Red Dragonfly - Tondo Garage XV1000

In the early days of Yamaha’s venture into motorcycle production their YA-, affectionately known as the Akatombo or Red Dragonfly, paved the way for the companies racing future. It was the first Yamaha to wear their iconic tuning fork emblem and earned the respect of the motorcycling world by vanquishing the top podium position from its competitors during the 1956 Asama Highlands races in Japan.

As a homage to the legendary story of the YA-1 and Yamaha motorcycle’s rich racing history Walter Castrogiovanni and the team at Tondo Garage modified their own Yamaha, an XV1000 Virago and named it ‘Akatombo’.

“This motorcycle can be divided into three parts that are different in style, but well blended.” Walter explains. “The front end with its enveloping fairing represents the 1950s & 1960s, the fuel tank is pure 80s’ racing and the slim, streamlined tail represents the styling of modern sports bikes.”

Since the laid back, cruiser styled XV1000 was never intended for any kind of track use (what so ever), sourcing ready made bodywork was never an option. The only solution that Tondo had available was to fabricate the parts themselves, but first they would have to modify the Yamaha’s frame to suit.

Transforming the XV from a cruiser to a race bike necessitated raising the rear end and leveling out the bikes slouched bone line. After throwing away the stock subframe a new bolt on item was mocked up before the final pieces were laser cut from steel and welded together. The new, simplified subframe uses little more than 4 parts welded together with strength retaining, triangular slots to keep weight to a minimum and reduce visual bulk. A laser cut Tondo Garage logo and LED brake was also incorporated into the subframe's design.

With the frame levelled out Tondo customised the bikes suspension to finalise its new stance. To further raise the rear end a taller shock absorber was installed while up front the stock forks were swapped out for a set of sportier Suzuki GSX-R items wearing their original twin disc brakes and 3 spoked rim. Both wheels were wrapped in grippy Metzler rubber to round off the bikes handling upgrades.

Taking inspiration from the aforementioned racing decades, Tondo moved on to the task of building the fiberglass bodywork. Their custom half fairing front end wraps back around the top of the engine to disguise the XV’s unsightly fueling system and features an offset, integrated headlight for an unmistakable touch of Enduro racing style. The tank and tail were formed as a single, monocoque unit with the fuel tank incorporated into the design and a clear resin side strip laid for quick fuel level assessment.

To form an appropriate riding position for their sporty XV Tondo have fit clip on handlebars to the GSX-R forks and a set of aftermarket rear set foot pegs. As for the XV’s v-twin engine it remains mostly untouched. Thanks to the huge weight savings of the new subframe, bodywork and a lithium-ion battery the bike already pulled much harder than Yamaha had ever intended. To squeeze a bit of extra power out of it and to continue their sporty theme, a custom pie cut 2-into-1 exhaust header was fabricated and installed with a compact muffler from Arrow Exhausts.

As for the bikes paintwork Tondo wanted a theme that suited its aggressive styling. Their research led them to the Japanese made Yokosuka K5Y bi-plane known as the Akatombo or the ‘Red Dragonfly’. Using the Akatombo’s base colours of orange and red they laid a vibrant rising sun themed paint scheme bordered by white pinstripes and bearing a Kenji styled typeface spelling out their workshop name. Finally, to add another touch of racing style, Akatombo’s seat was covered in blue suede leather and the handlebars fit with matching blue foam grips.

We’ve seen plenty of naked, cafe styled XV1000s in the past, but this fresh approach from Tondo Garage has us looking differently at the old Yamaha v-twin again. Perhaps a bolt on kit could be in the pipeline from Tondo? We certainly hope so.

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