The venerable Yamaha XT600 is one of those motorcycles that everyone seems to like. After almost two decades of production, this simple but rugged enduro disappeared from the showrooms in 2003—but it’s still readily available on the secondhand market.
One of the XT600’s biggest fans is Francesco Torricella, who runs the delightfully named Italian workshop Sartorie Meccaniche. The affair started when he bought a 1980s-vintage XT600 as a non-runner for just €500, and it wasn’t long before the bike was back on the road.
“We fixed the basics to make it run, and used it for a summer trip around the hills of Tuscany and the Cinque Terre [the rugged coast of the Italian Riviera],” Francesco says. “I learnt a lot from the bike and fell in love with its engine and simplicity—but I found the weak points pretty quickly too.”
Despite the poor brakes and ‘marshmallow’ suspension, he saw potential. “This bike has something special—after all, it made Dakar history!—but it’s asleep inside.”
Once summer was over, the Sartorie Meccaniche crew set to work. They detabbed the frame, fitted a new rear loop, and painted it in Lotus’ classy grey Storm Titanium color. The engine was fully rebuilt and slotted in, with a few modifications.
The XT600 was supplied with numerous engine options, but luckily, Sartorie Meccaniche found themselves with the most powerful 45hp variant. After removing the heavy electric starter, the cases were refinished in wrinkle black and the covers polished. A carburetor re-jet made the most of pod filters and the custom free-flowing exhaust, also finished in black.
To bring the suspension into the 21st century, Francesco has grafted on the front end from a modern Honda CRF450. Braking is boosted by Kawasaki Ninja components. There’s an alloy chainguard from the German aftermarket specialist KEDO, and a bigger sprocket at the back: “Easy wheelies and more punch!”
The most inspired choice, though, is the tank. It’s from a 1950s Motom, an obscure Italian marque that specialized in small-capacity bikes. The paint is BMW’s ‘Atacama Yellow,’ usually found on the Z4 sportscar, and gives the bike its name—Atacama Seicento, meaning 600. (The lightning bolt is a tribute to AMA motocross legend Bob ‘Hurricane’ Hanna.)
As always, the little details are just as important as the big picture. The headlight is a fog light taken from a 1960s rally car, turned 90 degrees before mounting, and was designed by Pininfarina. The rear fender is from a Ducati Monster. There’s a keyless Motogadget ignition system, and behind the custom seat unit, a beautiful Wrenchmonkees x Sandqvist tool roll.
The XT600 is now much lighter, brakes better, and handles better. “Obviously it’s not a Dakar bike any more,” says Francesco. “But it’s a super fun bike.”
I’d put it in my own garage in a shot.