Collectable: Suzuki GT750
Considering Suzuki’s success over the past 30 years with its GSX-R series of four-cylinder, four-stroke superbikes, it’s hard to imagine that, back in 1970, Suzuki only produced two-strokes. And when they decided to enter the superbike war, up against the mighty Honda CB750 four and wicked Kawasaki H2 two-stroke triple, not surprisingly Suzuki decided on a big smoker.
It also went down a different path, creating a GT, or Grand Tourer, rather than a sportsbike. As Suzuki already had a two-stroke 500cc twin, the T500, it followed expediency by simply adding another 70x64mm cylinder.
Learning from the mistakes of Kawasaki with its air-cooled Mach III triple that initially suffered central cylinder overheating, Suzuki added liquid cooling. A rarity at the time, liquid cooling made sense as the engine would run longer and harder without overheating and seizing – always a problem with highly tuned two-strokes.
The large radiator and cooling system contributed to an increase in weight, but provided the GT750 with an enviable record of reliability, and the GT750 ended up rivalling any four-stroke for longevity. The 738cc, 120-degree crankshaft triple was smooth and, with very mild standard porting and three 40mm Mikuni carburettors, produced a moderate 67 horsepower at 6500rpm.
But the most surprising thing about this two-stroke triple was the flat torque curve. The GT750 also had more low- and mid-range power than anyone expected of a two-stroke. It may have left a haze of blue smoke under hard acceleration, but the GT750 could show a clean pair of heels to most of the competition.
After some initial scepticism, anyone who rode a GT750 came away impressed. Eschewing any emphasis on straight-line performance, the GT750 provided relaxed cruising and exceptional comfort.
Much of this comfort was provided by the GT750’s size. At 214kg dry it was quite heavy and while the handling was a little soft and soggy when ridden hard, the weight was low and the GT750 was a supreme long-distance motorcycle.
Like many Japanese bikes of the time, the suspension was a little underdone, the skinny front forks barely adequate for the GT’s size and weight and the shock absorbers over-sprung and underdamped.
But this wasn’t of any real concern for its touring role and even the overdone Cadillac-inspired styling touches didn’t detract too much from the GT750’s appeal.
The symmetrical exhaust system, with black tapered end cones, was designed to make it look like a four-cylinder, and the giant radiator dominated the front. Setting the GT750 off was a garish candy colour scheme. This was 1970s styling at its most extreme.
The first model, the GT750J (pictured here) was released during 1971, and continued through into 1972. The J was the only one to feature a drum brake, but criticism of this brake’s spongy action and lack of feel led to twin front discs gracing the restyled GT750K of 1973.
In 1975, with the GT750M, came an increase in output to 70hp, but ultimately the market demanded four-strokes. The GT750 could still leave most bikes behind but emission controls eventually signed its death warrant.
Although the GT750 continued until 1977, the release of the four-stroke GS750 the year before was the harbinger of the future. When the GT750 died in a blue haze, so did one of the 1970s’ most iconic motorcycles, and one of the most charismatic machines of the era.
Many thanks to Steve Hari of Antique Motorcycles, Cheltenham, Vic, for the use of the GT750J featured.
THE VALUE EQUATION:
- New (1971) $1495
- Average $12,000
- Perfect $20,000
- The Suzuki GT750 has earned more nicknames than just about any other motorcycle. These range from Kettle, Water Buffalo, Water Bottle and Water Bucket, to Flexi-Flyer. Despite these derogatory names, the GT750 has one of the strongest followings in the classic motorcycle scene.
- Not long after the GT750 was released. Suzuki developed it into the TR750 Formula 750 racer. At the TR750’s race debut at Daytona in 1972 Jody Nicholas was timed at more than 275km/h.
- The most successful rider of the TR750 was the late, great Barry Sheene. Sheene won the FIM Formula 750 title in 1973, and the British Superbike titles in 1973 and 1974, and scored more victories than any other TR750 rider.
- Sheene looked set to take the British title again in 1975 but was injured in a 280km/h accident at Daytona. After this spill, the world’s highest profile race crash, Sheene returned to win the British Superbike title once again on a TR750 in 1976.
- John Williams gave the TR750 its only TT victory, the 1976 Isle of Man 1000cc Classic TT. Williams set a race average speed of 174km/h, with a fastest lap of 177km/h.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Check out the Kettle Club; www.TheKettleClub.com
Here’s a guide to the GT750; www.OldJapaneseBikes.com/GT750_field_guide/page-109
Here’s a Suzuki two-stroke forum; www.Suzuki2strokes.com/forum
Model history is here; www.SuzukiCycles.org/GT-series/GT750.shtml