Best bets on tomorrow's classics: The Yamaha SRX600 got positive reviews but was ignored by American buyers
Little Miss Fit: The SRX600 got positive reviews but was ignored by American buyers.
Years produced: 1986 (for U.S. market)
Total production: 19,000 (worldwide)
Claimed power: 41bhp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 106mph (est.)
Engine type: 595cc, four-stroke single cylinder
Weight (wet): 176kg (387lb)
Price then: $2,599 (1986)
Price now: $2,500-$3,850
The mullet. Miami Vice jackets. Those ridiculous electric shavers that left behind a few millimeters of stubble.
The Eighties and fashion sins went together like the Ice Age and cold, and the motorcycle world wasn’t immune. Case in point is the American motorcycle mainstream’s indifference to the 1986 Yamaha SRX600.
While factory customs poured from showrooms like Falco albums from record bins — yes, even sludge like Rock Me Amadeus could become a No. 1 hit in the Eighties — domestic buyers ignored the tough and bold SRX like the 55mph speed limit signs of the day. Yamaha claims to have sold 19,000 units of the single-cylinder SRX, but it’s clear that all but a tiny fraction of those sales were in Europe and Asia.
The SRX, with throwback design cues such as clip-on-style handlebars and lack of an electric starter, was imported only one year to the United States.
"No one wanted a single, and no one wanted to kick-start a 600," says Tulsa, Okla., resident Phil Schreck, who camped out on his local dealer’s doorstep in 1986 to buy an SRX. "It was an oddball, but I couldn’t have cared less. It had beautiful lines, it handled well, it was light and it always did everything I wanted it to do."
Nearly 20 years after it hit the domestic market, the SRX600 has developed a long-overdue but well-deserved cult following in the United States. Vernon L. Curren, an SRX owner from Ohio, is among those wondering why Americans didn’t embrace the bike during the Eighties.
"It does everything right," says Curren, whose secondhand SRX has just under 24,000 miles on the odometer. "When starting it warm you can’t even look at the throttle, let alone touch it, or it’ll flood. Other than that, it does everything perfect."
That’s high praise, but it’s not out of the ordinary for the 600cc retro machine, which some rank among the best singles of all time. Designed by an engineering crew bent on putting a modern spin on the café racer theme, the bike combines a nearly unbreakable engine with handling about as good as anything that wasn’t a racing-only machine, outstanding braking and bare-knuckle styling.
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