GP500.Org Part # 22200 Yamaha motorcycle windshields
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The history of Yamaha Motorcycles
"I want to carry out trial manufacture of motorcycle engines." It was from these words spoken by Genichi Kawakami (Yamaha Motor's first president) in 1953, that today's Yamaha Motor Company was born.
"If you're going to do something, be the best."
Genichi Kawakami
Genichi Kawakami was the first son of Kaichi Kawakami, the third-generation president of Nippon Gakki (musical instruments and electronics; presently Yamaha Corporation). Genichi studied and graduated from Takachiho Higher Commercial School in March of 1934. In July of 1937, he was the second Kawakami to join the Nippon Gakki Company.
He quickly rose to positions of manager of the company's Tenryu Factory Company (musical instruments) and then Senior General Manager, before assuming the position of fourth-generation President in 1950 at the young age of 38.
In 1953, Genichi was looking for a way to make use of idle machining equipment that had previously been used to make aircraft propellers. Looking back on the founding of Yamaha Motor Company, Genichi had this to say. "While the company was performing well and had some financial leeway, I felt the need to look for our next area of business. So, I did some research." He explored producing many products, including sewing machines, auto parts, scooters, three-wheeled utility vehicles, and…motorcycles. Market and competitive factors led him to focus on the motorcycle market. Genichi actually visited the United States many times during this period.
When asked about this decision, he said, "I had my research division chief and other managers visit leading motorcycle factories around the country. They came back and told me there was still plenty of opportunity, even if we were entering the market late. I didn't want to be completely unprepared in this unfamiliar business so we toured to German factories before setting out to build our first 125cc bike. I joined in this tour around Europe during which my chief engineers learned how to build motorbikes. We did as much research as possible to insure that we could build a bike as good as any out there. Once we had that confidence, we started going."
The first Yamaha motorcycle... the YA-1.
"If you are going to make it, make it the very best there is." With these words as their motto, the development team poured all their energies into building the first prototype, and ten months later in August of 1954 the first model was complete. It was the Yamaha YA-1. The bike was powered by an air-cooled, 2-stroke, single cylinder 125cc engine. Once finished, it was put through an unprecedented 10,000 km endurance test to ensure that its quality was top-class. This was destined to be the first crystallization of what has now become a long tradition of Yamaha creativity and an inexhaustible spirit of challenge.

Then, in January of 1955 the Hamakita Factory of Nippon Gakki was built and production began on the YA-1. With confidence in the new direction that Genichi was taking, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. was founded on July 1, 1955. Staffed by 274 enthusiastic employees, the new motorcycle manufacturer built about 200 units per month.
That same year, Yamaha entered its new YA-1 in the two biggest race events in Japan. They were the 3rd Mt. Fuji Ascent Race and the 1st Asama Highlands Race. In these debut races Yamaha won the 125cc class. And, the following year the YA-1 won again in both the Light and Ultra-light classes of the Asama Highlands Race.
By 1956, a second model was ready for production. This was the YC1, a 175cc single cylinder two-stroke. In 1957 Yamaha began production of its first 250cc, two-stroke twin, the YD1.
The first Yamaha to compete in America (1957).
Based on Genichi's firm belief that a product isn't a product until it can hold it's own around the world, in 1958 Yamaha became the first Japanese maker to venture into the international race arena. The result was an impressive 6th place in the Catalina Grand Prix race in the USA. News of this achievement won immediate recognition for the high level of Yamaha technology not only in Japan but among American race fans, as well. This was only the start, however.
Yamaha took quick action using the momentum gained in the USA and began marketing their motorcycles through an independent distributor in California. In 1958, Cooper Motors began selling the YD-1 250 and the MF-1 (50cc, two-stroke, single cylinder, step through street bike). Then in 1960, Yamaha International Corporation began selling motorcycles in the USA through dealers.
With the overseas experiences under his belt, in 1960, Genichi then turned his attention to the Marine industry and the production of the first Yamaha boats and outboard motors. This was the beginning of an aggressive expansion into new fields utilizing the new engines and FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) technologies. The first watercraft model was the CAT-21, followed by the RUN-13 and the P-7 123cc outboard motor.
In 1963, Yamaha demonstrated its focus on cutting-edge, technological innovations by developing the Autolube System. This landmark solution was a separate oil injection system for two-stroke models, eliminating the inconvenience of pre-mixing fuel and oil.
Yamaha was building a strong reputation as a superior manufacturer which was reflected in its first project carried out in the new Iwata, Japan Plant, built in 1966. (The YMC headquarters was moved to Iwata in 1972.) Toyota and Yamaha teamed up to produce the highly regarded Toyota 2000 GT sports car. This very limited edition vehicle, still admired for its performance and craftsmanship, created a sensation among enthusiast in Japan and abroad.

