1991 Suzuki GSX-R 1100M Restomod Part I
If you’re like me, then the thought of parting with $15,000+ for the latest 200-horsepower superbike is unlikely. It’s not only a big dent in the wallet that deters me from making this decision – it’s also the fact that a 200-horsepower machine, weighing around 400 lbs., would require World SBK level skill and commitment to ride. This is something I’m not capable of in my diminished youth.
No – what I need is a motorcycle that has power, handles and stops reasonably well and (most importantly) has the menacing looks of a fully laden fighter jet. Time to revisit the world of Restomod. For those unfamiliar with the term, it simply implies taking and early era “Superbike,” most of which can be had for under $2,000, and rebuilding it with some of today’s advanced technology.
There are obvious components that would need immediate attention on a late 80’s – mid 90’s performance bike, like wheels, suspension and brakes to help bring it up to speed. But there are a plethora of additional, less obvious flaws that would greatly benefit from 25 years of evolution. The key is to identify which upgrades are essential and which you can do without.
My chosen project bike will be this 1991 Suzuki GSX-R 1100 M. I picked this one up on Craigslist for $1,500. The frame is straight, the motor is strong and the title is clear. Everything else can be fixed with a modest budget, some determination and a large tin of elbow grease. The most obvious drawback of a bike from this era would be the wheelbarrow like handling.
Both fork seals are blown on this GSX-R1100, and although the forks are in pretty good shape and have damping, rebound and compression adjustment, updating them to 2014 Suzuki Hayabusa units will improve performance, and save me the task of rebuilding. Not only do you get better handling characteristics, but you also get 310mm radial mounted four-pot stoppers.
Fortunately there is no shortage of late model, crash damaged bikes being parted out, and a complete front-end set up like this would run you about $800. So that takes care of the front.
For the rear, I have in my arsenal of collected bits the complete swingarm set up from a 1994 GSXR 1100. Although its almost exactly the same size as stock, it is a much beefier unit with a smoother profile. Aesthetically pleasing it is.
One area I don’t want to skimp on is the rear shock. With the 07 Showa forks up front, I want something on par for the back side. A suitable Ohlins or Elka unit will undoubtedly be up to the task of absorbing anything I could throw at it.
Bikes had personality back then. The raw analog experience of riding one cannot be matched by today’s digital dribble of wheelie control, traction control and ABS. One of the aspects I love most about these old bikes is the ferocious sound they make at just about any RPM. Being passed by one at full tilt is akin to passing through the eye of an F5 Tornado.
So a complete performance exhaust system is another area where I don’t mind dishing out a few dollars more. Fortunately for me, the GSX-R1100’s engine on this particular bike is in outstanding condition. It has oodles of power and the gearbox is silky smooth.
So as far as extracting more power from the 1100 lump goes, I think a set of 38mm Mikuni flat-slide carbs will suffice. And perhaps a Quick Shifter from Dynojet would liven things up further.
All the modifying means nothing if the paint is not as sharp as the running gear. For me, the goal is to keep the colors as close to original as possible. It’s a personal opinion but I’ve seen many a masterpiece ruined by hideous custom paint schemes that distract from the mechanical enhancements.
I enjoy painting. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from knowing you did it perfectly. But in the same breath there is a tremendous amount for frustration involved with getting it perfect. The paint has to be perfect so I have decided to leave it up to the professionals.
This is the outline of what I want to accomplish with my restomod project – a 1991 Suzuki GSX-R1100M.
Budget fluctuations and time restraints may dictate certain aspects of the build, but within a few months we should be rewarded with a classic bike that has the power and agility to run with the millennials and the sheer presence to stand out from the crowed.
Stay tuned for project updates…