Thirty Years of the (Original) Suzuki Katana | Time Machine

By Mitch Boehm, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

The truly groundbreaking styling sent performance expectations through the roof. But the Katana really was largely just a restyled GS1100 UJM—it was not the huge performance jump the GSX-R would be. Still, the Katana has earned a spot on many enthusiasts’ I-gotta-have-one lists, proving that time tends to wash away most functional shortcomings.

“I was a BMW guy,” says Cymbaly, “and I still own some. But I always loved the Katana’s look. After my divorce, I had to find one, and finally did. Now I have 25 of the things, parked all over my house! The Katana really did bring Suzuki out of the dark ages stylistically. Our website celebrates the bike and its legacy, with tech stuff, news and rally information from all over the world.”

Suzuki’s first-generation open-class Katana was heralded as a look into the future, positing in metal what all sportbikes would surely look like in the years to come. Most times the headlights of bikes like the Katana illuminate only stylistic dead ends, but there’s no denying the influence it has had on motorcycle design in the three decades since it shocked the world.

Collector’s Edition

One Man’s Katana Obsession Exposed

Most prototypes and styling models end up being crushed, or put into a manufacturer’s museum. Not so the ED2, which today sits in the collection of Cleveland’s Ken Edgar, a Katana collector extraordinaire whose bikes we photographed for this story. Ken owns amazing collection of Katanas, more than a dozen in all. The three biggies are the ED2 model, the 0-mile ’82 Katana pictured on this story’s lead spread, and the Wes Cooley Yoshimura racer, which Cooley rode during 1982, the final season of 1025cc Superbike competition.

“Someone in the Katana community gave me a heads-up about the ED2 model going to auction with Bonham’s,” Edgar told us. “I registered as a phone bidder, and surprisingly, I got the thing for under $10,000, which I think is a steal. It’s not rideable, and all of the body parts are fragile and hand-made. But that’s what makes is special to me; it’s where the production Katana, which I love, came from. It had been in a museum in Austria, and it went back to the Target guys to be semi-restored before it went to auction; I guess it was pretty beat up beforehand.”

“I was blown away the very first time I saw a Katana,” says Edgar. “I was 15 at the time, watching Battlestar Gallactica and Star Wars, and the styling hit me square in the chest. I couldn’t afford one, and didn’t even have my driver’s license. But I knew I’d have one someday… and now I have a dozen!”

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