I have an inherited an old motorcycle. From what I can tell, an early 70's Yamaha 2 stroke. The gas has varnished, and the oil has been sitting for 40+ years. It has been sitting in a closed area, so the damage is minimal for the age. It needs some surface rust removal, the engine condition is unknown, it needs a new seat, and it needs new paint. I can tell some parts would be better off replaced than fixed (like the chain and sprockets)

Where do I start? I am sure there is a proper way to restore a vehicle like this. Should I start with the engine, and make my way towards the aesthetics (like paint and leather) or should I move in a "front to back" motion.

Any tips from this type of project are helpful. I am too scared to kick the kickstart in fear of breaking something

  • Pictures would be nice!
    – Moab
    Jul 21, 2018 at 14:49
  • im travelling right now but when i get back, i will definitely post pictures. sorry for the delay!
    – colbyt
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:31
  • 7 months later... we're still waiting on that photo ;) Jan 27, 2019 at 23:18
  • I have put the project on hold. I have been unable to find parts, and the parts i do find are ridiculously expensive. I have ripped that thing apart, and the main issues are the stater/electrical assembly. I will take some pictures though, you seem eager to see my progress :)
    – colbyt
    Jan 29, 2019 at 4:46

2 Answers 2


These are the steps I would take:

  1. Clean and assess
  2. Start by making it safe to be worked on. Re-assess
  3. Aim to make it run. Re-assess.
  4. Aim to make it rideable
  5. Aim to make it legal.
  6. Make it reliable.
  7. Make it beautiful. (Optional)

    1. Clean off dirt and dust. Spray penetrating oil on nuts and bolts you will be undoing. WD40 is awesome.

    2. Means is anything loose? Can you move it around safely? Pump the tyres up. Check that cables and levers move and brakes work.

    3. Remove spark plugs. Spray some WD40 into the cylinders. Try and turn it over gently. Strip and clean carbs. Drain and replace oil and filters. This could be a dozen posts on its own. Work towards getting it started.

    4. Assuming its a runner: before you try riding it make sure tyres, brakes suspension, cables, chain and sprockets are all adjusted and working. Engines get you into trouble. The other stuff will keep you out of trouble. (And hopefully hospital)

    5. Lights, indicators, horn etc to make it road legal.

    6. General maintenance. Change engine oil, keep checking bearings, cables, chain etc. The more you do ahead of time the less time you'll spend pushing it home.

The order of steps above gives you the chance to reassess and decide whether it is worth committing more time and money. Cleaning is cheap and simple. Paint and cosmetics are expensive and require skill to get good results. You want to be confident the bike is worth the investment before committing to the next stage.

How far you go and where you stop is up to you and will be limited by your time, resources and funds.

Be patient. Be gentle. It's an old bike, and it's likely things will be seized or rusty and things will break. Just keep at it.

  • Surely 2 and 3 should be the other way around - why spend out on making it safe if it won't run again?
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 21, 2018 at 11:18
  • Is WD40 a penetrating fluid or a water displacing fluid? As a penetrant PlusGas is much more effective - there are others...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 21, 2018 at 11:28
  • you should try plusgas or similar - you won't believe the difference...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 21, 2018 at 11:37
  • @SolarMike ive never seen it in NZ but keep an eye out for it :) Jul 21, 2018 at 11:39
  • the tires hold air, somehow. i was going to spray powerfoam (amsoil) into the cylinder to clean it out in there. im not sure if its seized or not, whats the best way to check for that? without risking damage
    – colbyt
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:33

What do you mean by “restore” - are you going for “concourse” ie better than original factory, or a re-built fancy gleaming weekend rider or just legal back on the road?

Until you clarify there is no answer - concourse means taking it apart ie every last nut, bolt, washer then cleaned checked painted finished and rebuilt

Weekend as above but less so

Back on the road just means tires, brakes oil change, fuel system clean, lights checked and passing its roadworthy test...

  • restore to me meant "back to safe, working condition" and also pretty. I imagine its going to be hard to make like factory as im sure it has lead paint or tires that arent made anymore
    – colbyt
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:34
  • A friend re-built a 1973 Norton to concourse so it is well possible, re-chromed parts etc etc
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:37

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