“To go fast and not die, to smoke and not be broke, to stand the front wheel up at 12 o’clock, but still get you home after a long hot day of riding twisties.”
That was the single-minded purpose behind this 1979 Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special, a full nut-and-bolt by the crew at Atlanta Motorcycle Works. The ’79 RD400F was the last of the air-cooled RD two-strokes, and it was truly “Special.” Compared to previous models, the bike had a higher compression ratio, different piston and ring back, taller lower gears, and new Mikuni carbs. Peak horsepower was the same, but the bike packed more punch in the midrange.
Said Cycle in 1979:
“Innocent-looking, trim, petite, quiet—all of it’s a sham: the 400F encourages the unwary to go too fast, accelerate too briskly, stop too hard and wheelie too often. Anyone with the narrowest streak of anti-social behavior will find the RD the perfect conspirator. It is Dennis the Menace on Yokohama tires, and is the most fun street motorcycle currently available for sale.”
Growing up, the owner of Atlanta Motorcycle Works dreamed of owning a fearsome, 4-stroke-killing Daytona Special. When the opportunity came up to build one, he jumped at it. The shop’s team — all of whom were “corrupted by the love of vintage Japanese motorcycles” as kids — worked to retain much of the RD400’s stock aesthetic while pushing the bike’s limits in performance and reliability. The result is an RD400 restomod that can do it all.
Below, we get the full story on the build!
Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Atlanta Motorcycle Works started in 2011 to repair, build, and inspire the bikes from the 60’s to early 90’s. The shop had a humble beginning in the back corner of another business the owner operated. Since then we have overtaken better than half the building and will continue to expand as we get busier and busier! Our owner grew up with these bikes when they were new and wanted to amass his own collection in an effort to retake some of his childhood back. As for the rest of the shop, we all rode on our dads’ gas tanks as kids and were corrupted since then by the love of vintage Japanese motorcycles. Our guys have different tastes as far as brand loyalty and 2 stroke vs. 4 stroke, but we all love vintage Japanese bikes the same.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1979 Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special.
• Why was this bike built?
This was one of the most dreamt-about bikes for our owner as he grew up, and when given the chance to build it, he jumped at the opportunity.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
We wanted to retain as much of the stock look as possible, but we wanted to push the limits on performance, rideability, and reliability.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
This bike is a full nut-and-bolt restoration. Every single piece was removed, made new, or replaced with a better version. Most notably it has the SCR (Scott Clough Racing) radial heads, which offer higher compression and, as a result, more peak power.
The exhaust system has also been upgraded to custom expansion chambers, which are very similar to the Jim Lomas brand.
We also upgraded the rear suspension with some Hagon shocks, and installed Progressive springs in the front forks. It’s also been equipped with an electronic ignition system which drastically improves reliability versus the stock points and condenser setup.
Aesthetically, anything painted was stripped and powder coated to provide a durable, long-lasting, fade-free finish.
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Everything mentioned up to this point was painstakingly thought out, and done with a specific purpose in mind–To go fast and not die, To smoke and not be broke, To stand the front wheel up at 12 o’clock, but still get you home after a long hot day of riding twisties.