1981 Suzuki GS 450 Cafe Racer Build Thread

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by Iron_HawK, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    Southern Indiana (Evansville)
    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:

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    I actually have a build thread for the XJ at Cherokeeforum.com 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 wrenchmonkees.com 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:

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    I started cleaning up and painting parts:

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    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.

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    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!
    #1
  2. eepeqez

    eepeqez Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,072
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    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.
    #2
  3. AfricaWim

    AfricaWim Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    330
    Location:
    Seffrica
    You do know that your auxiliary tank although cool, is not really cafe....:D

    Will be watching your build :thumb
    #3
  4. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

    Joined:
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    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...

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    I love the chopped front fender: :hack

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    Painted brake rotor looks friggin sweet:

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    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!
    #4
  5. eepeqez

    eepeqez Long timer

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    Oddometer:
    2,072
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    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!

    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:
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    Careful it doesn't topple over!
    #5
  6. eepeqez

    eepeqez Long timer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    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.
    #6
  7. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

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    Jul 23, 2011
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    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
    #7
  8. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

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    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

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

    More feedback is always appreciated! Thanks for looking!
    #8
  9. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
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    Welp I got some more progress done tonight. Cut the unwanted brackets on the subframe:

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    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:

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    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.

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    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!
    #9
  10. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

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    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    Southern Indiana (Evansville)
    Okay so through about a couple of mins in paint I have this:

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    Good color scheme in my opinion :thumb

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

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    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
    #10
  11. ivantheterrible

    ivantheterrible Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    611
    Location:
    Hillsborough, NC
    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!
    #11
  12. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

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    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.
    #12
  13. ivantheterrible

    ivantheterrible Been here awhile

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    May 27, 2009
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    611
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    Hillsborough, NC
    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!
    #13
  14. Loose Nut

    Loose Nut wannabe

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    339
    Location:
    SW Indiana
    Awesome Looking Project. Keep up the great work.
    #14
  15. sparkymoto

    sparkymoto Learning a lot here

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    Indy
    Logo is cool, man. You thinking about incorporating text in there like, "Iron Hawk Customs" ? That'd be neat.

    This is a fun build...it's looking good and will be a blast to ride. Keep it up man.
    #15
  16. Transalp Jas

    Transalp Jas Been here awhile

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    Feb 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    807
    Location:
    Corner Brook,NL
    It's really coming along. The tires and the black-spoked wheels look GREAT.
    #16
  17. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Southern Indiana (Evansville)
    Thanks! I'm still trying to find a good way to incorporate "Iron HawK Customs" or something like that... so far my ideas haven't been perfect. I refuse to put something that I'm not 100% satisfied with on the bike. Oh well, I'll keep playing with little logos till I get something good.

    Other than logos, I've got some more progress done:

    I have my seat cowl skeleton cut out and sanded down. I believe I still want to use a router to trim the edges up perfectly. But the wood working is nearly finished. It is the basic shape and some foam and fiberglass will make it look near perfect :D Here's what I have now:

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    I have also cut 2 number plates to cover the sides up. They have a 4.5" radius and cut from 24ga sheet metal. I drew up some neat numbers to play around with here's what I've got. I'd love some help with the numbers, I really need a cool font or design for them.

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    I also decided to brush and clear coat the gas cap (kinda out of boredom):

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    And then an action shot... well as much action as the bike has seen for a while:

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    The other item I wanted to finish today was the speedometer bracket. This is what I have after some hammering, cutting, grinding, and my first time using a TIG welder. I'm happy with the resultant weld. It holds good so I'm happy :D

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    Grinded the weld a bit more to clean it up:

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    With the speedo mounted. I wasn't very happy with the angle but it was getting there. Good place for the speedo just needed better angles:

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    Got the torch out and bent the bracket and VoilĂ  we have this:

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    I have 3 coats of paint on the bracket currently and should be going back on the triple clamp sometime tomorrow.


    Just because I couldn't stop working on the bike and I didn't really feel like going to sleep I kept working and went for the headlight. I wanted to mount the headlight closer to the bike. I ended up using the holes from the old turn signals and flipping the fork covers over to "lower" the headlight mounting position. I wire brushed the covers good also. It looks so good with the light on there. I believe I will be routing the speedo cable through the headlight basket to keep a "clean look".

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    That's basically everything so far. It keeps coming slowly... I guess that's how most projects are! It's finally getting to the point where you don't need a good imagination to see how it will look!

    Thanks to everyone commenting and reading my posts! It means a lot and I really enjoy keeping a record on the bike along with hearing what people have to say and commenting on the build route.
    #17
  18. jake28

    jake28 Riding to the horizon.

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    393
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Since you already have a wood frame for the seat, you could bang out a cowl out of tin almost as fast as with foam and fiberglass. Use the wood frame as a buck and grab a set of hammers and dollies.
    #18
  19. Hardroad

    Hardroad Been here awhile

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    Feb 13, 2009
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    144
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Looking Good, You have a good eye for what you want. Great job.

    Hope to get to ride it when you finish.

    Hardroad
    #19
  20. Iron_HawK

    Iron_HawK Farkle Enthusiast

    Joined:
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    Southern Indiana (Evansville)
    I thought about doing a little cowl out of tin. I love the looks of it, but I will be fiber glassing the entire seat pan then putting a seat on top of the pan. That way the cowl and the seat will all be one piece. My plan is to also attach the electronics to the bottom of the cowl that may be removed easily. I believe I will try to use the tin on the next bike I do though. It's all about the experience and this has allowed me to learn so much. It's killing me not to put the motor out and clean it up really good, but I want to get everything mounted and make sure all my brackets work before I take to much off.I'm very anxious to get a skid plate bent up for it too (I got the idea from August's Cycleworld with the desert sleds). I think the skidplate will make it seem a more Scrambler / practical bike. Plus, if I don't like it, who cares I don't have to put it on the bike. I'm building this bike for me, if I wanted to build something to get looks I'd chrome out some GSXR and make a useless showbike :D
    #20