Words: Adam Nightingale | Photos: Jock Davidson
I came across this Yamaha WR500 only by chance. I was at a local wrecker that I frequent looking for parts for another project when the owner mentioned that he had something that may interest me. What he showed me was a very rough, but incredibly original ’93 Yamaha WR500ZE. It had been neglected cosmetically, looked like it had spent a fair amount of time living out in the elements. Close inspection revealed a very good core bike which retained a lot of original bits which would have normally been lost or discarded with a bike of this age. Clearly the previous owner didn’t know what he had and it hadn’t had too much of a hard life.
At the time I had just purchased a ’94 YZ250 and really wasn’t looking to do another project. I offered $1500 for the WR which in all honesty was quite cheap, so I wasn’t really expecting the call a few days later saying bring your money and pick it up! One problem though – where to get a quick $1500? A deal was done so I could organise some dollars. So after a very quick 6 week ownership of the YZ, it was sold and I picked up the WR a week or so later.
At the initial inspection it was clear to see a cracked fuel tank and a carby with a snapped float pin post. Missing was the hard to get white air scoop and the equally hard to find swing arm mounted side stand. It was going to be a mission! The rest was going to be pretty straight forward with the majority of the parts needed being readily available from Yamaha, which was quite a novelty after trying to find OEM parts for an IT465!
From the start, the intention was for this bike to be ridden. With that in mind, I decided to try powdercoating the frame, something I hadn’t done before. So it was completely stripped down so an accurate parts list could be collated. The frame was blasted and zinc coated and a fresh white finish applied. The swingarm and stand, hubs, triple clamps and handlebars were done as well. I was happy with the result but the real result will be how it stands up to the occasional ride.
The parts search was on in earnest. I contacted Yamaha Retro Spares and supplied a list of part numbers needed, and a few days later Jess emailed me with two biggies – a NOS fuel tank and NOS complete seat! The combined cost of both, over $1000!!! I quickly went to my wife on my knee’s pleading my case how I had to have the tank. Thanks to the great people at Retro Spares, a lay-by was set up allowing me to pay off these two rare items. I could now cross off the list the most needed and hard to find part! From then, it was clear that anything short of a nut and bolt restoration would look half done. And a re think of the riding time as well…
All the usual places were frequented looking for parts. A perfect white air scoop was found in the US along with a complete side stand. In no time at all I had secured the hard to get missing parts – someone must have been helping, as I anticipated the search to be much greater. At some stage the big Yammie must have decided to stand up on the back wheel and let loose, as the subframe had clearly been destroyed and the attempted fix not much better. A second hand item was found, along with a rust free rear shock and corrosion free rims. The Australia Post Parcel delivery contractor was on a first name basis with me by now – they were dropping off every day!
The internals of the engine were found to be like new – there was not a mark on the clutch basket from the clutch plates! This re-enforced my belief that the bike had an easy life. Everything was cleaned and checked, and what was serviceable was re used, which was basically most parts. It has had a new rod and bearing, rebore with piston and rings and new seals throughout the engine. I also had the Eric Gorr head mod done which is supposed to stop the pinging and make jetting it a bit easier. Mechanically and cosmetically it is brand new, with all new genuine plastics except the front guard which is NLA from Yamaha. It has a UFO replica on it, but once again Jess at Retro Spares was able to supply a NOS genuine correct original. It sits in a box with another complete set of genuine OEM plastics for later…
A huge parts order was placed with Powersports.com in the US which included just about every single item available. The list is extensive, NOS spokes, brake lines, levers, perches, master cylinders, nuts, bolts, brackets plus too much more to mention. I have kept all the parts bags, all of which fill up two shopping bags.
I had come too far, this bike had to look new again. Re-anodised rims, re built shock and forks, re chromed FMF pipe which was rusting away before. I was even able to get the original Bridgestone Gritty ED tyres they came with from new. A replica decal kit was purchased and re made in a quality thick laminated vinyl including the warning decals.
I honestly don’t want to know what this cost to build, it would be an absurd amount. There is a family holiday in there for sure, and I must thank my wife and children for letting me get completely carried away with this restoration. With supposedly only 1000 built worldwide, I plan on keeping this one for ever, and maybe one day when I’m gone, the kids will have something to really remember their Dad for!
So far I have only ridden it once to run it in. It is clear that it needs a bit of tuning, as these WR’s were renouned for, but when the carb is cleaned up and loosens up a bit, it will be a blast to ride. Long live the big bore two stroke!
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