Throughout motorcycling history, we’ve seen manufacturers use a myriad of different methods in an effort to lure in customers. This little 50cc Yamaha is one of said methods. Interestingly, the RX50 was never officially sold in showrooms. Instead, American Yamaha dealerships were each given two RX50’s which were to be raffled off – the whole idea was to draw in riders to check out Yamaha’s Midnight Special range.
While this is admittedly a slightly unorthodox strategy, the tuning fork company was trying to think outside the box when it came to promoting its new V-twin Cruiser. With the rest of the Japanese marques largely uninterested in the cruiser segment, Yamaha saw an opportunity to further tap into the US market and nab a piece of the lucrative cruiser market which was dominated by Harley.
So in 1978, Yamaha’s higher ups green lit what was called “Project 003”. This was to be an all new v-twin model built from the ground up, utilizing modern technology (offset cylinders, rear monoshock, etc) packaged in traditional American style. Several years later and the Virago 750 would make its debut. Though the Japanese cruiser wasn’t an instant success, tweaks and changes over the years that followed lead to the Virago becoming a classic, not to mention an increasing acceptance of American-style V-twin cruisers from Japanese motorcycle companies.
Yamaha felt they had a solid product, they just needed to convince American riders to actually ride down to a dealership and check them out. Enter the RX50 raffle. While I wasn’t around when this happened, the fact Yamaha went through the trouble of designing a little bike that was then given away would definitely suggest the company was at least a tad desperate to promote the Virago.
The RX50 is powered by the same air-cooled, 49cc two-stroke single found in Yamaha’s YSR50 racer (making a claimed 7.5hp). This is actually important because, while the RX50 is a pretty rare little bike (only 2,000 produced in total), motor parts are readily available.
This particular RX50 example appears to be in pretty great shape. Its factory coat of black paint (the RX’s came in only black or red) is still clean, and the bike’s battery and tires were just changed. The sale of the RX also includes its original service manual.
You can find this 1983 Yamaha RX-50 Midnight Special for sale here on Craigslist in Knoxville, Tennessee with a price of $1,499.