Maybe it was the fact that Mick Woollett’s book about Yamaha was published in 1984 that interested me since a lot of great bikes were built in the eighties; or maybe it was that two of my favorite motorcycles were Yamahas.
Or, maybe it was simply that Woollett produced a dandy little book that chronicles the growth of the company of crossed tuning forks from building organs and pianos to producing innovative road and dirt motorcycles and world-beating racing bikes.
In the space of only 63 well-illustrated pages, Woollett traces the company’s origins from its founding as a musical instrument producer under founder Torakusu Yamaha to creation of the motorcycle division in 1955 that produced the first YA1 125 cc two stroke singles.
That model established the company’s engineering credentials with reliability and even racing success. It was soon followed by the 175 cc YC1 and by 1957, Yamaha designed an all-new twin, the YD1.
By 1960, production reached 138,000 units, primarily on the strength of domestic sales. By the mid-1960s, production for export markets to Europe and North America soared and interest in the brand was fanned by racing success of privateers riding the TD1 production road racing bike and the introduction of the Autolube system, which ended oil/gas mixing hassles for their two-stroke bikes.
In 1973, Yamaha motorcycle production topped one million and during the decade, emphasis began to shift from two-stroke to four-stroke engines. Results on the early four strokes were mixed with the TX 500 and 750 twins, XS 750 triples not being particularly successful commercially. In the early 1980s, the Yamaha line did find success with the XV V-twins and XJ DOHC inline fours.
Woollett covers Yamaha’s striking successes in racing quickly but well, including some great images of Yamaha’s early road racing world champions Jarno Saarinen, Phil Read, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Steve Baker and Johnny Cecotto. Motocross champs Danny La Porte and Neil Hudson are featured as well.
The book does an efficient job covering Yamaha’s contemporary road-going two strokes and four strokes, motocrossers, trials bikes and even finds room for the three-wheeled ATVs so popular back then.
- Title: Yamaha
- Author: Mick Woollett
- Published: 1984
- Publisher: Arco Publishing, Inc., 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
- ISBN: 0-669-06165-0
Note to readers: many of the books that we’ll feature here may be out of print and some may be difficult to find. That could be half the fun. The Internet should make the search relatively easy but ironically, none of the books currently scheduled for eventual retro-review for the Rider’s Library section were found with the help of the Internet. They all were found at book stores, used book stores, antique shops, motorcycle shops, yard sales and so on.