It was the end of a decade and the end of an era for the biking world. It was time to say goodbye to the air-cooled, two-stroke engine due to restrictions and regulations being placed on all types of vehicles so they could be compliant with the new environmental restrictions coming down the pike. Yamaha blew out the conclusion of the 70s with a huge bang when they released the RD400F Daytona Special.
Today, when motorcycle enthusiasts think back to what bikes make the cut for being on the list of the best of the best, for Yamaha, the consensus gives that honor to the Daytona Special. Living up to its name, it still holds a special place in the history of motorcycles and in the hearts of riders around the world.
Paying homage to Yamaha’s racers’ success over the previous couple of years, the Daytona Special was born.
While other makers totally abandoned the idea of a two-stroke engine in favor of the more powerful four-stroke, Yamaha decided to give the two-stroke one more last hoorah. And motorcycle enthusiasts are still thanking them for that decision.
Surprisingly, even though it was before the regulations for emission standards were strictly enforced, the Daytona Special met those standards. It features many new innovations that put Yamaha on the map with this quick bike that might have been small in stature but packed a powerful punch.
The Daytona Special did this because:
A covered cylinder head helped reduce emissions while allowing for a cooler running, quieter engine.
The carburetor came with extra linkage.
It was more fuel-efficient because there was a shorter rotation between engine revolutions.
It had a modified exhaust manifold that helped to cut down on the emission of unburned hydrocarbons.
The Daytona Special was also a standout due to its color scheme. A white body with black accented red racing stripes gave it a look to let the world know it was not to be messed with.
Some of the other new features offered on the Daytona Special that made it a standout include:
A lowered seat.
A bigger gas tank.
The ability to take corners more efficiently because of repositioned footpegs.
All of these improvements from previous Yamahas increased the price significantly. Though it was a two-stroke, it came in at a price similar to the larger four-strokes.
Though producing improved emissions, the bike did not loose any of its spunk, and riders were there for it.
Though the Daytona Special was living proof that a two-stroke bike could meet the new emissions standards that had been set for motorcycles, the industry abandoned them after Yamaha’s last stand. The reason that makers abandoned the two-stroke seems to be because it was more cost-effective to make the larger four-stokes compliant with the new environmental standards.
Over four decades later, the Daytona Special is a very coveted bike by motorcycle enthusiasts. They are so coveted because many of them were basically driven into the ground over the years as their owners tried to emulate the famous Daytona racers the bike was named after; therefore, they are not easy to find.
However, occasionally lucky bike lovers can find a Daytona Special that has been well taken care of or simply stored away for years that will come up for grabs at auction. Then the fun begins as the bids go up to astronomical heights in comparison to the original price tag of under $2,000.
Recently, a Special was uncovered in a garage, and it had an unthinkable 8.1 original miles on it. This particular bike went for around $7,000. Another was discovered in its factory crating, and it went for an unbelievable $21,000. These numbers and collectors’ responses to these bikes again prove just how special the Daytona Special continues to be in the hearts of motorcycle enthusiasts.
While the Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special marked the end of an era for two-stroke engines, it did not go quietly into that good night. Instead, it ushered the 70s out with a bang.
The Daytona Special was not only a fun bike to ride, but it also showed the world many new innovations. It showed the world that, regardless of popular opinion, a two-stroke engine could meet the new, stricter emission standards and still offer its rider a good time.
Though Yamaha did fall into conformity and followed suit by going forward producing only four-stroke models, it ended the two-stroke era by leaving the world with a bike that truly lived up to its moniker: it was a special motorcycle, indeed.