By Tom White
Motocross mania swept America in 1968, and the Baby Boomers were searching for a cheap, effective and high-tech entry into the sport. Introduced at the 1967 Tokyo Motorcycle show, the Yamaha DT1 was just what the Boomers were looking for. Priced at $580, $400 less than the Husqvarna 250, the DT1 offered a level of reliability that the Swedes could only dream of. In addition, Yamaha offered a GYT kit (Genuine Yamaha Tuning kit) to increase the power from 21 to 30 horsepower. Yamaha hired professional racers to showcase the DT1 and, in February of 1968, two months before the machine was released, Keith Mashburn notched the first race win for the Yamaha DT1 at the Ascot TT.
Later in 1968, Yamaha hired Don Jones and his boys, Gary and Dewayne, to develop the bike for motocross. Don later said, “The GYT-kitted DT1 didn’t make enough power, the frame was better for trail riding than motocross, and the suspension was marginal. We cut the frame, lowered the engine, added gussets, modified the forks and replaced the shocks.”
Gary Jones would win the 1971 National Championship on a DT1-based works machine and, in 1972, 16-year-old Marty Tripes won the Superbowl of Motocross on the next generation. For the European brands, the writing was on the wall. It said, “Japanese motocross bikes are here to stay!”
1968 YAMAHA 250cc DT1 FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
Of the over 5000 1968 DT1’s built, only a handful remain unridden. Yamaha of Japan has one in their museum. The DT1 shown here is from Tom White’s Early Years of Motocross Museum. It has 46 original miles. It is valued at $20,000! Expect to pay $10,000 for a nicely restored example.
In 1968 the DT1 250 was the only model introduced. In later years, DT1 spin-offs would include a DT1 250 MX (21-inch front wheel and factory installed GYT kit), AT1 125 and AT1 125 MX, CT1 175, and the RT1 360 and RT1 360 MX.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The 1968 DT1 is much more collectable than later models. Unique on the ’68 model are a tach that is smaller than the speedo, a fuel tank that bolts on with a bracket underneath, a magneto cover which is held on to the engine cases by screws, and there’s a small stinger on the exhaust system.
It is possible to find some mechanical parts at old-line Yamaha dealers.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com