Saturday, February 25, 2017

Yamaha TDR 180, a Brazilian makeshift approach to the overseas TDR 250

Brazil has always held some peculiarities when it comes to the local vehicles market, not just the cars and commercial vehicles but naturally the motorcycles too. It's important to point out there were restrictions against imports from '76 to '90, which in a market where motorcycles previously had been considered more like a leisure vehicle than an affordable commuter, low-displacement models were setting the change to that point of view. Stricter local content policies were also not so inviting to set a local production of a wider range of models in higher displacement classes, since not just the domestic market demand for them wouldn't justify the investment but the logistics to export most of the output posed as another challenge.
So, while a motorcycle culture was starting to ressurge in the '80s, the easiest way to provide newer models presumably more up-to-date with the international offerings was the adaptation of whatever locally-built engine available. One of the makeshift versions from that period is the '89-'93 Yamaha TDR 180, which relied on the very same single-cylinder air-cooled engine fitted to the DT 180 at that time instead of the liquid-cooled parallel-twin from the '88-'93 TDR 250 marketed elsewhere. It might be quite arguable that a milder version of the parallel-twin from the Brazilian Yamaha RD 350 LC could have been a better choice in order to retain a performance level more consistent to its purpose, but once again it's worth remember the Brazilian economy downturns right after the end of the military government, and then the choice for a cheaper engine to be shared with the DT 180 makes some sense.
Other cost-cutting measure that might spark further controvery is the rear drum brake, in opposition to the all-around disc setup fitted to its foreign counterpart. Though back in the day it didn't really seem to bother anybody so badly, now it's occasionally pointed as an example of disregard to Brazilian customers who were offered a supposedly "inferior" product much like the automobile industry still does nowadays. Nevertheless, in spite of any criticism that may arise against either its performance or other features, the Yamaha TDR 180 was actually an interesting development once we consider the context of the period it was introduced. And it still looks cool at all.


  1. I remember having seen one during a business trip to Bolivia about 15 years ago.

  2. I knew a drug dealer who had one of those in Puerto Suárez, traded for a small amount of cocaine.

  3. I haven't seen one of those for nearly 20 years.

  4. I only knew the TDR 250, but now they're a rare sight in Europe. Well, maybe the German pride for BMW Motorrad made it take longer for me to grow an interest into old school Japanese stuff.

  5. I actually own one of these, they were imported into south africa for a few years before the 1994 change of government. Sad to say the engine is in a sorry state, but I'm slowly overhauling it as finances allow...not cheap though as most new parts have to be imported. I'll be proud to have one of these rare bikes back on the road.

    1. What if I told you that I have already seen a handful of Yamaha DT 180 motorcycles adapted with Honda CG 125 engines?

    2. I have considered using other engines, and I even have another 125CC that would fit nicely, BUT I'll never do this for 2 reasons:
      1) this devalues a bike that is becoming a valuable collectors item in SA, and since I have an original engine I'd much rather put in the effort to fix it.
      2) you lose that beautiful 2stroke power band that tries to throw you off and keep going without you. 4 strokes are practical, but far less fun in the low displacement classes.

      Furthermore, I'm a big guy and a 125 4stroke just doesn't have the power needed to get me up to speed. If I was building the bike for my 45kg girlfriend, different story!

    3. Actually it's been a while since I saw a DT 180 with a 4-stroke engine swap, as it was done in another state. Sometimes I still see a fully original one in my hometown, but even the DT is becoming rare.

  6. Yes 2 DT180s and a spare TDR 180 motor... would love a reatored TDR 180 in either blue / yellow or Red / yellow.

    Basically the old 1977 to 81 DT175 bottom end with an entirely new top end which is basically half an RD350 (stroke same and uses RD350 pistons) makes sense since Brazil also made RD350s.

    A bit more torque but abt 2.5hp more than the global DT175 which is still sold in many parts of the world incl south Africa.


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