Fans of vintage motorcycles have a chance to own something special. Crossing the Mecum auction block in January is this 1981 Yamaha SR500 that’s so new it’s still in the crate. Baby motorcycle. Never ridden. Is there a more sad short story?
The shiny machine hidden under the original factory wrapping is the road-going version of the Yamaha XT500 enduro. As Silodrome notes, the XT500 is famous for is durability and endurance. The bikes, with their 499cc single cylinder thumpers, won African rallies including the Dakar. And the XT500's dominance didn’t stop there as the late Swedish motocross racer Bengt Åberg took a modified one to the 1977 500cc Motocross World Championship and to a win in the 1977 500cc Luxembourg Grand Prix.
That race-proven rally motorcycle would be the base of the SR500 road bike.
According to Silodrome, when Yamaha produced a prototype in 1975, designer Atsushi Ishiyama noted that the motorcycle’s inspiration was Yamaha’s XS 650, itself inspired by British bikes. So the SR500 had good bones and looks that would make any vintage bike nut’s heart melt.
I mean, it’s certainly doing a number on my heart.
This awesome formula has seemingly worked pretty well for Yamaha. The SR500 was sold in various markets from 1978 to 1999, with its slightly smaller twin, the SR400, marching on to this year.
And the SR500 isn’t just a rally bike with turn signals.
Ease of use was a goal and while the SR500 doesn’t have an electric start, it does have a sight glass to aid riders in knowing the optimal cylinder position for starting. It also has a decompression lever that lets out some compression to make kicking the thing over a little easier.
That single thumper makes 31.5 horsepower; not fast but more than enough for a fun commute or for a jaunt down backroads.
Yamaha changed so little about these bikes over the years that the SR400 didn’t even get fuel injection until 2010.
This 1981 SR500H represents the final year the SR500 was sold in the States and Mecum doesn’t really explain why it was never uncrated and put together.
The listing simply notes that it was previously owned by Charles Hardin of Empire Cycle in Spokane, Washington. Regardless of why it was never even uncrated, the buyer gets a new vintage SR500 that’s been waiting to go home to be ridden for 40 years.
At bare minimum, I’d say put the thing together and enjoy its fantastic beauty. I could definitely see it being the centerpiece of a vintage cycle collection. Hopefully its new owner finally puts it together when they buy it from Mecum in Las Vegas on January 27, 2022.