Genichi said, "I believe that the most important thing when building a product is to always keep in mind the standpoint of the people who will use it." An example of the commitment to "walking in the customers' shoes" was the move in 1966 by Yamaha to continue its expansion. Overseas motorcycle manufacturing was established in Thailand and Mexico. In 1968, the globalization continued with Brazil and the Netherlands. With manufacturing bases, distributors and R&D operations in a market, Yamaha could be involved in grassroots efforts to build products that truly met the needs of each market by respecting and valuing the distinct national sensibilities and customs of each country. Yamaha continues that tradition, today.
By the late 1960s, Yamaha had quality products that had proven themselves in the global marketplace based on superior performance and innovation. Distribution and product diversity were on the right track. But Genichi knew that beyond quality, success would demand more. He had this view on the power of original ideas. "In the future, a company's future will hinge on ideas over and above quality. Products that have no character, nothing unique about them, will not sell no matter how well made or affordable…and that would spell doom for any company."
He also knew that forward vision, walking hand in hand with original ideas, would create an opportunity for the company and its customers that could mean years of happiness and memorable experiences. Genichi said, "In the business world today, so many people are obsessed with figures. They become fixated on the numbers of the minute and without them are too afraid to do any real work. But in fact, every situation is in flux from moment to moment, developing with a natural flow. Unless one reads that flow, it is impossible to start out in a new field of business."
A real-world illustration of this belief is the Yamaha DT-1. The world's first true off-road motorcycle debuted in 1968 to create an entirely new genre we know today as trail bikes. The DT-1 made a huge impact on motorcycling in the USA because it was truly dirt worthy. Yamaha definitely "read the flow" when it produced
"Make every challenge an opportunity."
Genichi Kawakami
the 250cc, single cylinder, 2-stroke, Enduro that put Yamaha On/Off-Road motorcycles on the map in the USA. The DT-1 exemplified the power of original ideas, forward vision, and quick action coupled with keeping in mind the customers' desires.
In years to come Yamaha continued to grow (and continues to this day). Diversity increased with the addition of products including snowmobiles, race kart engines, generators, scooters, ATVs, personal watercraft and more.
Genichi Kawakami set the stage for Yamaha Motor Company's success with his vision and philosophies. Total honesty towards the customer and making products that hold their own enables the company that serves people in thirty-three countries, to provide an improved lifestyle through exceptional quality, high performance products.



Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA Cypress, California
Genichi Kawakami's history with Yamaha was long and rich. He saw the new corporate headquarters in Cypress, California and the 25th Anniversary of Yamaha become a reality in 1980. He also watched bike #20 million roll off the assembly line in 1982. Genichi passed away on May 25, 2002 yet his vision lives on through the people and products of Yamaha, throughout the world.
History Timeline of Yamaha (USA)
Year Yamaha Motor Origin
1955
The first Yamaha motorized product was the YA-1 Motorcycle (125cc, 2-stroke, single cylinder, streetbike). It was produced and sold in Japan.
Year USA History
1958 The first Yamaha Motorcycles sold in the USA were by Cooper Motors, an independent distributor. The models were the YD1 (250cc, 2-stroke, twin cylinder, streetbike) and MF-1 (50cc, 2-stroke, single cylinder, streetbike, step-through).
1960 Yamaha International Corporation began selling motorcycles in the USA.
1968
The DT-1 Enduro was introduced. The world's first dual purpose motorcycle which had on & off-road capability. Its impact on Motorcycling in the USA was enormous.
Yamaha's first Snowmobile, the SL350 (2-stroke, twin cylinder) was introduced. This was the first Snowmobile with slide valve carburetors.
1970
Yamaha’s first 4-stroke motorcycle model, the XS-1 (650cc vertical twin) was introduced.
1971
The SR433 high performance Snowmobile was introduced.
1973 Yamaha continued expansion into new markets by introducing Generators (ET1200).
1975
Yamaha pioneered the very first single-shock, production motocross bikes. This was the beginning of the YZ Monocross machines that changed motocross forever.
1976 The legendary SRX440 snowmobile hits the market and quickly catapults Yamaha to the forefront of the snowmobile racing scene.
1977
Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, was founded in order to better appeal to the American market and establish a separate identity (from music & electronics) for Yamaha motorized products.


1978
The XS1100 motorcycle (four cylinder, shaft drive) was introduced.
XS650 Special was introduced. This was the first production Cruiser built by a Japanese manufacturer.
Golf Cars were introduced in the USA with the G1 gas model.
1979
YICS (Yamaha Induction Control System), a fuel-saving engine system, was developed for 4-stroke engines.
1980
The new Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, corporate office was opened in Cypress, California.
The first 3-wheel ATV was sold in USA… the Tri-Moto (YT125).
The G1-E electric powered Golf Car model was introduced.
1981
The first air-cooled, V-twin cruiser, the Virago 750, was introduced.
1984
The first production 5-valve per cylinder engine was introduced on the FZ750 motorcycle.
Yamaha’s first 4-wheel ATV, the YFM200, was introduced in the USA.
The Phazer snowmobile was introduced. Known for its light weight and agile handling.
Yamaha begins marketing Outboard Motors in the USA.
1985
The V-Max 1200 musclebike hits the streets.
1986
Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America was founded in Newnan, Georgia.
1987
A new exhaust system for 4-stroke engines, “EXUP,” was developed to provide higher horsepower output throughout an engine's powerband.
Yamaha introduces personal watercraft...the sit-down WaveRunner and the stand-up WaveJammer.
Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Company begins Golf Car and Water Vehicle production for USA and overseas markets.
1992
The Vmax-4 Snowmobile (2-stroke, four cylinder) was introduced.
1994
Yamaha expands its product offerings by acquiring the Cobia boat company.
1995
The Century and Skeeter boat companies are acquired by Yamaha.
1996
Yamaha introduces its first Star model with the 1300cc, V4 Royal Star.
Tennessee Watercraft produces Sport Boats and later, the SUV WaveRunner.
1997
Yamaha acquires the G3 boat company.
At the Newnan, Georgia, manufacturing facility, the first ATV (the BearTracker) rolls off the assembly line.
Yamaha opens southeastern offices in Kennesaw, Georgia.
1998
The YZ400F four-stroke motocross bike was introduced. This was the first mass produced 4-stroke motocrosser.
The YZF-R1 sport bike was introduced. It set the standard for open class sport bikes for several years.
The Grizzly 600 4x4 ATV with Ultramatic transmission was introduced.
The EF2800i generator with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) was introduced. PMW allows use with equipment that requires stable frequency and voltage.


2000
The Buckmaster® Edition Big Bear 400 4x4 was introduced. This was the first ATV with camouflage bodywork.
2002
The F225 Outboard was introduced. It was the largest 4-stroke Outboard at the time.
The FX140 WaveRunner (1000cc, 4-stroke, four cylinder) was introduced. The world's first high performance 4-stroke personal watercraft.
2003
The RX-1 Snowmbile (1000cc, 4-stroke, four cylinder) was introduced. The world's first high performance 4-stroke Snowmobile.
2004 Rhino Side x Side model introduced. Combined performance, terrainability, utility capabilities, and take-along-a-friend convenience to lead the way in a new category of off-road recreation.

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