Martin Child is back on with this hybrid classic/modern.
It was back in the mid-1990s that I last stripped and rebuilt an oil-cooled GSX-R and how times have changed. The brief back then was high-barred minimalist – whip all the fairings off, throw the clip-ons in the bin, bolt on a set of Renthals and arm yourself with a supply of spare second gear cogs. Then see how long you could make the front wheel redundant or how torturous you could make the existence of the rear tyre. Bloody happy days! Little did I know that those skids and wheelies would lead to a working life in bikes (across various magazines both in the UK and Australia) and motorcycling experiences that money just can’t buy (riding the TT in 2000 was, and will always be, my personal biking Everest). Yup, I’ve a lot of memories and love for the old Gixers. But my mindset is now more balanced and this latest chapter in my old Saaazooki portfolio will have a defined look and feel – full fairings, great handling, and fit and finish that can easily pass for a factory, road-legal (ish) race-rep. Can’t give up completely now, can we?
To my eye, the two areas that define an Eighties slab-side GSX-R are the nomenclature-giving rear panels and the trademark up-and-over double-cradle frame. And it’s that hoopy mass of aluminium straights and bends that sits before me on the garage floor. Armed with a mallet and drift, I’ve evicted the old headstock outer bearing shells and now I’m ready to do a makeover on it. And (unlike back in the day) this one won’t worry the Autosol or the buffer. Nope, black is where it’s at, baby. After a quick call to a local powder-coater, that idea quickly goes into the too hard/too expensive basket. Luckily, house and garage projects over the years have resulted in my shelves brimming with paints and potions, and it is here I grab some truck bed spray. This is a tough, textured black spray designed for the tray area of pick-ups (or as Aussies say, beaut-utes), which results in a Teflon-on-steroids kinda look. It needs no primer and a couple of coats later I’ve got a sharp-looking frame. Seeing fresh paint after three weeks of cleaning and dissembling scabby 30-year-old parts gives me a lift and I can’t wait to let the paint dry and start the reassembly. So with the paint half-dry, I start reassembling the frame. I drift the new bearing shells into the headstock and then turn my attention to the engine. Now where did I put that? With the engine compression tested before I stripped the bike, I know it’s basically sound. So the objectives are to perform basic servicing and make it look pretty. With easy access to the top of the engine, I check the valves. It takes a bit of digging to find the tolerances online (Suzuki have cracked-down on peeps linking to free manual downloads) and when one source gives the clearance as the same for both inlet and exhausts valves, I’m slightly sceptical. So I pony-up for a manual and, to my surprise, the clearances are the same – the 1986-1988 1100s have an 0.1 – 0.15mm inlet and exhaust. This is the first time I’ve come across the same figure for both. With the cam-cover back on, the starter motor comes off and I mask the clean engine up for a spruce-up spray. I’ve found a pretty damn close colour match with, believe it or not, plastic bumper spray. I reckon the engine’s heat won’t be a problem but petrol probably will be its downfall. But hey, fuel really needs to stay on the inside of the carbs and engine! With a steel rule I measure the length of the engine case bolts and replace them with stainless items from my local fastener supplier. As I’m clearly not trying to replicate the factory originals, this is a cheap, quick and easy upgrade. With new gaskets cut from a sheet of gasket material with uncorked scissors and hole punches, the smick engine is ready to go back home to the frame. As anyone that’s been plum-deep in an oil-cooled rebuild will know, the right-hand frame rail on these bikes is just bolted on. This departs to aid engine removal, which is made much easier if you’ve got the frame bare to start with. With the oil-less engine on its side, you can wiggle-waggle the frame over it enough to get a few
bolts into the engine. And to chip some of the new paint! Arse. Luckily, I’ve still got some paint left over and, as I’m guessing these won’t be the last marks to touch-up, I’ll get to them later. With one side of the engine bolted in place, the whole shebang can be uprighted to get the other side of the frame’s cradle in place. It now sits on its bottom rails unaided and still. As I’ve already drifted the headstock shells in, it’s an easy job to slide the steering head tube into the headstock and bolt up the complete front-end using the new taper bearing for the lower and the thrust arrangement for the upper. With the front wheel strapped to a floor clamp with a couple of tie-downs and the rear frame rails tie-downed to the ceiling (down to the ceiling – come on, you know what I mean), I’ve a stable platform to add the swingarm and 190-section rear hoop to. It’s as stiff the second time round (ooh er, missus! – copyright Sid James) and offers up a lovely fat one up the rear (probably more Viz than Carry On that one…) Wheeled-out into the bright Australian sun, the rolling chassis looks awesome. With the frame’s coating complementing the black of the hugely braced swingarm, it’s left for to the engine’s dark grey and the gold of the fork legs to stand out and hint of the performance and style of the reborn GSX-R1100. I’ve had to slightly space out the footrest hangers to clear the swinger, but she’s now a steer-able, brake-able, lean-against-a-tree-able rolling chassis. Unlike earlier incarnations, these GSX-R1000 wheels have no cast centre ridge and thinner spokes so the bike looks lighter than ever. The front wheel’s mudguard is unmarked so I won’t need to remove it to spray it, as it matches in with the red and black scheme I’ve got in mind. The list of items needed for a build like this is as vast as it is long. From essentials like bolts, oils and brake pads, to the check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself dreams of chattering flatslides and roaring full-race systems. A 2x1m slab of cardboard on the garage wall becomes the shopping list and online becomes the major arena that these dollar-dreams are played out in. Shorty brake levers, bar-end weights, grips and a new ignition switch are the first items delivered to my door and clean up the cockpit instantly. And the bonus is they don’t dent the budget too much. But an ignition switch isn’t much use if it isn’t connected to anything and it’s not just a case of throwing the original electrics back on, as I’ve got a dirty big shock reservoir dominating the space where the battery and 90% of the bike’s electrically-related gubbins normally sit. So, I’ll call it a day there. And judging from the clock mounted on the fridge, it’s a good a time as any for a nice cold beer. Next month I’m finding space for the ignition components then figuring out if the later bike’s switchgear will fit. Next month I’m on my multi-meter for ages, trying to get my motor running (ooh-er missus!) Trust me, it’s a lot more frustrating than it sounds! Cheers!
Hanging to dry...
The paint looks good!
Smaller bits sorted.
Frame dry and sorted. We like very much!
Looks good in there, doesn’t it?
Nice sparkle in the finish.
Time to sort clearances!
Rolling chassis is ready to go.
She’s coming on great guns.
Lists work... so use them...