In seeking to widen the base of motorcycle enthusiasts, Yamaha Motor Co. is hitting the gas in creating scale paper models of the real things that anyone can make at home for free.
Designers from outside the company spent a day photographing the YZF-R1M, the flagship motorcycle that Yamaha sells in Western countries, and then took about a year to design the 1/5-scale paper model.
It has 914 parts on 54 A4-size sheets. The designers took great pride in reproducing mechanisms that are difficult to see from the outside, such as the engine and radiator, and even re-creating the logo sporting the factory name on the wheels.
Hidenori Miyake, 49, senior supervisor of Yamaha's Web Group since 2005, explains that "we want to use paper craft to spur interest in Yamaha Motor among people who don't even have much of an interest in motorcycles."
It is in the web group's blood to create authentic designs for models because "it wouldn't be right for a motorcycle manufacturer to make sloppy designs," he says.
The homepage with sheets for the parts gets 4 million views a year, making it by far the top page on Yamaha Motor's company website.
People can use a printer at home to print out the sheets available on the homepage for free. They then cut out the parts and assemble them into the model. The hobby became a big thing when Yamaha created paper model designs of popular vehicles exhibited at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show.
The company, based in the city of Iwata, has added new designs just about every year to bring the total now available to 74. The lineup includes a georama over a meter wide with around 1,300 parts to reproduce a race scene, while others include an animal series for beginners with designs having few parts ... and absolutely nothing to do with motorcycles.
Yamaha Motor administers an area on the Internet where enthusiasts can post and share their creations and admire each other's work.
"The thing that give me the most joy is that the designs make people happy," Miyake says.
He says that next year, the 20th anniversary of the first paper model design, he wants to release new ideas that have even greater attention to detail.