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The Yamaha 550 XZ: the Pantah beater from Japan

Yamaha 550 XZ

The Yamaha 550 XZ: the Pantah beater from Japan

One of the first motorcycles where the designers must have thought, "Let's now assume that a motorcycle engine block doesn't have to look the way it normally does". The liquid-cooled V2 therefore also had no futilities such as cooling fins. But oh well: hadn't Scott come up with that idea in the year jar?

Incidentally, the Yamaha 550 XZ was not the first four-stroke V twin that Yamaha made

When the Yamaha 550 XZ was introduced in 1981, the market already knew the XV 750 and the 1000 cc TR-1. The TR-1 are currently often and definitively killed by turning it into café racers and scramblers. We just have to delve into terms such as 'Bobber' and 'brat style'. The 750 was a bit chopper-like. The TR-1 was a friendly tourist. But the Yamaha 550 XZ was of a different caliber: it really had to compete with the well-selling Pantah 600. But that turned out differently. In practice, the Pantah turned out to be a better steering, nicer motorcycle. In addition, the Yamaha had many problems with carburation. There were too many 'dead spots' in the breath of the Mikuni BD 34 carburetors. And the generous amount of electrical wires and things was also not an example of reliability. The ignition and dynamo also caused too much inconvenience.

The V-twin with a block angle of 70 degrees was a pretty high tech thing by the way

Each head had two camshafts driven by silent chains, four valves per cylinder and a balance shaft. That smooth, cooling finless block was the result of a lot of thinking by engineer Isao Koike and the GK Design Associates research group. And that team wasn't too bad to call in Cosworth and Porsche for the block and the (cardan) transmission.

A very good container

All that effort resulted in a silent shifting gearbox. A motor with cardan drive that switched so quietly? It had not yet existed until then. and a power of 64,4 hp at 9.500 rpm. And compared to the competition that was not wrong. The 600 cc Ducati Pantah produced 58 hp and the Kawasaki GPZ550 had a power of 61 hp.

Also nice: the Yamaha steered and braked well. Technically, part of the cradle was removable to facilitate the expansion of the block and of course the Yamaha 550 XZ Cantilever had rear suspension. At the front, the dynamic Yamaha naturally had dual discs in the spirit of its time. At the rear, a conventional drum brake provided friendly assistance.

Ha! Lights!

If you turned the ignition on, the dashboard became a cheerful light show. All lights! Because that was modern. Once on the road, the Yamaha 550 XZ is a pleasant partner if you don't compare it with a Pantah. In the second series of XSs, Yamaha had, moreover, cleverly taken a step aside to prevent further confrontation (and loss of face) compared to the Pantah: the 550 cc twins were given a generous shell that made it clear to the world that there was a dynamic touring motorcycle . Not from a Pantah beater.

Thanks to Ben van Helden - - for using the ghost view

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