by Shawn Downey
Back in February 1984, I was sitting in my dorm room contemplating the theft of my roommate’s Heineken stock when I was jolted by a sharp rap at the door.
“Yeah?” I shouted towards the door.
“Got any money?” said the door.
“No,” I lied.
“Bullshit. I know you been scrubbing the shitters for the past three months to save money for Spring break. Well I got something way better than a sunburn. Let me in, dammit.”
“_ _ _ dammit, let me in or I’m gonna piss on your door.”
This was not exactly opportunity knocking. This was a drunken acquaintance whose brother lived next door and was conveniently attending a preseason football meeting.
“Come on man, let me in. Have I got a deal for you,” he slurred. Last time he said this I spent four hours with the local constabulary explaining why I had four stolen car stereos in my trunk.
“All right. What?” I said as I hid my beer and opened the door.
“Hey. Last summer, I died. Well, kinda. See, I got really blitzed and crashed my motorcycle in a cornfield. Damn thing threw me like a mile and the cops couldn’t find me for days because I had a concussion and fell asleep in a tree. They told my parents I was dead.”
“Okay…and how do I fit into this?” wondering if his parents jumped for joy when they heard the news.
“I still have the bike. It’s yours for $400 bucks and a case of Heineken.”
“Two cases of Heineken and $350.”
“Sold!” he exclaimed as he grabbed my roommate’s beer and headed out the door.
Several days later, I grabbed his brother and we drove out to his parent’s house to complete the transaction. The drunk was nowhere to be found but the father was present and more than willing to accept my $350.00.
“I’ll take that cash. The bike is in the garage. Chris, you go help the boy.”
Strolling into the garage, I was unable to spy the motorcycle and thought perhaps the drunk had changed his mind and rode the bike away into the freezing February night. Bewildered, I watched in disbelief as Chris walked towards a wood pile and whisked away a blue tarpaulin revealing a back wheel, frame, engine, and gas tank, that looked like it may have resembled a 1979 Suzuki GS750E in a previous life.
I rode home with my stomach in my throat. What the hell was I thinking? Here I was in college, broke, and driving around in the middle of Wisconsin with a load of crap in the back of my Dad’s Ranchero. This was the very first time I heard my Dad say, “Whoa” in response to one of my motorcycle projects. Then he followed it up with, “Damn, you really did it this time.”
Bright and early the next morning–after throwing back a couple cases of Hamm’s and watching the sun come up–my colleague and I headed down to the only Suzuki dealership within a 200 mile radius. Here we learned that the Suzuki GS 750 marked Suzuki’s first foray into the four-stroke market and greatly resembled the Kawasaki Z900. In an attempt to overcome the disappointing launch of the Wankel powered RE5, Suzuki over-engineered the 750 motor making it heavier and stronger than the later released highly acclaimed 1000cc engine.
There are essentially three reasons why the 750cc engines are stronger than Xena…and more appealing. First, the crankshaft rests in a bed of roller bearings. This design guarantees a longer engine life due to an inherent resistance to uneven or high loads. Think “WHACK”. As in sitting at an intersection awaiting that magical green light and WHACK–you twist the throttle like you were giving a snake bite to your boss.
Secondly, the engine lubrication was designed to operate under low pressure. Therefore, the engine does not fear cold engine oil or clogged channels. Some see this as a disadvantage and opt to replace the oil pressure system with one of those new fangled things. Waste ‘o money, baby. When I blow out of the coffee shop, I do not want to sit there and wait for my motorcycle to warm up…I want to jump, thumb, and twist with the back wheel spinning…in my dreams anyway.
Lastly, the engine is literally solid. These were the days before engineers drilled and shaved every imaginable component in an attempt to remove an ounce here and a gram there. This motorcycle has been known to deflect direct onslaughts from small caliber weapons and jettisoned rodents. You can go anywhere on an old Suzuki GS750: Iran, Pakistan, Hennepan…
Things were looking up after chatting with Curly, the Suzuki guy, and we diligently headed back to my cold garage to reassess the situation. We found that the situation was worse than it looked. Some parts were there, some parts were missing, and some parts were from a Harley. And we were out of Hamm’s beer. The saving grace of the motorcycle took shape in the form of a Kerker four-into-one header with a competition baffles which prompted me to “borrow” my Mother’s credit card and order a set of K&N velocity stacks to compliment the pipe.
By the time I missed Spring Break, the old GS was ready to fire. We nonchalantly pulled my Mother’s car into the garage and trashed her battery trying to get the old GS750 to breath. Before trashing my Father’s battery as well, we called Curly to see if there were any known weaknesses in the Suzuki’s electrical system. Low and behold, yes, there were. It seems that the GS’s were known for faulty regulators and rectifiers exhibiting a reputation almost comparable to that of a Lucas system. Once we replaced the expensive unit, WHACK, the bike fired and imbedded it’s last exhaust baffle into my garage wall.
The over engineering of the GS750 proved to be infallible to my hooligan antics and I believe I used it to it’s full potential riding through bars, in a shopping mall, through my girlfriend’s parent’s lawn at 4:00 a.m., up the stairs to my apartment during a party, back down the stairs when the cops came, and not once did it ever complain. When six of us performed the ever popular “falling domino” stunt, my GS was the only bike to start before the authorities arrived.
In retrospect, I can attest to the rock solid nature of the GS and recommend that if you ever get the opportunity to pick up an old GS, decline. Then call me.