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Iron_HawK 07-24-2011 06:09 AM

1981 Suzuki GS 450 Cafe Racer Build Thread
Okay I literally just signed up here at ADVrider! I'm anxious to learn and read what this site has to offer. Just a bit of a background on me I am currently a junior Mechanical Engineer at University of Evansville (Southern Indiana). As a kid, the reason I started riding bicycles was that I could get a motorcycle. Pretty much ever since my first motorcycle, an old Yamaha PW90, I have been hooked on 2 wheel machines. I'm probably one of the few people that rode Deal's Gap as a 15 year old with my permit. I have done a lot of riding on my dad's 2004 DRZ400S. I love it for a dual sport and is a great bike! My personal bike that I treasure is a 1999 Triumph Speed Triple 955i. I bought a 1997 Honda CBR 600F3 before I bought my first car. Last year I sold it for the Speed Triple. Lately I have been building up a 1988 Jeep Cherokee XJ shown below:

I actually have a build thread for the XJ at here. I am a firm believer in "Built, not Bought" I hope my Jeep personifies that enough. I have started a new friendship with a 1981 Suzuki GS 450L I received for free. The previous owner was a friend that only hoped that I might get it running. I wish I had a pic of how it sat when I brought it home. It was covered in rust, seat torn, spark plug boots/caps ripped off, run down battery, rotted out tires, the works... it just had sat outside for years and it definitely showed it. I have always had a thing for cafe racer styled bikes. So it was enough for me to start the GS. I got a lot of the motivation from that I found from reading a article in CycleWorld. It got me thinking and ultimately got me to start building.

I got it running after cleaning up the carbs, starter brushes and throwing a new battery in it. Inside the engine looked flawless and it has good compression so I felt it would be a good project to pursue.

After taking most of the fairings, fenders, tank, and whatnot we have this:

I started cleaning up and painting parts:

I also ordered a pair of new Shinco 712s from JCWhitney. 2 tires for close to $100 shipped aint bad. Plus they look great for this style bike.

I currently don't have pics of the forks cleaned up and on with the front wheel and tires and chopped fender but I will tomorrow. My plan was to build the GS into a budget Cafe Project, so far I have $150 into the new tires, paint, air filters, and a battery. I will be trying to reuse as many original parts as I can, however I am trying to modify them to bring a certain look.

Thanks to everyone that reads this build thread. I hope to present the information and progress clearly and completely. Questions, comments, ideas are all appreciated! Thanks again guys, keep riding!

eepeqez 07-24-2011 07:23 AM


Originally Posted by Iron_HawK_Customs (Post 16466129)
I have started a new friendship with a 1981 Suzuki GS 450L I received for free.

Ooh the nightmares are returning!
I bought a GS450SX new in March 1982.

The voltage regulator/rectifier units in Suzukis from that period are very prone to failure - I went through 3 in a few short years and Suzuki refused to honour their own new bike warranty. Understandably, I have never owned anything else Suzuki.

The common fix by the late 1980s was to replace the rectifier/regulator with one from a Honda CB250/400N or a Yamaha RD/RZ 250/350LC. Check the alternator stator; the regulator takes the stator and often the battery too.

The cam chain tensioner on those was a disaster. The modern GS500 has a different arrangement which might be better.

All in all, my only ever brand new vehicle purchase wasn't a very happy experience.

AfricaWim 07-24-2011 08:29 AM

You do know that your auxiliary tank although cool, is not really cafe....:D

Will be watching your build :thumb

Iron_HawK 07-24-2011 11:58 AM

Thanks guys! yeah I am borrowing the aux tank from a KLR friend. And I have read about the rectifiers being terrible. Sorry to hear about the poor Suzuki experience, I don't have any negatives to the brand so far. I have always been bias toward Honda. Their reliability has been exceptional from my experience. Today I got more pics of the progress. Here is how it sits today. I really wanted to get it done before the Indy MotoGP this year but I don't think it will be quite finished by then.

Sorry for the crappy pics. I need to take more time taking them but you get the idea...

I love the chopped front fender: :hack

Painted brake rotor looks friggin sweet:

Anyhow today I'm working on my Jeep some more to get another 1.5" lift in the rear so the bike will be postponed but don't give up on me it will come along... slowly but that's what makes it special :raabia

Thanks again for looking!

eepeqez 07-24-2011 09:07 PM


Originally Posted by Iron_HawK_Customs (Post 16468022)
Sorry to hear about the poor Suzuki experience, I don't have any negatives to the brand so far. I have always been bias toward Honda. Their reliability has been exceptional from my experience.

I'd had two Hondas before the Suzuki which I was very happy with; I always figured if I got another Japanese bike it would be a Honda. The next bike was an R65 which I still have, and eventually 2 years ago a Kawasaki. But I did buy a Honda outboard for my boat about 4 years ago. It almost always starts second pull when cold and first when warm!


Originally Posted by Iron_HawK_Customs (Post 16468022)

See that frame crossmember just in front of the rear shock mounts? The wiring loom passes across the front of that member with a big rubber boot containing the bullet connectors for the alternator stator. There's an aluminium tie which holds the boot to the crossmember.

If you forget to refit the tie, you will get to about 50mph, at which point a little more throttle and the rubber boot will be sucked into the air intake and block it.

When you pull over to investigate, gravity will return the rubber boot to its usual position..... It may take you a while to figure out!

That's a completely different tank to the Australian GS450 and GSX250/400. It looks more like the earlier GS425.

