Yankee 500 Z

Yankee motorcycle
When I first glanced at this bike, I thought it was a Yamaha. But no, it’s an obscure brand called ‘Yankee’. It came out of Schenectady, New York in the early 1970s, although this particular unrestored machine now lives at the Museu de la Moto in Spain. Which is something of a homecoming, because the engine is essentially a pair of OSSA two-stroke thumpers singles joined together. The Yankee brand was inspired by Dick Mann’s success on OSSAs in quarter-mile racing, and was set up by the OSSA importer. The chromoly frame and bodywork were built in New York, and around 760 Yankees were manufactured between 1971 and 1973. That short run is mostly due to the Yankee’s heavy kerb weight, but the bike pushed the boundaries in other areas. It was reportedly the first production motorcycle to have rear disc brakes and it also had a 6-speed gearbox. (If you planned to race the bike, you could lock out low gear to comply with AMA racing rules.) The engine was designed so it could be switched between the standard 360º to 180º crank timing. And the fork crowns were forged aluminum items produced by none other than Smith & Wesson, better known for its firearms. An odd slice of US offroad motorcycling history, and on an even odder note, a roadgoing Yankee was produced and sold in Spain.

Images courtesy of Phil Aynsley. Phil’s book Ducati: A Photographic Tribute, with a foreword by Troy Bayliss, is available from Amazon.

Yankee motorcycle
Yankee motorcycle
Yankee motorcycle
Yankee motorcycle