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Race Developed – 1985 Yamaha RZ500

Developed to capitalize on a 500cc GP championship, the RZ500 promised the world and then delivered.  For all its street equipment, it was a close to a Grand Prix machine as a generation would get.  Thanks to careful updates and maintenance, a new generation might now experience this 500cc machine with liter-bike power.

1985 RZ500 for sale on eBay

The RZ500 was known abroad as the RD500LC, Race Developed Liquid Cooled.  Beside 88 hp on a mid-400 lbs. package, the RZ500 was a technical marvel.  The short list – V4, twin crank, servo-controlled exhaust ports, close ratio cassette transmission, anti-dive forks, horizontal monoshock and alloy swingarm – all things found on Kenny Roberts’ YZR500.  The fact that it never was imported to the states has only increased its cachet, and this example has current California title.

More of a survivor than hangar queen, this RZ500 is mostly stock and very sharp for 30-plus years and 13,000 miles.  Carburettors and exhaust have been updated, but oil injection remains as well as un-restored fairings.  The owner says it sports a vanity plate, but the pictures don’t divulge.  From the eBay auction:

1985 Yamaha RZ500 original paint, It has 28mm TM carbs and expansion chambers on it runs very good, Oil injection intact and working as it should, All lights work, New chain, New battery, Tires are 80%, The front forks have the normal clear coat going away problem on the anti-dive valves, But you have to remember its 32 years old other than a few spots it is a very nice looking motorcycles also some stress cracks on the fairing lowers nothing that can’t be repaired but I decided to leave it alone as it still has the original paint.

Current California registration with personal plate that is very cool, I have stock exhaust and carbs also the air box and original cables and brackets, I have a complete set of rings and some gaskets, Also have at least ten motorcycle magazines with RZ500 articles, Also two sales brochures, I also have at least three sets of brake pads and a couple of brake rotors and some other parts, Yamaha service manual also, The bike has 21,326 kilometers on it a little over 13,000 miles, For sale in the USA only!!!! Always draws attention wherever I ride it.

Some compromises were made to road duty, like the wet clutch and engine’s balance shaft.  Period wheel sizing – 18″ rear with 16″ front, requires care when riding and shopping.  But it’s closer overall to the track than the street.  Most of the RZ500’s here made their way down from north of the border, though they were exported down Oz way and sold at home.  The road ready condition of this RZ might keep the price out of the stratosphere, but the left coast title, well considered updates and mostly stock presentation should spell a smashing ride for the next owner…




  • WOW! Nary a comment on the bike that spawned the hooligan smoker craze? Yep the Gamma’s had this, or the K’models had that. In the day, this bike made the hooligans happy, and then some. Water pumpin’ two cycle, V mill, chamber’s, what could be better?
    America! &%#$ Yeah! (with the help of our forward thinking brethren over yonder…
    Enjoy the mightiest 500 Yamaha (street-based) we shall ever ride,,,!

  • What the hell is up with those ridiculous fork preload caps? I realize the stock parts are included in the sale.

  • I think the lack of enthusiasm reflects the market being punch drunk from all the high priced big smokers coming up for sale – and the fact some of the bikes have been bought by well heeled punters that have over paid and are speculating on the future prices being even higher.

    Higher prices mean squat without buyers, and personally I feel the number of buyers with $15 to $20K on hand willing to spend on the RZ/RG/NS trio is not as large as eager sellers believe it is.

    I am sure the idea of paying $20K for a big smoker means the buyer has an expectation to sell it for an even higher price at some point.

    All the above being said, this is a nice clean looking 500, and good luck with the sale 🙂

    For me the shine of the old smokers is beginning to wear off at these elevated prices and to be honest, a new CBR1000RRSP2 or Yammi R1M or BMW HP4 with all the technology to play with seems better use of $20K+ in a motorcycle.

  • Hi I own this motorcycle and yes the fork caps do look strange just never got around to changing them as I have six other motorcycles, 79 Honda CBX 1973 Kawasaki H2, 1985 RZ350, 1971 Yamaha RT1 360 enduro, 1973 Kawasaki F7, and a 1971 Yamaha CT1, I also sold the first 1972 Kawasaki H2 in Santa Barbara Ca so I have been around as you say ons smokers all of my life and these bike are way cooler to ride than your model R1 or BMW that are worth what when you roll them out of the showroom this RZ500 has over 3500 views and more than 250 watchers so there is obviously some interest ride your R1 to bike night it looks like all of the other bikes when I ride this RZ500 or my H2 there is always a crowd checking them out and taking pictures and asking lots of questions so yes I’m old school and long live the old smokers!!!!!

    • You’re talking to RZ500 owners and we do know what bike nights are like. It’s better to be on the inside looking out.

      As a collector and restorer, and an owner of a pair of RZ500s, an RG500, NS400R and others, I watch values and sales closely, including yours. Prices are definitely climbing as middle-aged well healed blokes look to reclaim a bit of their wasted youth. Watches and views don’t equal sales, unfortunately.

      The bike looks to be in good shape with some honest wear and uncomplicated reversible mods. I suspect the bids will go higher as the auction nears an end. Some serious buyers will prefer perfection and 100% stock, so that may put some off. The preload adjusters look like skewers and I’d be afraid to ride the bike with them like that. Some potential bidders may have a similar view. Perhaps putting the original fork caps back in and putting that issue to rest will garner more bids. Installing the grab bar wouldn’t hurt either, or get RZV500 rear panels. Overall though, a nice bike and always a pleasure to see another one here.

    • Steve, have you had your bike over at the RZ500 owners group at RZRD500.com?

      Every now and again we get folks looking for good clean RZ/RD/RZV500’s that join and ask if anyone has one for sale.

      For the record I don’t own any 4 strokes at the moment. Last diesel I owned was an RC45. Currently only have 2 strokes – RZ500, NS400, TZ250, RS250 and a couple YZR500 replica project RZ500’s. My comment as a current 2 stroke owner is that personally at the $20,000+ price range that some folks want for the their NS400’s, RZv’s and RG’s (prices that can readily turn a bike into a static display rather than a rider) – a new full spec 4 stroke superbike with a full compliment of modern electronics, such as an HP4 or SP2 or R1M is more attractive to me, 🙂

      I also hope you get what ever price you want as it does keep the market somewhat buoyed and means if I ever do decide to sell any of my smokers they will be bargains even at $10,000 each LOL

  • Welcome to RSBFS Steve – that’s a nice looking RZ. Good luck with the sale!


  • Sold for $15,900. Congratulations to the seller and to the new owner!


  • Could have traded my ’85 RZ350 for one of these back in 1988. 🙁 We both used them as transportation back then! I sold the RZ350 for $1500 in 1989 and it was flawless.

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