The Making of Little Giant: The Yamaha PW50 Story

Little Giant: The Yamaha PW50 Story is now available on RevZilla’s YouTube Channel (embedded immediately below for your convenience). We Went Fast produced it with Baltimore-based Early Light Media. For the story behind the movie’s origin and making, read on!

SETTLE IN, WATCH THE MOVIE!

The PW50 Story. Again?

At first, I wasn’t into the idea of making a movie about the PW50. I had just told that story and I was just coming off that high you get from crossing the finish line of a time consuming, yet very rewarding, project. Not long after I published the written and audio versions of “Little Giant: The PW50 Story”, RevZilla called to ask about adapting the article into a documentary.

Part of me was done and ready to move on to a completely different adventure. Plus, I had reservations about regurgitating the same story. So, I asked for some time to think about it. Hitting pause helped me discover a fresh spin.

Around the same period, readers and followers had been sending me links of Yamaha PW50s they had found for sale in all parts of the country.

1982 Yamaha PW50 Listing from a We Went Fast follower
This 1982 Yamaha PW50 was one of many listings sent in by We Went Fast readers. Pretty sure it was found submerged in the Atlantic Ocean.

I appreciated the shares, and I opened every single one, but I didn’t know what to do with them. Yamaha sold 400,000 of their bulletproof PW50s between 1980-2020 so they’re not exactly rare. And the pipeline for used models won’t dry up anytime soon. One, however, caught my eye; a 1981 in Riverside, Calif. and it looked to be in original and mint condition. The $1700 asking price was over five times what my father paid for the 1981 PW50 he bought me in December 1982.

The classified ad from the Yamaha PW50 my dad bought me in 1982. 38 years later, I responded to a listing for the same model year bike for the exact same price for my own kid.
The classified ad from the Yamaha PW50 my dad bought me in 1982. 38 years later, I responded to a listing for the same model year bike for the same price ($325) for my own kid.

I went as far as asking the person who sent me the link if he’d be willing to pick up the bike. I even negotiated with the seller, who agreed to come down to $1500. Then, I slept on it.

The next day, I passed on the bike. Where’s the story in buying what looked like a museum piece? I’m not a collector. And what in the hell would I do with a 40-year-old motorcycle? These listings, however, weighed on my mind and gave me the idea to find one that needed work, that needed to be saved. It had to be a 1981, the same model year I started on.

Surprisingly, two popped up, both within driving distance of Baltimore. One didn’t run and looked to be in rough shape ($300). The other ($1200) was in excellent condition but when I checked the frame numbers, I had to break the news to the seller that he had a 1982, not a 1981 model (1982 model year PW50s begin with frame numbers 4X4-2… First model year PWs begin with 4X4-0…).

The 1981 model had been sitting in an eastern Ohio barn for over 20 years when a young man in Pittsburgh bought it. But, after a few months of sitting on it, realized he didn’t have the time to work on it and listed it on Marketplace. I happened to be looking at the right time.

The project bike I bought for the PW50 Story. The seller didn’t give me much to see..
A duck with no bill... From the listing of the 1981 PW50 I bought for the project.
A duck with no bill… From the listing of the 1981 PW50 I bought for the project.

I wanted a project bike anyway, one that helped us tell a better story; legend says anyone can get a PW50 running again and I wanted to test that, with the help of Fredericktown Yamaha in Frederick, Maryland. It had been about 20 years since Ian Riley restored a PW for his own daughters. Between the two of us, we had cautious confidence.

I won’t give away too much of the film, which runs for almost 29-minutes and ended up being the ultimate daddy/daughter experience. We got the bike running and my daughter Daphne, 7 at the time, got her first taste of riding a motorcycle.

The end of this story connects with the beginning of my own: I taught my daughter how to ride on the very same bike I started on, 38 years later.

Meanwhile, After the Cameras Stopped..

Viewers with keen ears may notice an odd knocking sound coming from the engine. We finished the rebuild the day before we were scheduled to ride the bike. Nothing gave us reason to crack the cases so we left that part of the engine alone, hoping we could get through the riding session with Daphne.

When the shop staff at Fredericktown Yamaha had time to inspect, they found broken clutch pieces floating around inside, which caused the knocking sound.

Parts were literally floating around the inside of the engine and the bike still ran! It’s no wonder PW50s from every model year ever produced are still being bought and ridden by first time riders all over the world.

Enjoy the movie. Thanks for reading and watching. Support We Went Fast by shopping at wewentfast.com/shop. All products are inspired by dirt bike stories.