Dumpster Diving for the Yamaha CT3
Joe Rankin revives a ready-for-the-scrap-heap Yamaha CT3
Saved from the dumpster, Joe treated the 171cc 2-stroke CT3 with his custom touch. “I don’t really like the term ‘restore,’” Joe says. “Instead, I refurbish to my taste and change things to what I think might have been, or could have been, a hot rod factory version of the bike.”
Photo by Kevin McKlusky
1973 Yamaha CT3
Claimed power: 16hp @ 7,500rpm
Top Speed: 65mph
Engine: 171cc air-cooled 2-stroke single, 66mm x 50mm bore and stroke, 6.8:1 compression ratio
Weight: 214lb (97kg)
Fuel capacity: 1.8gal (6.8ltr)
Price now: $800-$1,500
Tough. That single word best describes the character of the motorcycles that live in Joe Rankin’s garage.
Joe Rankin is the kind of guy who has a hard time turning away crippled classics, and a perfect example of the rolling wounded he adopts is this 1973 Yamaha CT3 that landed in his shop, even though he didn’t want it. As Joe tells it, his buddy Tommy Gupton had the Yamaha out on his farm, where it was quietly languishing. “He kept offering me the bike and I really didn’t want it,” Joe says. “It was going to be tossed into the dumpster.” When Joe finally showed up to collect the Yamaha, his first reaction was to agree that maybe the dumpster was exactly where the bike belonged. Ridden hard and put away wet, it was rusty and crusty — but Joe loaded the sorry hulk into his truck anyway.
A few pieces were AWOL, and when Joe asked if the headlight bucket or other missing parts might be somewhere in the barn, Tommy began searching. He couldn’t find the bucket, but he did find a pair of extra Yamaha gas tanks up in the hay loft, and Joe threw those in the cab of his truck.
“On the way back home we started to hear a buzzing noise in the truck,” Joe says. It turned out one of the gas tanks was home to a hornet’s nest, and after a panicked stop Joe and Tommy bailed out. Joe carefully transferred the tank to the bed of the truck, and nobody got stung.
The 2-stroke engine takeover
In the early 1970s a different kind of buzzing could be heard; it was the sound of 2-stroke Japanese motorcycles zipping around on streets and trails across the U.S. While Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki all had their share of 2-stroke, dual-purpose machinery, Honda — at least at first — didn’t join in the 2-stroke wave, opting to power their smaller bore trail bikes with 4-stroke engines. But for the other big three Japanese makers looking to claim their share of the market, 2-strokes were a preferred choice, smaller, lighter and less expensive to produce than a 4-stroke.
Because 2-stroke engines are typically compact and light, the machines they powered became popular for recreational and personal use. It didn’t take long for street/trail bikes like the Yamaha CT3 to find favor with buyers both young and old. With increased ground clearance and tires that offered at least a semblance of offroad grip as well as some onroad performance, street/trail motorcycles gave many riders their first taste of mechanized freedom, first in the dirt, and then on the street.
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