Suzuki Motorcycles - The GS Papers - From GS To GSX-R

With dealership cash registers ringing, Yoshimura and Vance & Hines winning at the track, magazines calling the GS the best 750 ever and owners and tuners everywhere building an array of GS-based hot-rods, Trobaugh's master plan was humming along nicely. By '78, Suzuki had jumped several rungs up the performance/credibility ladder.

The momentum would only increase that year with the introduction of the entirely new GS1000, basically a bigger, better and badder version of the GS750. The GS1000 often gets tagged as a warmed-over 750, but it's not. Its frame, engine and overall chassis makeup are almost completely different, though it follows the 750's basic design direction: engine durability (with more power), excellent comfort and range and superb handling, especially at high speeds. Amazingly, while the engine packed more displacement, it was smaller externally and weighed a whopping 10 pounds less than the GS750 mill.

Australian Motor Cycle News wrote this: "The GS1000 proved the Japanese could build a big, fast four-cylinder motorcycle that actually handled, something Kawasaki never managed with the fast-but-loose-handling Z1. It likewise inherited the Kawasaki's stout nature, and the two motorcycles were destined to meet head-to-head on dragstrips for years. Heavily modified, these motorcycles nevertheless proved reliable while putting out several multiples of [stock] horsepower."

"The GS1000 is damn near perfect," said Cycle in its March 1978 issue. "It does everything well. [It's] a perfectly stunning achievement."

In '79 and '80, Suzuki offered the GS1000S (a.k.a. the Wes Cooley Replica), perhaps the best-looking and most collectable GS ever. Cooley repaid the honor by winning the AMA Superbike title both years. The two models look similar but are actually slightly different, the '80 version featuring electronic ignition (instead of points), constant-velocity carbs, a stepped saddle, shorter pipes, slotted discs and more rear-set pegs.

More important that year was the debut of the next-generation open-class GS: the 16-valve GS1100E, which stomped all comers in the horsepower department, even Honda's vaunted CBX Six. Motorcyclist had this to say in the March 1980 issue: "If straight-line, tire-smoking performance is your only criteria, the GS1100 is your only choice. It is the fastest, meanest boulevard-burner ever." The 1100 also hinted at what Suzuki would do in the coming years.

Suzuki's 16-valve open-class GS engine represented a watershed moment. While Honda designed its CB-F engines for max efficiency (meaning such items as the clutch and gearbox were only as beefy as needed to handle stock horsepower), Suzuki engines were purposely overbuilt so builders and tuners could get away with all sorts of high-horsepower tweaking. This made them perfect for garage- and race-shop tuners, as well as drag racers, who continue to campaign them today. "They were the perfect hop-up bikes," said Vance. "If you wanted to build a 300-horsepower Pro Stock dragbike, they could handle it. They were really robust, and performance-minded folks knew it; it was a cultural thing with Suzuki."

These powerful and robust fours found their way into several Suzuki models, including the Hans Muth-styled Katana 1000 and 1100 of '81-'83 and, later, the ground-pounding GS1150E and ES of '84 and '85.

By this point, Suzuki had power and handling figured out. But the competition came up with a couple of trick plays in '83 and '84 in the form of Honda's V45 Interceptor and Kawasaki's Ninja 900-bikes that put Superbike-spec handling at the forefront. Suddenly, being the fastest and most powerful didn't garner an A grade.

But Suzuki had a counterplay of its own, a strategy developed in the years since the original GS750 debuted. Working from data and test results garnered from a Yoshimura-built, GS1000-engined prototype racer called the XR69 (which featured magnesium engine covers and a dry clutch), Suzuki began to conceptualize its next-generation GS-which ultimately led to the '85 GSX-R750 and, a year later, the '86 GSX-R1100. But that's another story.

And my GS1000S? I plan to ride it-a lot. And with a few period tweaks-an old-school Vance & Hines 4-into-1 header, stickier tires, a set of piggyback shocks and maybe some steel-braided brake lines-I'm pretty sure I'll be grinning like a fool the entire time. MC

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