A California husband and wife rescue and rebuild an abandoned RD…
Introduced in 1973, the Yamaha RD350 (RD for “Race Developed”) was an evolution of the beloved R5 350, featuring seven ports instead of five and reed-valve induction — “Torque Induction” in company parlance. Yamaha claimed 39 horsepower at the crank, and the bike quickly developed a reputation as a giant-killer capable of embarrassing larger and more powerful machines. Famed motorcycle historian Clement Salvadori wrote of the RD350:
“The engine work made it a little more finicky to ride, but really more fun. You could set the tach at 5,500 in sixth gear and cruise at 70 mph, or keep the engine on the boil and howl along the back roads. The bike was weak on torque, but if the rider happened to hit the powerband in first or second gear, that front wheel would reach for the sky.” –Clement Salvadori, Rider
Motorcyclist put an even sharper point on the RD’s legacy:
“Dirty, foul-mouthed, deliciously quick and relatively affordable, it was (is?) a Giant Killer for the ages.”
Enter our friend Greg Tomey of California, whose RD350 cafe racer we featured a couple of years ago. Now Greg is back with this 1975 RD350B that he and his wife, Lillian Liu, just finished rebuilding.
The donor was in poor shape, an all-but-abandoned machine that Greg pursued for two years, determined to rescue the machine:
“[It was] a pretty sad soul that had been left sitting outside with a blown motor and flat tires in an artist loft area in downtown Los Angeles. A friend of mine had spotted it and I would leave notes on it for at least a two years before I finally got in touch with the current owner and basically told him I needed that bike and would take great care of it.”
Greg and Lillian took the orphaned RD under their wing, stripping it down for a complete rebuild that would include a new crank, cylinders, chambers, carbs, wheels, paint, upholstery, and more. Says Greg of the completed build:
“We just finished it the first week of March and have it tuned to near perfection and are looking forward to tearing up the California canyons in Spring.”
Below, we get the full story on the build straight from Greg himself!
Yamaha RD350: In the Builder’s Words
Hello guys and gals I hope you are doing well. I wanted to show off my latest build, a 1975 RD350B that my wife Lillian Liu and I purchased as a pretty sad soul that had been left sitting outside with a blown motor and flat tires in an artist loft area in downtown Los Angeles. A friend of mine had spotted it and I would leave notes on it for at least a two years before I finally got in touch with the current owner and basically told him I needed that bike and would take great care of it. We settled on a price of $1200 dollars and off it went for a complete tear down and rebuild.
We started off sending the frame and other black metal parts to be powder-coated in gloss black. The chrome was done by Van Nuys plating as well as a few dents removed and fender brackets welded solid prior. New wiring harness, all rubber grommets and bushings, turn signal lenses, headlight, Shorai lipo battery with a Ricks Electrics regulator/rectifier, electrical controls, EBC brake pads, drilled front rotor, brass swing arm bushings, Renthal flat track handlebars, bar end cafe mirrors, gauge decals, and many other parts were purchased from all of the current 2-stroke distributors such as Economy Cycle, Yambits, HVC Cycle, Spec II, and a few others.
The motor has been completely gone through with a new crank and bearing assembly, cylinders, Spec 2 chambers with Mikuni 30mm oil-injected carbs jetted 220/40, pod air filter, RZ crossover tube and intake, Sun Gold aluminum wheels laced with stainless spokes by the world famous Buchanan’s, polished hubs and Avon 110/90/18 rear and 90/90/18 front, 14 tooth counter sprocket with a matching 39 tooth rear.
The paint was done by The Original Coachcraft bodyworks in Fillmore, CA — Portuguese orange with original vinyl Yamaha decals finished with seven coats of clear. The seat was recovered by the famous Carmine Sardo Upholstery in La Crescenta, CA over a sandblasted and powder-coated seat base.
We just finished it the first week of March and have it tuned to near perfection and are looking forward to tearing up the California canyons in Spring.