Third Time's A Charm

Yamaha’s YR3 represents the third and final iteration of the company’s first full-on 350cc sports machine paving the way for the iconic RD series of twins.
Back in 1966 it was very evident that Yamaha was rapidly getting behind when it came to machines over 250cc. Overboring the vertically split engined YDS series was only ever going to be a stopgap measure, but for a while it looked like it was Yamaha’s only answer to Honda’s CB77.

Following suzuki’s launch of the Super Six T20 it was obvious that the way forward was with something similar but bigger. Project YX03 delivered the genuinely new, if slightly quirky, YR1 and the company finally had a fully fledged 350 sports twin. The following year the engine and peripherals were revised to deliver the YR2 and for 1969 Yamaha rolled out the YR3.

The final YR3 model was a very different machine from the YR1 of just two years earlier. The engine still produced 36bhp, so was still very fast, but now with much less vibration, and a more usable power band making it easier to ride. Styling was updated, and the chassis although similar to earlier models, now handled very much better, especially two up.

The YR3 demonstrates Yamaha’s attention to detail and quality control, that would see them come to prominence in the 350cc market over the next decade or two, finishing off with the ultimate RD350LC YPVS model in the 1980’s. The adoption of electronic ignition, reed valves and, ultimately, water-cooling showed just how close the YR and RD street models were to Yamaha’s racing machinery – a fact not lost on customers!

If you were looking for a Japanese performance two-stroke from the golden era you could do a lot worse than a YR3; lively entertaining performance, quality running gear, simple robust electrics and excellent brakes.

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issued: Friday, July 02, 2021
updated: Friday, July 02, 2021

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