin was the largest production engine in the cruiser realm at the time.
  • 2000 The V92SC Sport Cruiser is released. The company establishes almost 350 dealers nationwide.
  • 2001 Arlen Ness Signature Series Accessories introduced.
  • 2002 Victory introduces its new Freedom Engine, a mill which provided more power output than previous models.
  • 2003 Victory Vegas debuts with a new chassis and a 92-cubic inch Freedom Engine.
  • 2004 First Arlen Ness Signature Series Vegas debuted. The newly-styled Victory Kingpin, with classic-cruiser features, also makes its first public appearance.
  • 2005 The Victory Hammer, with a hefty 250mm rear tire and the latest rendition of the Freedom 100/6 engine, debuts. The Kingpin Deluxe is outfitted with a Deluxe Touring Package.
  • 2006 Victory releases its Vegas Jackpot, a custom-styled production motorcycle.
  • 2007 Kingpin Tour introduced.
  • 2008 Victory Vision is released, a futuristic-looking luxury touring motorcycle.
  • 2009 Victory produces its new 106/6 V-Twin, with Stage 2 Cams and a 6-speed transmission. The Victory CORE Concept Bike is also introduced.