Yamaha XT550 La Lupa Is a Story of Custom Revival and Overcoming Adversity

Yamaha XT550 La Lupa 18 photos
Photo: Tyler Alberti
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Francis Von Tuto isn’t the sort of guy who would ever shy away from a good challenge, even if it takes five long years to achieve the desired outcome. That’s precisely the amount of time he spent building La Lupa, the custom Yamaha XT550 shown in this article’s photo gallery. The bike was put together for a close friend named Rino, and making it happen proved challenging even for a seasoned specialist like Francis.
It all started back in 2015, when Rino came across a 1982 Yamaha XT550 online. To say the motorcycle was in a sorry state would be a gross understatement, though, because it came as a box of rusty bits which hadn’t seen any action in years. Von Tuto actually advised him against making this purchase, but the guy could not be deterred by any means.

He bought the decrepit classic dual-sport after a bit of careful consideration, handing it right over to Francis in order to be revived. And although he would need to wait until 2020 for it to reach its final form, his patience really paid off in spades! With the donor bike (if you could call it that) on the workbench, the first step was to get it running again.

Following a carburetor clean-up, some rewiring, and the installation of a new stator, Francis was able to bring its 558cc single-cylinder mill back to life. He was just getting warmed up, mind you, as the engine needed a lot more TLC before returning to its former glory. It was completely rebuilt with a fresh piston, connecting rod, and timing chain, as well as youthful seals and bearings all-round.

Turning his attention back to the intake, our protagonist had the XT550’s carb vapor-blasted and refurbished inside out. He then topped it off with a premium K&N air filter, but the exhaust side of things involved a lot more elbow grease. The custom pipework was fabricated out of stainless-steel, and it runs an intricate two-one-two configuration toward a pair of reverse megaphone mufflers.

Yamaha XT550 La Lupa
Photo: Tyler Alberti
These bad boys are placed right beneath the seat, while accompanying heat shields on the headers aid with temperature management. Moving on to the suspension sector, you won’t find a single piece of the machine’s original hardware here. At the front end, Francis installed the inverted forks and triple clamps of a YZF250, which was kind enough to also donate its rear shock absorber.

Furthermore, the Nissin brake caliper you’ll see up north was taken from the very same YZF, and subsequently mated to a new drilled rotor. In terms of footwear, La Lupa uses a YZF wheel hub at the front and the stock unit at the back, both laced to aluminum aftermarket rims measuring 19 and 18 inches, respectively. The hoops are enveloped in Dunlop K180 rubber fore and aft.

On the framework front, the XT550 saw its subframe shortened by 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) to keep rear end proportions nice and tight. Then, a thickly-padded custom bench seat was placed up top, along with dual-function LEDs on the flanks. All the standard bodywork once worn by this specimen was damaged beyond repair, so Francis took it upon himself to find some suitable replacements.

Yamaha XT550 La Lupa
Photo: Tyler Alberti
Center-stage, you will now find the fuel tank of a 1980 XT250, and the high-mounted fenders fitted on both ends came from a couple of unnamed Harleys. The rear mudguard supports a bespoke license plate bracket and is finished in gloss-black just like the front unit. On the other hand, the tank livery is a nifty reinterpretation of the original XT250 colorway and graphics.

To finish things off at twelve o’clock, the project’s author added carbon fiber fork sleeves, a potent headlight from Koso, and LED turn signals. The latter look like Motogadget bar-end modules, but they’ve actually been attached to the lower triple clamp on this particular machine. A bit further back in the cockpit, Von Tuto installed digital Daytona Velona instrumentation and a tailor-made handlebar clamp with integrated warning lights.

Rino’s custom XT550 has been completely rewired and blessed with an Antigravity lithium-ion battery, which lives inside a carbon fiber box below the seat. With the electronics refurbished, La Lupa could finally make its way back to the owner in a completed state, and the long wait only made this reunion that much better. As for the bike’s nickname, it literally means “she-wolf” in Italian – a sneaky reference to Rino’s hometown.

He was born in the Italian capital of Rome, so the sobriquet is a nod to La Lupa Capitolina (the Capitoline Wolf). According to legend, this is the mythical being that suckled the city’s future founders, Romulus and Remus, in their infancy. The name seems well-deserved by this resurrected XT550, which had seen more than its fair share of trouble prior to Francis Von Tuto’s makeover.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
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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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