Classic Yamaha 650 Donated to the National Motorcycle Museum


In the past twelve months nine motorcycles have been donated to the National Motorcycle Museum’s permanent collection. One that many of us know and grew up with is a dark red and white 1971 Yamaha XS650 donated by the Tom Watters family, natives of Anamosa, Iowa. Purchased new and kept for over 40 years, in Tom’s words, the machine still means a lot to him:

“This 1972 Yamaha was donated by Tim, Tom and Mary Ann Watters to the National Motorcycle Museum in memory of their parents George and Mary Watters of Anamosa, Iowa. Tom bought the bike in 1972 while in college at the University of Iowa and chose the 650 because he wanted a bigger, faster and more durable ride. Tom kept and rode the bike for 41 years because it reminded him of his college days and youth–some of the happiest days in his life. His motorcycle career ended in September 2013 in a near fatal motorcycle crash riding his Harley Soft Tail Classic. Based on the urging from his brother Tim for Tom to stop riding and donate the Yamaha 650 to the National Motorcycle Museum, he did so and now other people can enjoy this wonderful piece of motorcycle history.”

Tom’s Yamaha will get a good cleaning and wax job and be put on display in the Museum. It’s a classic, most would agree is based on the very successful designs of Edward Turner and his Triumph parallel twins of the late 1930’s and beyond but with disk brake and overhead cam upgrades.

*Do you have a motorcycle, or motorcycle memorabilia that that you would like to donate for display at the National Motorcycle Museum? We can tell you how motorcycle donation can benefit you.  Please let us know what you may want to donate by calling 319 462 3925, or email us at

Featured Motorcyclist: Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Extreme Motorcycle Customizer and Builder



The impact that Ed Roth had on people with any gear head tendencies back in the 1960’s is probably immeasurable, but it must be huge. Impressionable, we picked up car and motorcycle magazines at the newsstand, or saw Roth’s work on the shelves of hobby shops in our home towns, Revell plastic model kits to build. Maybe we were lucky enough that our dads or big brothers took us to a car show where we saw Beatnik Bandit or any of his made-from-scratch two, three and four wheel creations. If you got to watch him air-brushing t-shirts you probably met Rat Fink, his scary but lovable green beast.
You might call his impression on us mind expanding; Ed Roth knew no limits to what fun transportation could look like, or how long a motorcycle fork or sissy bar could be. People were already removing fenders from bikes and old Ford roadsters and coupes, but Roth showed us far wilder machines. He mastered the torch, hammer and dollies as well as molding fiberglass into shapes there were no prototypes for. Cardboard, styrofoam and wood helped him form his sculptures, refinement of the shapes led to final molds. A trip to the junkyard inspired as well, and offered the powerplant and axles, maybe a steering wheel. Metalflake paint and outrageous combinations of transparent paint and wild pin-striping and upholstery, finished off his work. But there were also extreme wheel and tire setups.
Everywhere Big Daddy went he attracted attention because he was so “out there,” taught us by example there are no rules when you are building custom bikes and cars. In fact, the overall message was that being different or weird was okay, and being a Fink or a Weirdo was cool. It was a lesson some of us never forgot, probably benefitted from. When you visit the National Motorcycle Museum you can see Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s creativity in his Buick powered three-wheeler, Asphalt Angel and numerous pieces of original artwork and even a period film being screened. He was gone in 2001, but will never be forgotten.