A distinctive white Yamaha is gracing the pages of motorcycle and automotive media today. The motorcycle, a Yamaha Moko Powa D10, is something almost out-of-this-world with its aerodynamic body package and futuristic looks. Fans of Tron and of Akira are rightfully drooling over this functional art, but I’m left thinking: What is this thing’s story? As it turns out, finding the answer to that question was harder than I expected.
This morning I found myself flipping through Facebook Marketplace looking for a cheap Volkswagen Phaeton W12 to add to my fleet. When that failed, I turned towards motorcycles, thinking I’d find something diesel or maybe engine-swapped. Failing on both ideas, I decided to get lost staring at something that I can’t afford. That’s when I landed at “Gasoline Culture” website Silodrome and found this masterpiece:
What you’re looking at is the Yamaha Moko Powa D10, and it’s one of the rarest motorcycle concepts you’ll ever find. Information on it is surprisingly thin; what we do know is that the motorcycle is the work of industrial designer Hans Walther of Switzerland’s Powa Design.
According to the book The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age, referenced by RevZilla, the Powa D10 consists of eight distinctive panels mounted to the front of a Yamaha FZ750 like the one below.
The book notes that there were a few other changes, too. The fuel petcock was moved from under the tank to behind the new fairing. The Moko Powa D10’s taillight comes from a Yamaha Beluga scooter (shown below):
And the turn signals are from a Yamaha FJ1200:
Fabricating work for the parts designed by Powa (more on Powa in a bit) was performance motorcycle engineering firm Moko. This company, still around today, has a long history cranking out higher performance versions of all kinds of motorcycles including Buells and Harley-Davidsons.
In this case, the beautiful rare machine we’re talking about is basically an unmodified Yamaha FZ750 with a new design blended cohesively over it.
The Motorcycle Underneath
That FZ750 was a pretty revolutionary bike for its day. As noted by Silodrome, the two stroke engines that Yamaha was known for were old news. Yamaha’s competition had already moved on, and emissions regulations would have made the two stroke harder to keep around. The motorcycle marque had something clever up its sleeve.
Dubbed the Genesis engine, Yamaha released the FZ750 with a 749cc four stroke that made 102 horses to the rear wheel. The inline-four had an all-aluminum design with double overhead cams. And to set it apart from the competition, the engine eschewed the normal 16 valves for 20. Yamaha believed that the engine’s three intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder could pull more fuel for more power.
The result was that with the right rider, one of these could hit about 140 mph. Famed motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart noted that given 135 horsepower, the Yamaha Moko Powa D10’s aero enhancements could allow the motorcycle to squeeze out an additional 60 mph. Since the donor motorcycle didn’t hit that power number it’s unknown if anyone took one of these to 200 mph.
The article referenced by RevZilla noted that the Powa kit set you back 8,500 Swiss Francs in 1987, or 26,000 Swiss Francs if you didn’t want to build it yourself. According to currency market information provider Pound Sterling Live, about $1.50 USD got you 1 Swiss Franc in 1987. So the kit would have set you back $12,750 or $39,000 for the completed model. Factor in inflation and you’d be looking at $33,514 or $102,513 today.
There seems to be very little out there about these distinctive motorcycles. This same bike popped up for sale in 2016 with the listing claiming that only ten were produced with a scant six surviving (the listing mentions an “expert’s estimate” of 16,000 to 22,000 Euro, or roughly $17 grand to $23 grand). Why just 10? What happened to the others? And what is the story behind this thing?
That aforementioned listing even claimed that the motorcycle was designed to be quiet, earning it the nickname “Whistler Bike” when it went to a Zurich motorcycle show.
What Happened To Powa Design?
Amazingly, this motorcycle is far from the first machine to get a design from Powa. The Moko Forum has a gallery of a handful of futuristic motorcycles that all say Powa on them. One of them is the Honda Powa D10, which looks awfully similar to the Yamaha Moko Powa D10. The Moko Forum and that aforementioned French magazine say that Powa Design even made a bike from the Kawasaki GPZ900 called the Powa D14.
I did some more digging to try to answer my questions.
It genuinely stunned me when I tried to research these motorcycles and I came up with exactly zero results. Seriously, it’s rare that Google comes back and tells me “I got nothing.”
Since searching for the motorcycles wasn’t giving me anything, I tried searching for the company, Powa Design. According to the aforementioned RevZilla article, Powa Design was at one point based in Liestal, a city in Switzerland. In 1990, Powa Design was featured in an issue of Cycle World, where the magazine boasted that Walther had created an electric motorcycle capable of riding up top 30 miles on a charge with a top speed of up to 62 mph.
In that article, Cycle World mentioned that Walther’s work also graced some Harley-Davidsons that were given the Moko touch. The magazine did a piece on those, too, and they look just as cool.
The Moko Forum suggests that Powa Design went out of business in 1991. A search yielded nothing about the company’s closure, people, history, or products. Digging through that forum didn’t give me any additional information In fact, I found nothing online but a listing on a commercial register that suggests that Walther incorporated Powa Design as a sole proprietorship in 1999.
Powa Design made distinctive motorcycles and even generated headlines in major publications, yet, it seems that this company just disappeared almost without a trace. I reached out to addresses that I could find for Alan Cathcart, but my emails have thus far bounced back.
As for the white Yamaha Moko Powa D10 before you today, yes, you can buy it! It was built in 1985 and passed through three owners, but wasn’t even first registered until 2000. And over all of that time it has traversed just 4,474 miles. It goes up for auction in four days by Car & Classic in Kergrist-Moëlou of western France.
If you happen to know anything about these bikes, the company that made them, or just want a virtual hug, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.