Will Puckett's 1999 Suzuki GS500E

A mundane middleweight reimagined with a two-stroke heart.

Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Will Puckett—humble, and all smiles—shows off his super-cool GS500E/RD350 custom engine swap project.Photo: Brody Cox

NAME: Will Puckett
HOMETOWN: Fresno, CA
OCCUPATION: Machinist

Every once in a while, a unique motorcycle will stop me dead in my tracks, and at Bonnier Motorcycle Group's 2017 High Pipe Scrambles event, Will Puckett's 1999 Suzuki GS500E did just that. Let's be honest—Suzuki's GS500E was a solid little bike, but its reputation for being somewhat gutless and uninspiring remains unfailing even to this day. This was the reason that I almost walked straight past Will Puckett's 1999 GS500E, until my wandering eye happened to notice that it had an early '70s Yamaha RD350 engine stuffed into the frame. If there's one thing I love, it's an engine swap from one motorcycle to another. To me, it's just one more puzzle piece that so adequately sums up the "can-do" spirit of the motorcyclist.

Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Will's unique GS500E features the engine from an early '70s RD350—two parallel cylinders of oil-burning fury!Photo: Brody Cox

Will began with a 1999 Suzuki GS500E that he found on craigslist, after having seen similar engine swap projects online that caught his interest. As Will put it, “I knew I had some old RD350 parts lying around, so I decided to go for it. I got the bike fairly cheap, as it had a blown engine, but I actually ended up paying more in back fees in order to register it!”

After a friend of his discovered his top-secret Frankenstein project, he decided to give Will a spare Suzuki GSXR fork from the mid ‘90s, and a set of Ducati 851 triple clamps. Nothing fit (of course) so Will, having worked as a machinist, decided to adapt them himself. He made a new steering stem, and also machined a set of sleeves for the headset bearings. A steering damper from a GSXR was also added to keep headshake under control.

Will Puckett GS500E RD350
A K&N intake on a Y-adapter feeds the twin carburetors, which are connected to the engine with linked Banshee intakes.Photo: Brody Cox

A longer rear shock was added, salvaged from a GSXR 750, which meant Will had to clearance the swingarm in order to make room. The stock front wheel from the GS500E wasn’t going to fot the larger axle from the GSXR, so Will designed and produced his own custom axle, along with the necessary spacers.

The “new” two-stroke engine needed a constant IV of oil to keep its internals properly lubricated, and instead of simply buying a pre-made oil reservoir, Will cut an old fire extinguisher in half, added some bungs for oil lines and welded it back up. An intake runner from a Yamaha Banshee was installed, and a set of carbon fiber scooter reeds were mated to the reed block. The GS500’s new two-stroke heart sounds its familiar buzz through a set of expansion chambers that were actually made for an RD400, fitted with Toomey stingers. With final dyno readings showing around 40 rear-wheel horsepower, Will assured me that the bike was definitely very rideable, not as peaky as people might think. “That intake and K&N filter really smoothed it out, and added some low and mid-range power.”

Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Once Will rolled his GS500 out for me to take a few better shots, it began to gather quite the crowd—and had some scratching their heads in disbelief. "You did what??"Photo: Brody Cox
Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Check out these headlight mounts and handlebar adapters—beefy!Photo: Brody Cox
Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Will decided he wanted upright bars, after trying clip-ons. He was able to hook the tachometer from the GS500E cluster up to the RD engine, however he noticed that the RPMs indicated weren't accurate. Given the fact that Will worked as a machinist, I'll give you three guesses as to what his fix was for this...Photo: Brody Cox
Will Puckett GS500E RD350
Yep, that's right—Will machined his own tachometer drive gear using a fly cutter. The 17-tooth gear now drives the tachometer cable, which in turn displays engine RPMs accurately.Photo: Brody Cox