Part 1–Winter Fun With A $50 Yamahapt1_b

by Ken Madden

The popularity of motorcycles is soaring and so are their prices. However, there still is such a thing as a cool, cheap bike.

This past summer, the shop where I work moved to Ham Lake, MN. While wandering around in the “Back 40” I saw a motorcycle lying on its side. When I picked it up, I was surprised to see that it was complete. It was a late-70s Yamaha 650. It was a bit banged-up–flat rear tire, controls dangling from the bars and a missing battery.

“What the Hell,” I thought. I wheeled it to the door, put air in the tire, gave the starter a kick, and the engine turned. “So…”

That night the landlord stopped by the shop. I asked about the 650. He told me it had been there for three or four years, but it ran when he put it there. Fifty dollars took the bike home.

I took a battery out of a Honda 650/4 basket case and transplanted it into the “new bike.” I poured some gas into the Yamaha’s tank, put the hand controls back in place, kicked it twice, and it was alive!!!

So, the Yamaha runs, but it is ugly. This winter I hope to change that. I will give it fresh paint, polish the cases and other aluminum parts, detail and paint the engine and frame and make neat fenders out of what’s there. I will prove that you can polish a turd.

I am not made of $$$, so I will be doing a majority of the work myself. My goal is to have a cool looking ride for approximately $500.00 (including the cost of the bike). This will include:

  • pt1_aLowering the bike one to two inches
  • Polishing the cases and wheels
  • Reshaping the gas tank
  • Molding visible frame parts
  • Extending fenders
  • Skirting the rear fender
  • Cleaning the seat area
  • Installing a solo seat
  • Painting frame and body stuff

I will keep you informed on the progress of Project Turd in a series of articles here in M.M.M. This project should give you the “how to” to make your own cool, cheap ride. Not everyone can complete a project of this scale for this money, but if you have a fearless attitude, a working knowledge of general shop equipment and the time (and who doesn’t with all this snow), you can apply some of Project Turd to your own bike projects.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.