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21st August 2006

Opinion: Suzuki GT750 - It's a Love-Hate Thang

RealClassic message board regulars Anarchy and MartynCB750 don't exactly see eye to eye about Suzuki's water cooled GT750...

Anarchy presents a personal view from the leftfield:

Why is it that certain motorcycles - which were rubbish when they were new - are now elevated to demigod status and seen as objects of desire? The motorcycle press seem to seize on an abstract part of the particular bike's design and it is this singular part that seems to open all doors and allow the clunker to be wheeled, often quite wobbly, into the motorcycle hall of fame.

I'll cite a particular loathsome bike from the Far East and of the swinging seventies vintage.

Headlight obscured to protect bike's identity?

The Suzuki GT750 has succeeded in slipping under the good taste and ability barrier and has plonked its bloated posterior across the hallowed pages of many of these lifestyle classic periodicals. It's a bike I loathed way back in time when it was released in the 1970's to a muted and far from impressed Joe public. It seems that its entry visa to the exclusive club of bikes to die for, as opposed to die on, is based pretty much entirely on the sheer size of its engine capacity at the time. Bigger is better.

This worries me a little as it further endorses the effect of world globalisation that reaches out and grips almost every part of this previously wondrous and diverse planet. Culture and good taste is trampled on by fake Nikes and covered in the detritus of Coco Cola bottles and MacDonald's wrappers.

The GT750 was never a popular bike, fact. It lacked many of the attributes that sent pulses racing and hearts fluttering; in short it had been whacked with a large ugly stick resulting in bulbous lines and bling ornamentation. Frankly, it's about as subtle as a bottle of Blue Nun table wine.

Donne e moto sono tutte uguali. Apparently.
GT750 stuff on

So awful is its styling that even at its launch Suzuki Italia resorted to hiding the GT750 almost completely behind a semi naked young lady in their advertising photographs. Italians are not automotive styling gurus for nothing. I can just visualise the tear filled eyes of the photographer when asked to shoot a flattering PR shot of the early GT750; mama mia!

The GT750 was launched just in time for the Suez fuel crisis where its gargantuan thirst for premium fossil fuel made it instantly unpopular with anyone contemplating dragging this cycle around the continent as a touring conveyance. Sub forty miles to the gallon was normal even when new and this would fall even further if the rider was foolish enough to try to hustle the bike like a racer.

The GT750 was heavy at around 550 pounds and very wide; worst of all it made no attempt to disguise this portly appearance. It was even heavier than the larger capacity four stroke four cylinder legendary Kawasaki Z1by a clear 30 pounds yet had none of the aesthetics enjoyed by the Kawasaki design. It was plain lardy in a time where slim and sleek was the order of the day from the seriously sexy Yamaha RD and sinisterly scary Kawasaki range of smokers.

The bike came with painted radiator side covers and sticking out side panels emblazoned with "Water cooled GT750" badges, which only added to the bulk of the machine. Suzuki's answer to this hefty lumpy styling was to offer the GT750 in a vivid metallic pink colour! No shrinking violets here.

The fancy exhaust coupler tube system, supposedly to boost low-end torque, normally started to leak after a very short time and grounded out quickly if a sporting cornering lean angle was dared to be attempted.

The GT750 was rubbish as a super bike and no match for the competition, nor was it an especially good lumbering tourer either. It didn't handle well and the brakes were spongy and lacked feel.

In 1973 and desperate to try to shift more of this unlikely super bike the K version was anointed with a significant amount of thin chrome plating that further enhanced its fairground appearance. It was only much later in its product life that a more sensitive approach was made to the styling to try to clean up its looks to marry the old girl off and by 1977 lots of detail changes had conspired to improve the beast in the looks department.

Toned down for '77?

For some reason, and I haven't a foggiest clue why, it was known as the "Le Mans" in America but quickly nicknamed "The water buffalo" there too by those that had ridden it. In the UK it was nicknamed "The kettle", in Australia "The water bottle" and so forth and indeed in my part of grubby north London we quickly baptised it as "The p*ss pot".

I remember way back in 1976 trying out a fella's GT750. We were a young and free pack of two stroke hooligans that used to park up outside the town Wimpy bar to talk bikes and snog girls. It seemed that different characters chose different machines. Young blades went for Yamaha RD's, the slightly older and richer rare few achieved god like status riding Z1's but the odder 'nere-do-wells' seemed to pick strange mounts. This chap was a clear example; he could bore for England but seemed to keep turning up though few made friends with him. He threw me the keys one evening (actually he handed me them and spouted on a great deal about some trivial technical facts he must have learned off by heart from the operational manual, of which I deliberately ignored) and I was off for a blast around the town one-way system, our very own urban racetrack.

What a wobble, a hulking mass of noisy bling that you perched on bolt upright, just like a 'murcan cruiser. The suicide hairpin corners lined with metal railings that we so skilfully tucked our Yams into that became a wall of death to this portly wildebeest. I can still picture the grinding sound of the silencers, the sparks, the look of horror on the owners face and the hilarious hooting from the crowd as I barely managed to drag it around by the scruff of its neck and finally back to the park up.

Which would you choose?

Whereas the RDs were fast and satisfying and Kawasaki's strokers were blindingly fast but with scary handling (yet they made you tingle with excitement at the prospect of a ride of a widow maker), conversely the GT750 felt bus like and boring. I made a mental note of adding the GT750 to my list of the most overrated bikes of all time though there are a fair few that come higher to be truthful.

But now all this is history and a classic motorcycle's profile is now under the control of a new breed of journalism that hops between sister publications of publishing magnates and may well not even been born when the stoutish (not fat) GT750 had to compete as more than a collectors oddity and do the business as a means of transport and recreation.

Other than its use of vivid metal flake colour schemes that it shared with its fellow Suzuki models I can see no reason why the dull GT750 should not be relegated to room 101. This of course makes it an instant classic and a sought after machine for those that really perhaps should be advised better.

Or loud and proud?

Meanwhile, MartynCB750 actually owned a GT750. Here's his contribution:

Anarchy made has some strong points about the GT750. I passed my bike test in '73 and thought the early drum brake Kettles were a joke (too fat, girlie colour schemes). However when the 'A' model came out in '75 and was tested at nearly 125mph in the comics, I immediately traded in my unreliable 850 Commando against one.

It was the first bike I had owned which would actually do the same speed as the road tests! I set a record for my regular trip between Leeds and the Lake District on this bike early one morning (88 miles in 83 minutes as I recall - mostly along the old A65 long before today's various road improvements).

Ironically, the very faults which made the early Kettles so dodgy in the 1970s are the reasons they make great 'classic' bikes now. I searched long and hard for an early drum brake model in 'baby blue' turquoise because it's so outrageously 70s when looked at today. Yes it's heavy and underbraked but what a sense of occasion when you go anywhere on it! It's got armchair comfort with loads of grunt, smoothly delivered with a hooligan two-stroke soundtrack when you give it the beans.

Yes I know it was a technical dead end. My kettle shares garage space with a CB750 which was a far more influential bike - we all know that now with hindsight - but, while the Honda is fantastically reliable and easy to live with, it is just a bit (whisper it) boring. The thrill of riding the Honda comes from knowing what a milestone it was - what a piece of history (who said 'what a piece of junk'?). The thrill of riding the Suzuki is purely sensual.

Well, what do you think?

About the GT750. What do you think about the GT750?


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