One reason that we love the Yamaha SR400 so much is that it’s a throwback to an older, simpler era of motorcycling, when bikes were air-cooled with carburetors, twin shocks, and no magic button to fire them up — you had to kick them to life. Launched in 1978, the Yamaha SR500 and shorter-stroke SR400 were street-oriented versions of Yamaha’s Dakar-winning XT500 enduro. They had two-valve single-cylinder engines, made about 32 horsepower (SR500), and were destined to become some of the beloved street thumpers of all time.
A testament to the SR’s popularity is the sheer length of time it’s been available. The SR400 remained in production from 1978 to 2021 — that’s right, this is the last year of the SR! Even more impressive is how much the new bikes resemble the originals. Besides the addition of fuel-injection and other emissions-related updates, the SR400 remained incredibly true to the original concept over a 43-year lifespan.
Recently, we got in touch with the founders of Garage94, a custom workshop based in Seoul, Korea. Co-founder Usuk tells us that Korea’s motorcycle culture and industry isn’t as well developed as many other nations, as the country was still recovering from the ravages of the Korea War during the 1960s, when motorcycle popularity exploded in other countries. Parts availability and expense can be an issue for vintage bikes. Fortunately, there are shops like Garage94 who are nurturing the custom / vintage motorcycle scene in South Korea:
“We promote various cultural events related to motorcycles, as well as performing motorcycle custom work and maintenance services. Among them, the race event called 카멜레이스 (Camel Race) is our representative event. It’s a festival for owners of custom motorcycles with the same vintage dirt bike theme as the motorcycle you see here.“
Though it may look like it came out of a Yamaha factory in the late 1970s, the bike you see here is actually based on a 2006 Yamaha SR400. The Garage94 crew went with a “vinduro” or “VMX” theme, extending the front suspension travel, lacing up a 21-inch wheel, fabricating one-off fenders and fender brackets, mounting up a Yamaha CT175 tank, outfitting the bike with an 80s Honda skid plate, and much more.
The result is a modern four-stroke masquerading as a 1970s enduro — a bike that blends the modern reliability of the legendary SR with the nostalgic style and charm of the original Yamaha DT series. It’s the perfect mount for Camel Race (#카멜레이스), and has served to help Garage94 take their workshop and events to the next level.
“Thanks to this bike, we received a lot of production requests in Korea, and thanks to that, we were able to successfully complete our various events as well.”
Below, we talk to co-founder Usuk for the full details on this “retromod” SR400.
Yamaha SR400 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I am a custom builder based in Seoul, Korea and co-founder of a motorcycle custom shop called Garage94. In our workshop, besides me, there are two builders and a mechanic. We promote various cultural events related to motorcycles, as well as performing motorcycle custom work and maintenance services. Among them, the race event called 카멜레이스 (Camel Race) is our representative event. It’s a festival for owners of custom motorcycles with the same vintage dirt bike theme as the motorcycle you see here.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The base model is Yamaha’s 2006 SR400.
• Why was this bike built?
This motorcycle was made as a customer project, and above all, it went through several modifications to find the best silhouette.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design concept is a combination of vintage and sophisticated sportiness.
Korea is a country where motorcycle-related industries and culture have not developed as much, because during the golden age of motorcycles, the country was still overcoming the aftermath of the Korean War. Therefore, many younger generations who are part of the retro boom look for vintage bikes, but hardly any parts can be found in their own country. Because of these circumstances, it was not easy in reality to restore a perfect vintage bike.
So, in order to satisfy their needs as much as possible, Garage94 makes it our main task to buy parts from various places abroad and combine them to make a single vehicle as beautiful as possible. This build is also the result of that business. Especially in the production process of this bike, the sophisticated taste of the owner is added, giving it a unique style — different than any other motorcycle we have made.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
On this bike…
- Manufacture of a front suspension extension kit.
- Daytona scrambler handlebar.
- Built a 21-inch front wheel
- 5.75-inch Bates type headlight
- One-off front and rear fender brackets
- 70s Yamaha CT-3 fuel tank
- 70s Yamaha XT500 tail light
- 80s Honda skid plate
- One-off front and rear fender
- Rear subframe work
- One-off side panel
- One-off headlight stay
- One-off seat
- One-off manifold
- Overlacing swingarm
- Pirelli Scorpion off-road tires
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
A lot of happy things happened after the production rather than during the build itself. Thanks to this bike, we received a lot of production requests in Korea, and thanks to that, we were able to successfully complete our various events as well.