Against All Odds: 1971-1972 Yankee 500Z

Comparing the Yankee 500Z and its main competitors, the Husqvarna Baja Invader 500 and the BSA B50SS Gold Star.

  • Yankee 500Z.
    Photo by Phil Aynsley
  • 1969 Husqvarna Baja Invader 500.
    Photo by John Ker/Motocross Action Magazine
  • 1971 BSA B50SS Gold Star.
    Photo by Robert Smith

Yankee 500Z
Years produced:
40hp @ 6,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed:
488cc (72mm x 60mm) air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 9:1 compression
Transmission :
Dry clutch, 6-speed gearbox, chain final drive
349lb (w/half tank fuel)
Price then/now:

Motorcycle entrepreneur John Taylor was nothing if not persistent. His continual cajoling of Spanish motorcycle makers led to some of the best small bikes sold in America; and to Taylor’s personal dream machine, a big enduro bike that anticipated the dual-sport boom by a quarter century.

As U.S. importer in the early 1960s, Taylor persuaded Bultaco to produce the 200cc (later 250cc and 350cc) Matador street-scrambler for the U.S. market. He even came close to owning the CEMOTO/Bultaco factory in Barcelona. But what he’s best known for is the 500cc twin-cylinder dual-sport bike that was made in America and bore the brand Yankee.

Challenges ahead

Taylor needed all his persistence to bring his bike to market. First shown to the press in 1967, the Yankee 500Z took another four years to get into production. No doubt OSSA (the small Spanish firm contracted to make the Yankee drivetrain) were distracted by their own Grand Prix ambitions, and by the death of their star rider, Santiago Herrera, at the Isle of Man TT. Then once production started, Yankee was hit by the Nixon administration’s decision to abandon the gold standard, which devalued the dollar, doubling the import price of the OSSA powerplant. Lesser men would have quit, but Taylor pressed on with his state-of-the-art design.

12/3/2020 3:34:57 PM

A two strike twin with 6 speeds ! I bet that was a hoot to ride, and oh my, the sounds and smells of two stroke and smoke 😁😁. Way ahead of it's time, and I want one !!

6/5/2020 11:02:58 PM

I saw 9 of these last year at the Isle of Man Vintage race last year. They were in a museum parking lot where the riders were taking a break. The whole island is covered with vintage equipment ridden from everywhere. On the ferry over from Belfast, we met a group of New Zealand Kiwis that had brought their bikes by ship and were going to spend the week riding the course - a public road 6 hours a day even during race week. Don't miss the Jurby museum at the North end of the island. The IoM is an incredible good time.

5/31/2019 11:31:13 AM

I got my buddies new Yankee Twin stuck in "a puddle" in the summer of 1971. When I got it out of the "puddle" last week, everyone had already gone home. Go figure...

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