This 1972 Yamaha started out as a long term basket case. The boxes it was stored in changed hands at least three times before coming to me.
Apparently this cycle had been taken apart in hopes of being made into a race bike. The frame bits and brackets were cut off, stock parts thrown away, and some fancy go-fast bits were included. Then, who knows how long those boxes sat around before they made it to a garage sale, where my business partner Dana noticed the potential in the dusty bins and crates and scooped them up. They sat in his garage for a few years until he talked me into buying them for what he paid, $500.
It was an easy sell to me as iconic two stroke motorcycles rarely come around (especially for that kind of money) regardless of their condition. It was almost winter, the perfect season for a restoration project around Vallantine Motor Works too!
I went through the boxes like a kid at Christmas.
The motor was all there, aside from pistons, it had some beautiful expansion chambers, fancy rear sets, a crazy old school fiberglass tail… Definitely a solid start for a street racer. I ditched the original wheels, suspension and brakes for some modern stuff I found on e-bay.
With quite a bit of shimming, grinding and welding I ended up with a stiff inverted front end, box type swing arm, and disc brakes with six spoke mags. There are tons of other details that go into any project like this, too many to list or remember for that matter. In the end I had a fairly good street bike which is quite fun on the track too. I’m always surprised by how refined the Yamaha feels when I’m riding it around. The mods helped I’m sure, but there is a reason they made these RD’s for so many years, they were a great cycle for their time.
This project was pulled from a junk pile.
The machine; a Kawasaki H1. A triple cylinder two-stroke that was labeled the “widow maker” because of its abrupt power delivery, poor handling and brakes. This particular specimen had been sitting around in a small selection of back yards since the 80’s.
With parts missing and in unsalvageable disrepair, I turned to e-bay and set out to create an improved motorcycle for less money than doing a restoration.
The original peacock grey tank was a keeper as-is, but much of the rest got updated and repaired. It always seems to draw a crowd and personal stories from onlookers, especially those who enjoyed these in their heyday.
This cycle is a bit of a contradiction on wheels- an assault on most all of your senses while at the same time quite an enjoyable experience to ride around.