A nostalgic trip back to the 70s with an iconic, competition-only TT500…
It’s always a thrill to feature the first bike from an upstart builder, particularly when it’s as staggering and well-executed as this Yamaha TT500 tracker from VZMC Customs. Shop founder Claus works out of an old tin barn on his property, which doubles as clubhouse for him and his riding buddies. Besides the bikes themselves, the barn houses four decades of motorcycling paraphernalia, collected from a lifelong obsession that began with a Honda CT70 and ranged through racing days at Mosport and twenty years of project bikes.
When it came time to create an ace calling card for VZMC Customs, Claus wanted a nostalgic trip back into the glory days of 1970s California — the world so many of us imagined while ripping around on our boyhood dirt bikes:
“If I had to name the concept it would be “California Dreaming”. A nostalgic trip back to the ‘70’s with an iconic competition only TT500. Build it as close to period as possible, strip it bare, hot rod the hell out of it, and make it go as good as it shows.”
“I pictured the bike back in the day, roaming little surf towns, parked at Carlsbad for the USGP, cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, and disappearing into the Malibu hills. All things I imagined as I rode my ’79 XR80 when I was a kid.”
Below, we get the full story on this dreamy TT500 tracker.
Yamaha TT500 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. I grew up in the seventies when every other house in our neighborhood had a mini bike parked in the garage. My brother’s “Mighty Green” CT70 would be my first ride, and a low pipe XR would be my first bike. In the early eighties I watched my first motorcycle road race at nearby Mosport and passion turned to obsession. Hannah and Ward posters came down and Lawson and Rainey posters went up.
The next time I visited Mosport was as a participant. Since that time I have focused on competition bikes from all disciplines of riding, and have been fortunate to experience many iconic machines, both on road and track. I built my first bike almost 20 years ago and have always had a project on the go ever since.
My workshop is an old tin barn I recently renovated on my property. It also serves as a “clubhouse” for me and my riding buddies, and it houses almost 40 years of motorcycling paraphernalia I’ve collected, and more than a few bikes.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1977 Yamaha TT500
• Why was this bike built?
It was built to act as a calling card for my upstart VZMC Customs, and to showcase my design talents.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
If I had to name the concept it would be “California Dreaming”. A nostalgic trip back to the ‘70’s with an iconic competition only TT500. Build it as close to period as possible, strip it bare, hot rod the hell out of it, and make it go as good as it shows.
I pictured the bike back in the day, roaming little surf towns, parked at Carlsbad for the USGP, cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, and disappearing into the Malibu hills. All things I imagined as I rode my ’79 XR80 when I was a kid. The exhaust design was based on my old XR. The paint design came from Yamaha’s own iconic Speed Block, with a coat of candy taken from my brother’s Hot Rod magazines.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Complete engine rebuild with: Wiseco high-compression piston, high performance cam, high performance valve spring with titanium valve keepers, ported and polished, oversized Mikuni carb, modified oil line feed.
- One-off Hindle Exhaust
- Complete Rewire
- Flanders #10 Flat Track Bars
- Renthal Road Race Grips (safety wired)
- Vintage YZ250 kill switch
- Custom headlight switchgear with integrated CRG mirror
- 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 brake master cylinder and caliper with stainless steel line
- EBC Contour 300mm wave rotor
- FJ600 forks, detabbed and polished, race prepped
- Custom built triples and risers by Ripplerock Racers
- Custom paint by Jensen Custom
- One off custom seat by Tuffside
- Sun aluminum rims with Buchanen stainless spokes
- Pirelli tires
- Works Performance custom built shocks
- Custom aluminum skid plate, foot pegs, and shift lever
- Frame detabbed, shortened, powdercoated
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
No one thing stands out. Happiest with how all the pieces came together and how true to my original design the project stayed.
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