1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod Is a Classic Dual-Sport Icon Brought Into the Modern Age

1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod 11 photos
Photo: Jonathan Thorpe
1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod
During its production run, the Yamaha XT500 held a legendary reputation in the dual-sport segment, even winning the very first Paris-Dakar Rally in ’79. It is a motorcycle loved and revered by countless enthusiasts around the world, and will always be remembered as one of the all-time greats in its category. Of course, the XT500 is also extremely popular in the custom bike world.
More often than not, you’ll see it used for classy scrambler builds that rework the cosmetic side of things quite heavily. The owner of the stunning XT pictured above wanted to go down a different route, though, so he opted for a restomod rather than a fully-fledged custom. As he’d been enamored with the dual-sport Yamaha ever since he was a kid, it only made sense for the model’s original spirit to be retained.

With his mind set on the restomod approach, he reached out to the talented Sean Skinner over at MotoRelic. Sean was briefed on the client’s vision and provided with a 1977 model of Yamaha’s XT500 lineup, which was to retain its factory look while gaining a ton of mechanical upgrades. The first step involved taking the classic Japanese dual-sport apart, then it was time for the real fun to begin.

For starters, the stock swingarm was ditched in favor of the longer and wider unit of a Suzuki PE250, so as to allow the installation of beefier rubber at the back. This swingarm conversion was obviously no plug-and-play affair, requiring the addition of custom spacers and some clever tweaking of the bike’s frame. Where the OEM shock absorbers had once been, we now see modern Ikon replacements with red progressive springs.

Measuring 15 inches (381 mm) in length, these bad boys are complemented by a YZ250’s repurposed forks and triple clamps up north. The forks have been lowered by around 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) to get the motorcycle’s stance just right, and the fuel tank’s front section was revised to ensure ample clearance. On unsprung territory, Sean’s work consisted of refurbishing the brakes and adding some fresh dual-purpose tires.

1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod
Photo: Jonathan Thorpe
He then moved on to the cosmetic side of things, first focusing on the XT500’s front end. A stylish headlight bezel was fabricated out of aluminum, then filled up with a bright LED headlamp from Hella. Right beneath it, we find a high-mounted front fender that’s been fabricated from scratch and secured in place via bespoke mounting hardware.

Things are equally spicy at the rear end, where you will find a second custom-built fender whose design matches the front unit. Sean had the subframe revised, adding suitable mounting points for the new fender and incorporating an LED taillight into the rearmost portion of the tubing. The seat placed up top appears to be completely new, but it was actually shaped out of the original padding and wrapped in black leather.

Counter Balance Cycles handled the upholstery, and the replaement aluminum side panels found on the flanks were supplied by Heiko Kuntze of Kuntzinger CNC. An aftermarket handlebar is located in the cockpit, sporting Oury grips, compact switches, and a CNC-machined brake fluid reservoir. Not much else has changed in that area, but the handlebar is complemented by a youthful set of billet off-roading foot pegs.

1977 Yamaha XT500 Restomod
Photo: Jonathan Thorpe
Sean really went to town when working on the creature’s single-cylinder engine, as well. While having it rebuilt, he added an SR500’s cylinder head and a brand-new flat-slide carb, with the latter sporting K&N air filtration technology. There are fresh seals and gaskets all-round, yet the coolest powertrain-related mod has to be the handmade exhaust system. According to MotoRelic’s mastermind, fabricating this part proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of this project.

Using stainless-steel, he fashioned a seamless high-mounted setup that works its way backward as a perfectly straight header. It eventually runs into a custom silencer beneath the seat, before splitting into two separate pipes whose tips point in opposite directions. Internal baffles were also added to keep noise at an acceptable level, and the soundtrack offered by this pipework is said to be delightful.

Last but not least, items such as the frame, swingarm, and engine covers have all been powder-coated by the specialists over at NV Coating. Knight’s Kustoms handled the paint job in the meantime, wrapping the bodywork in a silver base and graphics inspired by the XT500’s original livery. Those are done in red and black, making the whole color palette look absolutely delicious.

All things considered, Sean Skinner’s XT500 restomod is ready for many more years out on the road – or off it, for that matter. This is the sort of restoration treatment that a legendary machine like Yamaha’s dual-sport deserves, and we dig every last bit of it. Sean has once again proven he’s a master of his craft, among the finest that Uncle Sam has to offer.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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