The first new "big" bike I owned was a 1972 Yamaha R5C, the last pre-reed valve 350 they made. Bought it shortly after Terri and I were married. We did a lot day trips on it, I remember it being so peaky that, two up, we basically either wheelied off a light or stalled. But it was great fun, a real itch scratcher, if you couldn't have fun on an R5, you should not own a motorcycle.

Fast forward to March 2009, at the Deland Swap Meet and Auction during Bike Week. Walking in on the second morning I'm told to go look at the barn finds in the far corner. There's an R5C, not pretty, but looks complete and supposedly recently ran. Long story short, afternoon auction, mine for $400. We haul it back to Jax and first thing I take it to Buddy Vitt, THE guru on Yamaha 350/650 twins. I know the bike needs a lot, before committing I want to know if the motor is sound. Pretty quickly Buddy gets it fired, not running all that well, but he declares it worthy.

Back in the garage, I stripped it down to the frame. Everything, and I mean everything, I looked at was bad. The seat base was a wood board, the gas tank was rusty, the exhaust had holes, the decent looking wheels were totally rotted inside, fork legs shot, and on and on. There was no way this was going to be an economical restoration, and going stock would make it even worse. I decided to build it as a Resto-Mod. That's what the car guys call one that pays homage to the original but with updated performance.

In addition to all the usual stuff, the R5 received a new set of wide alloy rims with stainless spokes, suspension upgrades, a trick K&N filter setup on the freshly rebuilt and jetted Mikunis, DG silenced chambers, and a Buddy-made electronic ignition. The paint, stock pattern but in Guards Red and Black was done by Gary Brown, custom painter here in Jax.

After many delays the Yamaha, now dubbed R5s was completed in spring 2011. I rode it and showed it off a bit, but was not happy with the chrome fenders and chain guard. The chrome just didn't look right. I took them off and had them powder coated in a satin silver that's a lot more subtle and doesn't detract from the paint. Then, to top it off, I installed a modified set of DG heads sourced from HVCycle.

There's a slide show of photos shot throughout the project, you can view it HERE.

This is how it looks today. How does it run? It's a ball to ride. Just like I remember from the old days. You gotta love a hot 2 smoker!

Front view. And rear, note the 1972 FL license plate, duly registered too.


The R5s restoration project was featured in an article in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle magazine August 2012 issue.