Mine looked like this:


Originally Posted by Iron_HawK_Customs (Post 16468022)
Anyhow today I'm working on my Jeep some more to get another 1.5" lift in the rear so the bike will be postponed but don't give up on me it will come along... slowly but that's what makes it special :raabia

Careful it doesn't topple over!

eepeqez 07-24-2011 09:15 PM


Originally Posted by eepeqez (Post 16471438)

Oh its beginning to come back to me now. The owners manual explained that to remove the rear wheel you first had to remove one muffler to make room for the axle to come out. The mufflers on the GSX250/400 were seperate from the header pipes, but on the GS450 it was one piece all the way to the exhaust ports.

Suzuki seriously wanted you to remove the entire exhaust system to get the back axle out.

I have a friend who bought an early GS500 and I remember seeing it and telling her about all the problems with the 450. Each time I went to point something out, I found they had fixed it (with the exception of that daft clutch arrangement). Keep the GS500 in mind as a parts source.

Iron_HawK 07-24-2011 09:32 PM

Thanks eepeqez you've been a huge help! I'd have loved to start with a CB750 or GS550 but this is a start since it was free and money is super tight being a college student and having a Jeep that likes to soak money up. I really didn't like the tank on my GS but the more I've looked at it the more I think it will look nice for the bike. I was going to get a GS450S tank and fit it but for the money I can't go wrong with what I have since it does hold fuel and there isn't a spec of rust inside it :D

Jeep tonight desired more attention than what I thought... Rust is a bitch. I will be working on it quite a bit this week in preparation for the new leaf packs in the rear. Oh well, my GS is getting used to sitting there waiting for someone to ride it.

The plan (as of now) will be painting it a BURNT ORANGE with a DARK GREY stripe offset down the side of the tank and body. All accents will be either BLACK or the shiny BRUSHED METAL look with clear coat over it.

Any other color schemes are well appreciated! I wanted to do more of a dark green but I think green is to British for a Japanese bike :bluduh

Iron_HawK 08-06-2011 02:18 PM

Okay first off sorry it's taken me a while to post. I have been working on my Jeep a bunch and I haven't had much time to work on the bike. I finally got a rolling chassis and got it outta the barn. Here's a few pics of how it sits now. Amazing look in my opinion. Aggressive seating position but with potential of a classy look. I have 95% agreed on the orange color. I love the looks of the tires on it. The balloony look is perfect for the style of the bike. I will start cutting and welding brackets to the frame for the parts I need. More pics soon to come. I'm just so happy with it :thumb

And yes... black wire spoke wheels are AMAZING!!!

More feedback is always appreciated! Thanks for looking!

Iron_HawK 08-07-2011 08:36 PM

Welp I got some more progress done tonight. Cut the unwanted brackets on the subframe:

Then I started to make the board for the seat and rear cowl to mount to. I believe I will be fiber glassing over the wood to cover it up. In my head it all should work, but I bet in reality something comes up that I haven't thought through. Here's the start of the board:

The board also acts as a tank riser so the bottom of the tank should be perfectly horizontal. I had to use a dado blade to make room for the tank mounting brackets but it all worked and looks good.

Then with a little extra time I decided to make a prototype cowl... It gets the idea across but honestly looks terrible :rofl I probably should have spent more time on making it but I really just needed to see how far back and forward my butt could go. That way I can keep the sub frame as short as possible.

It's starting to shape up. I will be building number plates for it tomorrow along with bending up the rear hoop to close the back up. Still not sure what kind of tail light I will be using but I figure I still have a little time to decide on that. Thanks again for looking! More progress soon to come!

Iron_HawK 08-07-2011 09:28 PM

Okay so through about a couple of mins in paint I have this:

Good color scheme in my opinion :thumb

And a couple of hours in Photoshop we have a tank logo:

Not sure if I like the design or not. I just winged it to see how it looked. I need a retro look but I'm not sure if I'm happy enough with the design. I'll be working on something else to see if I like another one better. Whatever it is it will be put on either side of the tank where the Suzuki logo went. I also need a number on the number plate... lots of little things to make perfect

ivantheterrible 08-08-2011 05:46 AM

I like custom bikes. I haven't had a bike yet that I haven't wanted to mess with, or have messed with. I've given a little bit of thought as to what must be done to make a bike look like something other then a slightly modified stock bike and the tank is very high on that list. It seems like you have a good platform to work with, but all I can see is that tank. Not that it's terrible, but it is holding it back, as it does most 'custom' builds.

of course I'm just some stranger on a forum, so take it with a grain of salt!

Iron_HawK 08-08-2011 07:48 AM

Thanks for the advice. I was originally going to go with a Suzuki GS450S tank but the more I looked at my tank the more I liked the "L" version. I still look on ebay alot for an "S" tank. I don't think that the worst thing would be to keep the tank and paint it. I will use the same lines in the rear cowl as the tank, so they will complement each other very well. I wish I could fab up my own tank but I'm not near good enough to weld sheet metal. I might try on the nest project but on this one I'm gonna keep it somewhat simple.

ivantheterrible 08-08-2011 08:10 AM

I hear you man! Simple is better!

Thanks for taking my criticism in the spirit I intended it. I'd hate for someone to think I'm pissing on their parade. I know all too well that a build is a complex stew, and that if money and time were no issue, then different choices might be made.

Keep on rockin!

Loose Nut 08-08-2011 12:59 PM

Awesome Looking Project. Keep up the great work.

sparkymoto 08-10-2011 09:53 PM

Logo is cool, man. You thinking about incorporating text in there like, "Iron Hawk Customs" ? That'd be neat.

This is a fun's looking good and will be a blast to ride. Keep it up man.

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