Nothing grey about these

Published: 03 August 2012

The 400cc sportsbike is an exotic delicacy from a far off land.

Shipped to the UK under the banner of ‘grey import’, these beautifully wrapped, miniature GSX-Rs, CBRs, VFRs and FZRs looked like they’d been ridden straight from the Suzuka pitlane at the Suzuka 8-hour and were hugely sought after in early and mid 90s.

The UK was flooded with the iconic 400s, and there are still plenty around. 

Over the years, the UK’s ageing fleet of 400 greys has become increasingly affordable. A quality machine in good condition can easily be stowed in your shed for less than £2000, and you can pick a project up for under £500 - but expect war damage.

Below we detail some of the best 400cc sports bikes which still offer great fun today.

Honda VFR400 NC30, 1988 -1994

Technically a scaled down version of the VFR750R (RC3O), the VFR400 was hugely desirable in its day for its looks as well as its advanced V-four. Overall the Honda is slower than some of its 400cc counterparts but it is small, agile and deceptively quick with impressive braking and brilliant corner speed.

Suzuki GSX-R400, 1984 -1990

The GSX-R was probably the rarest of the 400 class. Some versions were restricted to just over 110mph, although once derestricted, the engine can rev to 15000rpm. Being all revs the Suzuki requires a good thrashing so don’t expect anything fun to happen below 6000rpm. From '90 onwards they have a double cradle frame and USD forks,

Yamaha FZR400R, 1988 -1994

This rev happy machine was always somewhat overshadowed by its competition at the time. As well as its high-revving engine, racers were attracted to the Yamaha for its sharp handling and high corner speed. It was also a lot cheaper than the other 400s, making it a solid choice for trackdays.

Honda CBR400RR NC29, 1988- 1994

A fantastic all-rounder with a strong engine and typical Honda build quality, the ‘babyblade’ is a robust machine. Where other 400 imports may have greater cornering potential and are faster at the top end, the CBR gives plenty of torque with a wide spread of power. The CBR has always been a popular buy due to its stable handling and its Fireblade styling.