Dumpster Diving for the Yamaha CT3

Joe Rankin revives a ready-for-the-scrap-heap Yamaha CT3.

| July/August 2012

  • Yamaha_CT3 Right Front View
    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
  • Yamaha CT3 Right Side View
    Often, Joe starts with no set plan in mind; one thing leads to another and eventually, he says, the result is a completed motorcycle.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Meters
    Joe’s not a fan of chrome, and anything he changes is done very subtly. Looking closely, it’s hard to tell what has been changed from stock, but suffice to say that almost every single piece of this CT3 has been altered in some way, even if it was just the removal of rough edges left behind by the manufacturing process.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Found Trashed
    Joe’s Yamaha CT3 as found.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Twin Plug head
    The twin-plug head allows you to move the plug lead from one plug to the next if one fouls.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3-10
    Joe cut his own foam, then carefully fit an aftermarket seat cover so the saddle, with its freshly powder-coated pan, would look brand new.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Left Side View
    True to his mantra, Joe meticulously cleaned every component, spending hours working with WD-40, mag wheel cleaner and Scotch Brite pads, using nothing but his two hands and plenty of elbow grease to bring a shine back to the aluminum.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Engine Left View
    Both engine side covers were flat-filed to remove deep gouges, then finished with progressively finer grades of sandpaper before being buffed with a polishing wheel.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Geers and Wheel
    Joe paid plenty of attention to the rear fender as well, welding the taillight mounting holes shut and removing the rib that originally ran from the back of the seat to the light unit.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky
  • Yamaha_CT3 Engine Right View
    Both engine side covers were flat-filed to remove deep gouges, then finished with progressively finer grades of sandpaper before being buffed with a polishing wheel.
    Photo by Kevin McKlusky

  • Yamaha_CT3 Right Front View
  • Yamaha CT3 Right Side View
  • Yamaha_CT3 Meters
  • Yamaha_CT3 Found Trashed
  • Yamaha_CT3 Twin Plug head
  • Yamaha_CT3-10
  • Yamaha_CT3 Left Side View
  • Yamaha_CT3 Engine Left View
  • Yamaha_CT3 Geers and Wheel
  • Yamaha_CT3 Engine Right View

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.



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