Yamaha RD400 Resto-Mod by Atlanta Motorcycle Works

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

“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.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

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

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

• 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.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

• 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.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

The exhaust system has also been upgraded to custom expansion chambers, which are very similar to the Jim Lomas brand.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

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.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

Aesthetically, anything painted was stripped and powder coated to provide a durable, long-lasting, fade-free finish.

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special Restomod

• 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.

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  1. What a great read. Nice machine.

  2. Jan Sallings

    Beautiful bike. Very nice work.

  3. Michael N Beecher

    1979 Yamaha Daytona special motorcycle

  4. Michael N Beecher

    Hello interested in knowing if your Yamaha Daytona Special is for sale?
    If so what would it take to buy it ? Im from California
    Email [email protected]

  5. James G Salt

    1979 daytona special. what a beautiful bike. I loved mine. You may say i rode it hard. I road bmw’s for a living. rode my daytona to work everyday. One morning while riding in through
    the park roads in wash, dc I went off the road and wrapped it around a tree. Just damn. What an idiot I was. I’ll never forgive myself for that. At that time i had at least 500,000 of riding under my belt. Just young and dumb. I worked for Metro Delivery riding bmw’s all over wash, dc delivering things. We were the internet before the internet existed. Very cool job. I know I have more than a million miles under my belt. I always did well at Summit Point in W. Virginia.
    Very fun track. Keep it safe folks. rubber side down. Peace.

  6. Gary Worthington

    Absolutely love your restoration. Am currently doing the same bike up myself but haven’t the cash to do what you have done. Am going to use yours as a “what I would like to do” guide and will keep dreaming that I will win a lottery!

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