’78 Yamaha TT500
I have written before about the relationship I had with my former father in law; you know, he didn’t like me because I rode faster than him, I liked English motorcycles and most of all because I married his daughter. Oh well. Once in a while he would try to like me, he would show that effort by letting me help him work on one of his motorcycles…how nice of him. He rode Yamaha’s and it didn’t hurt that I worked part time at the local Yamaha dealer, does the term ‘family discount’ mean anything to you??? Anyway…when he was feeling very kindly towards me, after we had just spent a morning working on his bike, I would get to ride it.
We lived on the outskirts of Albuquerque New Mexico at the time and just down the street was the great wide open, perfect for off-road riding. You could be riding in the dirt for hours just one block from your own garage. It was the perfect testing grounds…sand washes, hills, trails, power line roads and almost no one around. That last part was a little unnerving at times, remember this is pre cell phone. If your bike broke, it could be a long walk home.
My off-road ride of choice at the time was a Husqvarna WR250, Jay’s was a Yamaha TT500. The TT was a big, heavy locomotive of a motorcycle. I think it could easily pull an average travel trailer across the desert with no strain at all. However…handling was not its strong suit, it wasn’t bad, but compared to my Husky, it took a lot of effort to change directions. Jay loved his TT500 but he too knew it could handle better. Either through a magazine article or talking with someone he knew, he found that legendary racer Dick Mann was building frames for the Yamaha Thumper. A phone call and credit card number later a custom frame was on its way to Rio Rancho New Mexico.
When the frame kit arrived a few weeks later, I was just as excited as my father in law to get it built. We had already dismantled the stock TT500, laid out all the parts across the garage floor, labeled all the nuts and bolts in plastic bags, he even ordered new tires for his Dick Mann racer. We talked about how good he would do in an upcoming desert race…we were totally stoked. The frame kit was beautiful, I think we stood and admired it for a good thirty minutes before we started reading the instructions. Wait a minute, there were no instructions, Dick believed that if you were doing this project you could figure out how to put it together. To make a long story short, it did take more effort to get everything right. A few phone calls to Dick, a little grinding here and there, some swearing and two days later a totally different Yamaha TT500 was waiting to be ridden. The Yamaha locomotive engine was now in a chassis that could do it justice, it truly was a different motorcycle. I told (begged) my father in law that if he ever was going to sell it, call me first. He ended up giving it to his son (who is completely clueless when it comes to motorcycles) and I lost track of it.
Today on ebay I found a pair of TT500’s that brought back this story. Now, these two TT’s need a lot of work…perfect project bikes. One is complete and does turn over, does it run? probably not. The other is parts. I have a feeling you’re gonna need a bunch of those parts to make one good TT500. A TT500 is a great vintage four stroke motocross ride, great fun out in the desert and a perfect platform for………you know what I’m going to say next…a cafe racer.
Yamaha built their own cafe racer based on the big thumper, the SR500 and later the SRX600, both really fun motorcycles.
So these two bikes below could be turned into a great motorcycle for just about any type of riding you want to do. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little more info. Oh, and all the stories you’ve heard about how hard it is to kick start big singles…they’re true. But the Yammie is easier than most, kinda.