For Sale! A #coronavirusbikebuildoff Yamaha from Francis Von Tuto…
The Yamaha SR400 is one of the world’s best-loved singles, an air-cooled Universal Japanese Motorcycle that’s been in production for some four decades. The engine is a four-stroke, two-valve, dry-sump SOHC unit with the frame’s downtubes doubling as the oil reservoir. Along with the SR500, the bike was essentially a street version of the Yamaha XT500 enduro, which one the first-ever Paris-Dakar Rally, but with styling cues that echoed the XS650. Said Yamaha in 1975:
“Our choice was to design [the SR] with a strong family image and a strong link to our first four-stroke, the XS650 twin, which was also inspired by British design.”
Enter our friend Francesco Tutino, an Italian-born motorcycle professional who lives in Brisbane, Australia, where he runs Francis Von Tuto Moto Works. We’ve featured several of his builds, including his Yamaha XT550 “La Lupa” and Honda CB400F scrambler. Francesco originally bought this SR400 as a simple commuter while his Harley was down for repairs:
“It was ugly, fitted with cheap accessories, tank was dented, badly resprayed, and I had no real interest in it.”
That said, he couldn’t deny that the bike ran great, started every time, and got him back-and-forth to work five days a week. When he got his Harley back on the road, the SR went into the back of the shop. There it may have sat, languishing for years, until an unexpected opportunity arose:
“One of my favourite builders, Roland Sands, started the coronavirus bike build-off and suddenly I decided to spend some time and effort to customise the neglected SR and participate to the build-off but on one condition: Use only what you’ve got in the shop! The only money I allowed myself to spend was on the paint, so make it good and make it quick!”
The result is the “Green & Gold” parts bin special you see here, sporting a Honda tank, SR250 seat, twin 18″ wheels, relocated electronics, custom fenders, LED accessory lights, and more. The bike is currently for sale in Brisbane, Australia, for $8000 AUD. Below, we get the full story on the build with photos from Tyler Alberti (www.tyleralberti.com) and Josh Ridgway (www.ridgiedesigns.com).
Yamaha SR400 Custom: In the Builder’s Words
Paid way too much for it — I bought only to commute to work while fixing my own bike. It was ugly, fitted with cheap accessories, tank was dented, badly resprayed, and I had no real interest in it.
Even though I’m not very kind in describing it, I had to admit that this SR wasn’t bad at all. I mean, it certainly didn’t look good, but had a healthy engine, and some money was invested right after I took it home: major service, carby kit, tyres, rebuilt forks and brakes. But apart from that, it wasn’t really worth any mention — good enough to hoon through traffic from northeast Brisbane to the central district and back five days a week. Started first kick every time and never missed a beat.
Soon after I had my H-D back on the road, the SR ran out of registration and interest. I left it sitting at the back of the shop for over 12 months. I thought about getting rid of it, but it didn’t look very good and it had already cost me too much, so what’s the point in trying to sell something when you know you’re going to get lowballed and lose money on it?
Then one of my favourite builders, Roland Sands, started the coronavirus bike build-off and suddenly I decided to spend some time and effort to customise the neglected SR and participate to the build-off but on one condition: Use only what you’ve got in the shop! The only money I allowed myself to spend was on the paint, so make it good and make it quick!
This is how the Francis Von Tuto build n.8 “Green and Gold” came to life, a 1985 Yamaha SR400 assembled with workshop leftovers! Allowing myself to spend only on paint and having limited time to complete the build, I had to be smart on which tank, seat, and other parts to use. I could make a fiberglass tail to fit…but I can’t spend on the upholstery. Same with the tank, can’t spend on missing caps or petcock.
The first element to come together was the seat, which was removed from an SR250 — it fit pretty nicely on the 400 frame. A real “love it or hate it” piece, since people seem to have mixed feelings about brown upholstery, but hey that’s what is available so…haters will hate! (I think the brown from the seat ended up dictating the colours of the whole bike.)
Once I had the seat as a starting point, I had to sort out the fuel tank. Between the few hanging on the wall, I had a Honda CD250 complete tank in very nice shape; it was a good bit shorter and the mounts were all different; the tunnel was pretty tight for the SR400’s main frame rail, which also functions as the oil reservoir, but I’m never short on stainless and aluminium sheets here at the shop, so it was only matter of getting my head around how to make it fit.
I cut the existing inner mount on the Honda tank so as to fit onto the SR frame rail, welded two front lugs to reach the existing SR tank holder, ditched the rubber and welded two coupling nuts into them to secure the front. At the back I had to cut the original Yamaha bracket and make a new mount; the new tank sits higher than the original, so I fabricated an aluminium cover to bring the lines down to seat level.
Following the chassis toward the back, the side covers have been eliminated and a custom electric tray with 4 amp mini battery replaced the conventional big lead acid one. The brackets, tray, and toolbox have been removed and the electricals, originally hidden behind the side covers, have been moved under the seat. Those two very characteristic big ears at the end of the seat were chopped off and the rear subframe now ends around the back of the seat. A mini guard holds the number plate.
For this bike, I liked the idea of having the same size tyres front and back. Once a new 4.50 18 was fitted on the front, none of the fenders I had fit any longer, so I handmade one from 2mm aluminium sheet: cut, bent, shaped, and welded together to fit nice and tight around the new 18 inch wheel.
The speedo gauge was kindly supplied by my mate Alex (Skinny’s Garage) and it’s originally off aDR650, which turned out to have pretty much the same mileage as the original one, and also a perfect ratio for these size wheels. It was side-mounted with a custom bracket to the lower triple clamp, and lucky enough, the tacho cable was the right length. Idiot lights are a Daytona alpha LED mini assembly clamped in the middle of the handlebar.
The headlight is a genuine 5 3/4″ Harley unit on a custom steel mount, while the tail light, brake, and indicators are very neat 3-into-1 LED solution by PBM.
The exhaust has been made using various bends from standard victory exhaust systems, ending in a slash-cut pipe to the right side of the bike, surrounded by an aluminium cover. It sounds “fairly noticeable.”
Once the rear subframe was sorted, along with the battery tray and new tank mounts, the bike was completely pulled apart. The chassis was powder-coated, the engine stripped of the sad matte black paint and coated in more appropriate heatproof silver.
The bike received a brand new chain and sprocket kit and the tinwork got sent to my mate Jimi Lucas from Extreme Dents. Together we sorted the best colours to match the seat, and green with gold stripes worked out pretty damn good (didn’t do it on purpose, but green and gold are actually Australian national colours).
For whoever is interested, this bike is up for sale ($8000 located in Brisbane)
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