‘Simplicity, carried to an extreme, becomes elegance’ and perhaps no Japanese motorcycle has ever proven that more true than the humble Yamaha SR400. The design credo behind the development of the motorcycle in the mid ’70s was ‘easy to use’, but the SR400/500 range went further than that. It was also an attractive bike with its classic styling and a fun machine to ride with that punchy single cylinder. So it made perfect sense that the SR was front and centre when the cafe racer revival really took off, and powerhouse brand Deus Ex Machina utilised the humble Yamaha like no other. So, to celebrate the end of an icon, as 43 years of production of the SR400 finally came to a stop in 2021, Deus Tokyo has built this stunner known simply as ‘The Last Tilt’.

Sold from 1978 to 2021, the Yamaha SR400 had one of the most successful production runs of any motorcycle in the history of the business. Penned by Atsushi Ishiyama at the Iwata factory, a preproduction model was shown to dealers in 1975 and Ishiyama-san was clear on his intent. “Our choice was to design the new SR with a strong family image and a strong link to our first four-stroke, the XS650 twin, which was also inspired by British design.” And having been a successful seller for four decades without many changes at all, you have to say that the design team and engineers behind the bike absolutely nailed their brief.

Fast forward a few decades and when Deus Ex Machina was founded in Sydney in 2006, some of their earliest custom builders were based on the humble SR. It would go on to be a mainstay of their creations, as well as being splashed on the company’s clothing range and art installations. And boy did it work, as Deus spread its own flavour of internally combustible postmodernism around the globe, from the original site to Bali and then Cape Town to Milan, LA to Biarritz and of course Tokyo. Early Deus SR builds like Grievous Angel and Silver Stinky picked up on Japanese and European influence and became the literal poster children of the custom bike scene.

At Deus Tokyo, head wrench Tomoyuki Soeda was given the task of building ‘The Last Tilt’ and he has fond memories of the Yamaha. “One of my earliest memories attached to motorcycles was sneaking pictures next to an SR parked outside a secondhand clothing shop on my way to school. My friends and I would watch on, slackjawed as the clerk approached his bike, donned a half helmet, vintage goggles and a Schott leather jacket; you’d think he was floating an inch off the ground the way we watched in awe as he deftly kickstarted the bike and took off from the curb.”

The donor bike was easy to come by, with Infini Sports Group who run Yamaha dealerships in the Kanto and Tohoku regions commissioning the build and sending a factory fresh SR400 over to the Deus workshop. For Soeda-san, the best way to celebrate the success of the SR was to create a simple custom that absolutely anybody could ride and enjoy. So, the first change was to the rear end where he felt the seat was a little too high and wide. The stock unit, including its pan was ditched, and with a fresh piece of foam, the shaping and sculpting began. Once the foam was spot on, a new base was fabricated to mount the seat tighter to the frame, and the changes were underway.

Next, the useful but less than cool chrome grab rail was from the back of the seat was tossed out and the big fender was shown the door too. A custom bobbed rear fender was fabricated for the build, and topped with a new taillight it drastically cleans up the back end of the bike. To balance the front end, the huge wrap-around chrome fender would have to go, and in its place goes a blade-style unit on a custom set of mounts. An all-new battery box replaces the side covers and further helps to narrow the lines of the bike.

The paintwork is signature Deus, with a stunning single metallic colour splashed across the tins and then a bold white pinstripe combination to really catch the eye, and the company’s logo laid down on the tank. Many of the other parts are hit with a fresh coat of black paint and the battery box has a ‘final edition’ graphic neatly stencilled on. There is no missing that seat either, with the white graphics complemented by the stunning Ivory leather, stitched in the popular SR style. To complete the new look, an LED headlight adds a touch of modern tech and the blacked-out mirrors help them to fade into the background.

The wheel choice is inspired and a popular pick in Japan, with the spoked items ditched for a set of cast mag wheels wrapped up in more aggressive rubber. These wheels come with everything needed for the conversion, including a new cush drive, bearings, bolts and sprocket. The iconic single-cylinder engine doesn’t miss out either, with the throttle body wearing a pod filter and a full black ceramic-coated exhaust letting you hear that glorious thumping soundtrack.

It would have been easy for Soeda-san to go crazy on this custom build but in keeping things simple and fun, he’s celebrated what has made the SR such a popular motorcycle for generations and helped fuel so much of Deus Ex Machina’s own success.

[ Deus Ex Machina ]