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Bike Profile - Posted 4th July 2012

Suzuki GS1000 Winter Project - Part 2
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Duncan Cooper is returning his GS to the road after it spent seven years in storage. While waiting for paint to dry, he tries to inspire it to start...

On the face of it, all I need do is refresh the paint on the tank, as that-there damn rust is starting to peep through.

After cleaning off the old paint (and new rust) I applied a couple of coats of anti-rust primer and filled the obvious dents. Fuel tanks are made of very thin steel and are in a rather exposed position so you'd be very lucky to find a tank of this age without at least a few minor dings.

Mustard After rubbing down the initial coats of rust killing paint and patches of filler, Duncan applied some high-build-primer to deal with any minor flaws and help blend the edges of the filler patches into the rest of the tank surface

High-build primer is a relatively new product (it's only been around for years and years, rather than decades and decades) which is useful for treating subtle bodywork wear and tear. I put a coat of this over the anti-rust paint, rubbing it down smooth with wet-and-dry paper ready for the next coat and to make it easier to see any high and low points.

Banana split The nice, even, high-build-primer coat showed up some low points so Duncan applied some more conventional filler and rubbed the whole tank down again

I skimmed some low areas with conventional filler before applying another coat of primer, rubbing down, checking the surface by eye and hand and applying more filler as required. You have to repeat this process as many times as required to get a perfect surface (or at least a surface you'll be able to live with), even though you don't seem to be making much progress. If you don't, then there won't be much you can do once you start applying the colour coats of paint.

Battleship A coat of conventional grey primer covered the yellow high-build-primer to get an appropriate base colour for the metallic blue top coat

I followed the final coat of high-build primer with a coat of conventional grey - the recommended base colour for the metallic Nissan 'Midnight Blue' I was going to re-spray the tank with. As I'm preparing this bike for sale, really, I had in mind to paint it black and then get an appropriate decal kit to make the bike look more 'original' but decided to stick with the dark metallic blue as the bike looks so 'right' in this colour.

Midnight It's easier to spray on more coats than rub-down paint runs so Duncan sprayed on several thin coats to build up an even colour rather than trying to do it all in one go

Sticking with the same colour also meant I wouldn't need to re-paint the tail cowling and the side panels. Except that one or two spots of paint on the tail look a bit 'loose' so I'll probably have to re-do that anyway. Drat. Should have uses etch primer on the plastic tail the first time round - still, you live and learn.

Midnight, again? After each coat of colour… Midnight, with swirls …the tank was flatted it off with wet & dry…

As with the undercoats, the application of the colour coats is a repetitive process if you want to get a smooth even finish. Spray on a coat of paint (I err on the side of too thin rather than too thick), rub it down to a flat / matt finish, check if the paint has reached a thickness so that it appears an even colour across the tank, repeat preceding steps if you can see any variation in the colour saturation across the surface. I ended up putting on three coats and, frankly, I'd have put on at least three coats even if the first coat had miraculously appeared perfect. Metallic paint's a bit translucent (or you wouldn't be able to see the metal flakes) so you have to put on a few coats to get an even, fully saturated, colour.

If I'd used black paint, as originally planned, or any 'solid' colour I could have finished flatting off the paint with a fine grade of wet and dry, and then polished it up with a rubbing compound, or T-cut as I like to use, and have been done. But I'd gone and used a metallic colour so I now needed to apply some coats of lacquer (posh name for a clear varnish) to provide a surface that could be polished up to a proper shine.

Midnight, without swirls …to get a matt finish… Midnight, with shine …then sprayed on another coat of colour…

As this is a fuel tank we're talking about and will regularly get petrol dripped on it, I took the opportunity to choose a petrol resistant lacquer so that all the hours of preparation, spraying, flattening and polishing wouldn't be spoiled. It's probably worth spraying a coat of petrol resistant lacquer on to all fuel tanks, even if you haven't used metallic paint.

After flatting down with 1200 grade wet and dry I spayed on the lacquer just like another coat of paint. Usually I'd have let this dry for at least a couple of hours before rubbing it down flat and applying another coat (trying to flat-down tacky paint doesn't really work) but the can said 'after one hour this lacquer cannot be over-coated' so there was no time to let the paint dry and flatten it down before applying another coat. Having to apply a second coat without intermediate preparation would allow any flaws to build up, but it had to go on to be sure the tank was covered thickly enough to allow a final flatting off / polishing-up without too much fear of going through to the colour coat.

Midnight, with edges …and flatted that down to a matt finish, repeating until the coating was evenly saturated. Duncan finished off with 1200 grade wet & dry ready for the top coats of lacquer Midnight, with edges Metallic paint needs coating with lacquer to bring out the shine. Duncan used a petrol-resistant kind to protect the paint from the inevitable drips when filling up

As expected, the finish left after spraying on the second coat was only half decent to my eye and really did need a good flat and polish, but the can also said '…allow…at least two weeks before using rubbing compound' so the job was stopped for a bit. I didn't want to put the tank on the bike only to have to take it off again.

I decided to put the tank to one side and instead rig-up a temporary one so I could see if the bike would fire up after its long slumber. All I could find was a kitchen funnel so I ran a hose between that and the carburettors. I also needed a battery (the Suzuki's was not only dead but gone. No doubt I'd put it somewhere safe), so borrowed the Optima battery from my R100 as I reckoned it should be big enough to spin the GS1000, what with its pistons being a mere 250cc each.

The BMW's battery was physically too big to fit the Suzuki's battery box. Lateral thinking was required. Balancing the battery as close to the Suzuki as I could, I managed to connect the earth lead, but I had to get some additional wiring from my 'bag of old wire' to bridge the gap between the positive terminal and the positive lead on the bike. When the starter motor heaves the engine around it draws a LOT of power through the battery leads (that's why they have to be so thick) so I doubled-up my additional wiring to allow enough power through them to turn the engine (and not melt).

Midnight, with edges Duncan tried starting the bike while the lacquer was curing. It was a bit of a lash-up to do this on a bike without its own tank or battery, but even with fuel and electricity the thing wouldn't even splutter, and fuel gushed from the carb overflows
Classic Suzukis on

My lash-up worked and pushing the dusty starter button spun the engine round plenty fast enough. Yey!

Unfortunately it showed absolutely no sign of firing and a large pool of petrol gathered under the bike. Boo!

The petrol was running from the carburettor's over-flow pipes. It seemed I had to face the fact that fresh paint wasn't enough. At the very least I was going to have to rebuild the carbs before I could get the bike running and MOT'd. Humm. My good friend Andy has just bought an ultrasonic cleaner. Hey Andy!

To be continued…


When he's not rebuilding his Suzuki, Duncan runs Bikeheart European Motorcycle Tours. His aim is to guide you on your own trusted motorcycle on a motoring adventure of a lifetime. Bikeheart carefully select their routes to reward those looking for a riding and cultural experience, in regions where the weather should be better than at home. The 2012 programme of visits Spain and France. See


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