Custom of the Week: Yamaha WR450F ’81’ by Iron Cobras

IF YOU’RE A FAN of blasting big trail bikes down forest roads, the Yamaha WR450F is probably on your shopping list. And if you also love the brutal beauty of the early Paris-Dakar bikes, Evan Scott has built a machine just for you.

The man behind Iron Cobras has hooked up with Answer Racing to build a custom WR450F that amps up the retro rally raid vibe without sacrificing performance.

Despite his reputation, Evan hasn’t been a lifelong biker: he only got into riding about 17 years ago, and after a misguided obsession with modern sportbikes, he got into dirt riding and never looked back.

He now builds custom motorcycles and exhaust systems, with a growing sideline in metal fabrication, and caught the attention of the motocross gear maker Answer Racing.

“Answer contacted me about eight months ago,” Evan recalls. “I met with creative director Scott Sagud, and we came up with concepts for two Dakar-inspired bikes: one modern-style rally bike, and one retro bike.”

Evan and Scott worked together on concept drawings, blending the ideas each wanted to see in the builds. “Our focus was not only on making sure the bikes looked good, but also making sure they performed like the Dakar racers we were using for inspiration.”


The 2017 Yamaha WR450F is a good platform for a high-performance build. It’s a big trails bike with a punchy ‘reverse-slant’ engine—the same four-valve single used by its stablemate, the YZ racer. You also get fuel injection and electric start.

This WR450F is called ’81,’ and the name is a clue to where Evan and Scott got their ideas from. “The 1981 Yamaha XT500 Paris-Dakar bike has been on my inspiration board for a very long time,” says Evan.

“To me it’s one of the most classic racing bikes of all time. The huge desert tank, the gold rims, and the livery are just amazing.”

“I wanted to take a lot of those aspects and use them in our build. So we handmade the six-plus gallon tank out of aluminum, and incorporated the factory fuel injection.”

“The tank was one of the key aspects of the build for me: I wanted to showcase what I can do with metal shaping. It was a monster of a gas tank build, and took about a week and a half to complete.”

That beautiful tank, it’s worth noting, has no body filler on it. Evan painted it himself, right down to the classic Yamaha graphic.

The headlight on the original XT500 Dakar bike was tiny, but Evan wanted a big rally-style lamp. So he’s installed a Hella seven-inch LED and wrapped it with a vintage-look cowl.

At first glance, the big fenders look vintage too—but they’re actually new, and made from practical plastic.

“The seat is a custom unit we made in the spirit of any early 80s enduro bike: big, boxy and comfortable!” says Evan. “Then we rounded off the build with the item that Iron Cobras is best known for—a stainless steel exhaust system.”

It’s TIG-welded and sporting a custom heat shield and an internal spark arrester.

“The best part of the WR450F build was seeing everything come together,” says Evan. “And seeing the reaction from everyone at our partners Answer and WLF Enduro. That’s what kept me going.”

As is often the way, the worst part was the time pressure. “In the end, I wound up building both of the bikes in less than two months. I was literally putting the finishing touches to the WR450F six hours before I took off for The One Moto Show in Portland.”

Most show bikes get trailered to the venue, or ridden very carefully and polished thoroughly afterwards. The two Iron Cobras bikes, on the other hand, got thrashed. The journey from SoCal to Portland took a week, and here are the photos to prove it.

“It was difficult for me to see the bikes that I just finished building being ridden hard off road,” Evan admits. “It was a conflict between wanting to push them, but also see them make it to the show in one piece—which they did!”

“We wound up displaying the bikes just as they came from the trail—covered in dirt.”

We love glossy paint and gleaming chrome as much as anyone. But when bikes still look good after being used and abused, you know they’re something special. Nice work, Evan and Scott.

This article was first published on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.

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