Suzuki GT750 ‘waterbottle’: Reader resto

Date 31.8.2012

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Suzuki’s GT750 (known locally as the ‘waterbottle’ and overseas as the ‘kettle’) has become a collector bike. Around 10 years ago it was possible to get a reasonable one for around three grand. Nowadays you’ll pay around eight large for a roughie – and that trend shows no sign of slowing in the foreseeable future. Melbourne-based Glenn Reichelt is one lucky waterbottle owner, who is all the more proud because he was the one who restored it to its now-superb condition. We’ll let Glenn take up the story‚Ķ

“My first bike had just 50cc, but I can’t remember what make it was. I’m 53 years old now and since then I have owned many bikes, including a Honda SL125, Yamaha IT250J, Kawasaki Z650 and a few others. I currently own a 1995 Kawasaki VN800, this Suzuki 1975 GT750M and a 1973 AS3 Yamaha, which is waiting to be restored.

“The idea of buying and restoring a Suzuki GT750 had been going around in my head since I saw a friend’s GT750A. When the M model first appeared I was 18 years old – I had been riding bikes since I was about 10 years old.

“My friend, Peter, knew a guy who had a few GTs and he managed to convince him to sell me one. So off we went to Sydney to grab it.

“We took her to our friends Deb and Steve’s house, where Steve and I were going to do the restoration. May I just digress for a moment to say thanks heaps Deb and Steve for putting up with me and for all the great lunches. I expecially want to thank Steve for his many hours of work.

“So there she was in the garage. She had not been running for 10 to 15 years, she had no petcock and she looked like crap. We thought we would try and see if we could get her to run so we connected a fuel line to the carburettors and a battery charger to the leads. About 20 kicks later she burst into life, filled the garage with smoke and was only running on two cylinders. We later found out that the right-hand carb slide was stuck.

“We started to remove parts and by the time the restoration was finished I had taken over 600 hundred photos.

“With the engine removed we disassembled it, which was a challenge in itself as getting the barrels off the crankcase needed a special puller. With some research on the ‘net we soon found what we needed – apparently it’s a common problem with GTs. We sent the crankshaft to Sydney to be checked and the seals replaced. Fortunately, the gearbox looked in excellent condition.

“Parts that were chromed included the front and rear mudguard assemblies, the taillight assembly, plus the chain guard, foot brake, kick starter, rims, horn, exhaust system, handlebars, headlight bucket and brackets, carburettor boot clamps and a few other pieces. Basically, everything that needed to be rechromed, was.

“The frame was sandblasted and painted with industrial two-pack paint, the instrument panel was repainted and cleaned, the handlebar controls were disassembled, cleaned and painted – the radiator as well

– and the swingarm and stands were powdercoated.

“The engine cases, cylinder head, barrels and the front and rear wheel hubs were hydro-blasted and painted with heat-proof paint.

“The carbs were disassembled, hydro-blasted and refurbished and all springs, screws and linkages were zinc coated, with new stainless steel screws fitted. At the same time, the forks were hard chromed and new seals and fork oil were installed.

“I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for parts and I ended up getting many of the parts from the US, as well as from Raceway Suzuki in Niddrie (Vic). As I received parts, we started to reassemble the bike. I must say the parts took two months to get to me from the US – and that was very frustrating.

“The first things to go on were the rims after they had been rechromed and the wheel hubs had come back from the hydro-blaster. I had ordered stainless steel spokes – they turned out fantastic.

“The engine was next. We had a problem with the parts supplier in the US as it had sent us one wrong piston. So I had to send it back and wait for the other one to arrive, which I was sure it would. I waited and waited; emails went unanswered and it was holding up the engine rebuild, so in desperation I ordered what I needed from Suzuki here in Australia. You wouldn’t believe what happened – or maybe you would – the day I picked up the parts here, the parts from the US arrived. I rang Suzuki Australia customer service and they told me I could not return the parts as they considered them used parts; I was shocked, as the parts had not even been opened.

“I was very disappointed in Suzuki as I would have thought it would try and help people like me trying to bring new life to an old classic.

“The next goal was getting the bike to the rolling chassis stage. We installed the centrestand, swingarm and forks. I did some research on the internet and found a few options of rubber for her and decided on Dunlop K81s. We respoked the rims and had the tyres fitted and balanced and then we installed them.

“The saying goes ‘more hands make light work’, but Steve and I were able to get the big, heavy lump of an engine in by ourselves. It really was hard work. With the engine and wheels on she was starting to resemble a motorcycle once more.

“I think at this point the main jobs were done, as the mudguards, handlebars and controls were installed. New brake hoses were fitted and the calipers were overhauled; the master cylinder was honed and a kit installed.

“I removed all the old insulation tape off the wiring and inspected it. I retaped the wiring and put it on the bike. The charging system was checked and in good working order – even the original flasher can worked.

“An electronic ignition was installed. I had a hiccup with that too as the wrong boss was supplied, which meant the timing marks wouldn’t line up.

“It’s funny, the things you think will be the hardest to get, sometimes turn out to be the easiest. One of those things was the headlight, as the bike did not come with the adjuster or the chrome ring that it fits into, but this problem was solved when I found one at a friend’s place.

“The hardest thing was getting the right paint colour, as back then Suzuki didn’t have very good paint codes. I found a side cover that was the original colour (Candy Gold) and we matched the colour through trial and error. I think the colour is magnificent.

“The day came when all we were waiting for was the exhausts to come back from the chromer. When I picked them up I was so excited and rushed to get them on the bike, which did not take long at all.

The big moment was here – would she burst into life? Steve had no doubt; I, on the other hand, was full of fear and trepidation. We called Deb, who was to film the start up, in the garage. With a lump in my throat I pushed the start button and after about a minute of cranking she burst into life – two-stroke smoke filled the garage as it did when we first put her in there 14 months earlier. She was alive!

“I did a little victory dance and we all had great big smiles on our faces. So it was time to get her off the hoist and take to the road – something she had not done for at least 15 years. Steve handed me the helmet – “Go take her for a ride,” he said, with a big grin.

“Now the GT is a big, heavy bike and with me being only 151cm tall I found its weight a bit of a challenge. However, it’s nothing I can’t get used to.

“With Deb still filming, off I went up the road with a cloud of blue smoke behind me. She rode fantastically and when I got back my face was sporting the biggest grin it had ever known.

“It will probably take two or three months to sort out all the little hiccups, but that’s all part and parcel of restoration.

“I have tried to keep the bike in as original a condition as I could. This includes new warning stickers and the original Suzuki key, decals and badges. I wanted the bike to look just as it did in the bike shop back in 1975.

“I plan on keeping the bike and taking her on rides. My daughters will most likely end up with her – that, however, is a long way off.

“As for the AS3 Yamaha, I think this project will take a bit of time, and I’m not in a hurry to start. The GT restoration did put a hole in my bank balance, so I think I just want to enjoy her for a while yet!”

Thanks for that Glenn – it’s a great story and a superb end result. Let us know how you do get on with that AS3 resto.

Restorations like this don’t happen without some help, and to that end Glenn would like to thank the following people: Steve (“For all your help and many hours spent in the garage doing the restoration”); Deb (“For letting me use the garage and the great lunches”); Peter (“For help with the resto and finding the bike”); Sally at Melbourne’s Raceway Suzuki (“If you ever need parts for your GT, give Sally a buzz”); Greg and Louise at Hydro Blast (“Thanks for the fantastic job on the parts I gave you”); John at Nunawading Master Electroplaters (“Brilliant chroming work”); and the guys at Carroll Plating in Airport West (Vic).