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MC Dispatch

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Found: 1979 Yamaha RD400F – Brand New and Still in its Crate!

by Scott Lees

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 RD400F in crate - web
Yamaha heaven: Hiding inside this never-opened crate is a brand new 1979 Yamaha RD400F 

If you thought the 11 brand new Norton Commandos we told you about unearthed in Belgium were cool, you need to check out this story. Instead of a cache of Nortons, Motorcycle Classics reader Scott Lees stumbled across a brand new, still in the never-opened crate 1979 Yamaha RD400F, the last year for this collectible 2-stroke classic.  

Scott found the bike at Britt Motorsports in Wilmington, N.C., resting just inside the front door of the motorcycle dealership, pushed up against a wall and being used as a table to hold racing trophies. A reading couch sits in front of it, all but obscuring it from view. It’s not for sale, and we’re told it never will be. That it exists at all is delightful, that it’s never even had its straps cut is incredible. Maybe someday it will be uncrated and set up on display. Until that day, we can all daydream about the opportunity to find a treasure like this of our own. Scott Lees writes:

RD400F behind couch - web
Here's where the RD normally sits, barely visibly behind a couch in the showroom at Britt Motorsports in Wilmington, N.C. 

Not For Sale at Any PriceIf it can be said that two large buildings, one each on either side of a main thoroughfare, are “tucked away,” then tucked away on the outskirts of Wilmington, N.C., are the shops of Britt Motorsports. To the right, the smaller of the two buildings houses the metric cruiser and metric custom side of the company, while the shop to the left displays myriad offerings from most of the Japanese manufacturers, including as my first sight on entry the Rossi R1 replica.

Also on display are a pair of old Yamaha two-strokes in passable street-ready condition, though one is clearly more passable than the other. As explorations continue, my eye notices an old Yamaha shipping crate, nestled in behind a couch and topped with an impressive collection of trophies. My examination reveals the banding has never been cut off; this crate still protects its original cargo, never yet revealed to light of day or human eye. Ah-hah … this requires detailed investigation!

1970 Yamaha DS6 250
Keeping the RD company is this 1970 Yamaha DS6 250. A 1975 RD250 is also on the showroom floor. 

By now, I’ve attracted one of the store’s very attentive salesmen, and as the conversation builds the history of this virgin crate begins to unfold. Mr. Scott Britt, the proprietor, is the son of a long-ago-retired Yamaha dealer who’d had this crate among the items in his inventory. Unsold when new, the crate languished in the proverbial corner until the store, and its inventory, were sold. Although the fate of our treasure becomes less clear at this point, the crate turned up years later in an auction. An old friend/associate of the senior Mr. Britt was in attendance, recognized the crate, purchased it in the auction, and promptly delivered it back to its rightful ‘home.’

RD400F in crate close up
Close up of the RD400F's crate. Does anyone know what color "NPW" is? 

Offered compensation, the gentleman refused, wanting only the satisfaction of returning the crate to his old friend’s son. Over the years the son built quite an enterprise; judging from the posters on the walls he has earned a national reputation in the metric custom business. But, he never lost his love for the bikes that started it all, as his in-store collection illustrates. None of the collection is for sale, apparently, and The Crate most especially is not for sale, not under any circumstance, and not at any price. Indeed, blank check offers have been politely declined.

Britts Motorsports
Britts Motorsports in Wilmington, N.C., home to the crated RD400F. 

From what other business could this tale be told? A long lost crate of widgets does not stir the soul, and would not an untouched 1967 Corvette 427 Tri-Power be off to the very next auction? But no, this spindly little Yamaha RD400F, still in its box, never seen, is not just a motorcycle; it is family, it is youth, it is freedom and discovery. It is a tribute to friends, past and present, and indeed to friends as yet unmet. And for all that, it is even more.

And, as the man says, it is Not For Sale … Not At Any Price. – Scott Lees