Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Yamahopper: Strange Connections

So this is my 300th post. Also with a record 118 views the other day, (small in comparison to other blogs, but its a big deal for me) I thought it would be appropriate to just tell you guys how this whole mess started for me. This is also a follow up to this post
So this is a big write up, it took me a while but I hope you guys enjoy it.

Que the twilight zone music....

So this was my first real bike. Flashback 6 years or so. I turned 17 over the summer, started drivin on my own and it was the following winter I was itching to find a bike for the summer. At the time a good friend of mine, Tim, who worked at Mark Conforth's hot rod shop told me they had an old BSA basket case for sale. Tim got me some pictures and I thought about it. I didn't really know what I was getting into with a Brit bike.

I ended up contacting my ol'man's friend Billy. He knows the ins and outs of all kinds of bikes and is a master at customizing anything he gets his hands on. So I picked his brain about BSAs. He told me not to bother, especially for a first bike. Then tells me "I got somthin similar down in the barn you can have. It's a little more reliable and it's got some work done to it" That somethin turned out to be a 1979 650 Yamaha.

I was stoked. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait. It was winter and the snow was piled up. I had to wait till things thawed out at Billy's before I could go get it. For a good 2 weeks all I did was dream and draw chopped 650 Yamahas. As I said Billy is a master craftsman and to get something from his collection just floored me.

The day finally came when we could go pickup the bike. We trudged our way down to the barn and there it was. I didn't exactly know which Yamaha Billy was talking about, but there sat a bike I remembered seeing years ago when I was maybe 13. It was on a lift in his garage and I thought it was really cool lookin bike. No idea years later I'd be owning it!

Billy made a lot of one-off parts on this bike like the hand made velocity stacks and battery box cover out of aluminum. Hand made sissybar, chain guard, shortened shocks. The neck was raked a few degrees. Photos don't really do justice all the little tricks Billy did when he started building this bike. Billy also told me this bike use to be a trike! Check the link here for more photos!

It was from this time (February) on that my ol man and I worked on getting it road ready by spring.

I ditched the large Honda tank and used this sportster tank with some sweet mold work done to it.

I also picked up a parts bike from Benny. I had plenty of extra parts now and all the electrics I needed. I later found out the parts bike I bought from Benny, he bought from his friend Marlin. Marlin is the same guy I bought the ex cop car from a few years ago, I never knew the bike use to be his.

It was getting closer to spring time now and Billy's yard needed cleaning up. I cleaned his yard in exchange for him painting my tins.

I told Billy what I wanted and we matched the colors in a regular PPG automotive paint book. The gold is actually some 1990s Suzuki car color. The flames are pearl and Billy added the touch of the green in the flame licks.

When the tank was finished I picked it up from Billy's and on the way home I got pulled over for the first time for speeding. (Remember I was still 17, wasn't driving for all that long) I didnt even realize I was speeding, didnt even see the cop! I was just too excited to get home and put the tank on the bike!

The seat was done by my ol'man's neighbor Greg He moved next door that same summer. He stopped over one day and he was lookin at the bike. He asked what I was gonna do for a seat. I wasn't exactly sure, Billy made a quick seat cover for mock up but it wasn't finished. Greg is an auto upholsterer and offered to make me a seat. I stuck with the black and white scheme but wanted large pleats going across. I find out later this was Greg's first motorcycle seat.

It was about June/July the bike was finally finished, but I had to wait till August, my birthday, to get my motorcycle license (turned 18) because of issues with the insurance and with the state of NJ. (thats a story for another day)

When the bike was finished my ol'man also gave me a Bates headlight. Not just any Bates. The light came from his shovel head that had seen many many miles. Cool right?

So heres where the strangest connection begins. I was talkin to my Uncle Neil one night over the phone. Telling him all about my newly finished bike. I also told him how I was lookin at a BSA first, but passed on it since Billy gave me the Yamaha. Just out of conversation I described the BSA to Neil, telling him about the old chopper parts it had. He then says to me "Thats my old bike."

Sure enough it was. Neil built the rigid frame and put the Sportster front end on it after it was t-boned in an accident. Neil (also an HD master mechanic) was working at Tramontin HD at the time. He told me would get a lot of flack for ridin a BSA to a Harley shop everyday. So when it was wrecked he rebuilt it with Harley parts hah! Neil was interested in getting it back. Unfortunately by the time I knew this, the bike was sold to someone down in central or south Jersey. If you bought this bike let me know!

The wrecked Beeza

It's interesting how family history comes full circle sometimes with things. The Yamaha is not "vintage" or "period correct" or anything of that hype thats goin on now. But its stems from all that was good in the early days of choppin motorcycles.
So this is a big thanks to my dad Joe, Billy, Neil, Benny, and Greg.

I also want thank you RetroFit readers for subscribing, viewing, and commenting here. Your feed back keeps me going and helps me improve this place. Keep it up! Sure theres a thousand other bike blogs out there but I try to keep this a home grown, no frills, no marketing, no excess bullshit blog. Just simply enjoying the old bikes and the history behind them. We're not being vintage because its whats popular now, we're just doing what we always did.

Thanks fellas! See ya down the road.


  1. Excellent story! Billy did a great job on the paint!

  2. hey capt - nice job on the write-up. interesting stuff. the yamaha looks great by the way. nice details like the headlamp and one of a kind seat.