Here at Classic Motorbikes-Net we’d heard a whisper about a guy who’s ever so slightly bonkers about Suzuki GSX1100s,and even better, he lives so close to our Peterborough HQ he’d not even need to knock the choke off on any of his GSXs to swing by and see us for a brew. John Martin insisted he’d get the kettle on and I was dispatched to catch up on the guy they call FBJ.
I invited myself around a week later to ask him a few questions and check out the contents of his a garage.
The most obvious question was why is he so obsessed with the GSX1100 range? John was keen to enlighten me. “It all goes back to a trip to the Bulldog Bash many years ago. My mates had GSX1100s. I didn’t. I think I was on a CBX1000 or a Z1300. It was the noise that got me hooked, listening to one of the GSXs barking through an Eagle race exhaust, I just had to have one.”
Despite wanting to keep on the subject about the bikes, I had to ask John about his tats. His left arm is fast becoming homage to the 16 valve GSX, two of its most iconic models adorn his skin. Again John pipes up to fill me in. “They’re my bikes. I’ve seen a few Katana tattoos, but this one is my actual bike. The guy did the artwork from a picture of my bike and he also did the same with the GSX1100EF one too.” I was taught by an old editor never to discuss money when interviewing people, so I ignored this advice and waded in with the nosey question. John wasn’t offended. “The bloke charged £90 per hour, and it took him three days.” Even with my rusty maths that’s heading for over £1,500 on ink.
We’d now gone so far off track with the interview that we needed to stop and get back to the subject in hand, John’s addiction to the big Suzuki four strikes from the 1980s. John’s had the bikes and got the t-shirts. It was the initials on his black Fruit of the Loom that I wanted to bend his ear about next. ACS, or its full title Air Cooled Suzuki is John’s corner of the internet. It’s a website started by him around four years ago. I was interested to know why he’d do such a thing, after all most forums have a habit of turning into virtual slanging matches and cause of much aggro. Thankfully John’s site is nothing like that. I got comfy sprawled on his living room floor and let him talk me through the birth of ACS. “I like forums and I love air cooled Suzuki’s. After a chat at work someone knew someone who could build me a site for a couple of hundred quid. The logic behind it was to get like minded people together online and also out in the real world. It’s grown steadily, its run for pleasure and I’ve now got registered users in all corners of the globe. We have started to get out to shows too. Over the last few years we’ve made it along to classic shows at Stafford, Donington, Squires Cafe and Newark.”
At this point I feel that I need to mention John’s better half, Flo. She too owns an air cooled Suzuki, one of the rarest models they made the GSX1000S Katana. Sadly though, due to an accident when she was pillion to John, she’s unable to ride at the moment. Still, unlike her petrol tank, her enthusiasm for motorcycling hasn’t been dented, and she happily goes along to the shows with John.
The ACS website continues to grow at a healthy pace, and with over 500 followers on their Facebook page, John is chuffed with not just the progress of ACS, but also the spirit of those who’ve got involved. This is both riders and traders. John gave me the bigger picture, “I like banter, but don’t like things if they turn abusive and get out of hand. It can happen quickly online so I keep an eye on my site and deal with anything that’s not constructive. What I really like is how the members help each other out, sharing knowledge and at times even parts. There was a post on our Facebook page the other day. Someone wanted to know what size headrace bearings they’d need to graft Suzuki GSXR1000K8 yokes onto a GSX frame. I didn’t have a clue myself, but next time I looked two people had given the bloke the information he required. We’ve got some site sponsors from within the trade who offer parts at reduced prices, free post and little touches like that. The guys at Grumpy1260 offer members discounts and Gary Hurd also helps with technical queries on our site. Robinsons also get involved with discounts for ACS members. It’s not just the big boys who get involved; we’ve two one man band operations who offer a reduction on parts they sell. You won’t have heard of them but they deserve a mention. PrototypePlasticComponents and Yamakawasuzi. Without their support ACS would be a quieter place”.
You might get the impression that John lives on his computer, but that isn’t the case. We sink our second cuppa and head outside to his workshop, which is where the weapons are kept. There are nine bikes out there, all Suzuki’s, and out of the nine, seven are air cooled. The other two are oil cooled, a stunning GSX-R1100L and a relatively modern GSX1400 of the 2002 vintage. It’s not just bikes you fall over, there’s a whole stash of GSX parts too. John refers to parts in another ways. “They’re like a currency, I wish I could keep all my parts but they have to get sold now and again to fund new projects. I’ve just sold a Katana fuel tank for £200. The money will go to fund work on my newest project, a Harris Magnum 2 that will end up with a GSX1100 motor in it, either a Kat lump or an EFE one, I’m not too sure yet.” My retinas can’t keep up with John’s chatter. He’s pointing to bikes and telling me their life stories. Each one from his standard Katana 1100 to his minty GSX1100EF with a genuine 18,000 miles on its distinctive clock set was worthy of a few paragraphs within this article, but it was his big black turbo Katana that grabbed my attention. This machine is so far from standard that it would have members of the VJMC tearing their hair out, perfect.
John rode his non standard GSX1100EF 33 times last year, and each time it was down the drag strip. In eight and quarter miles John was hooked on drag racing. He fessed up his plans, “I love GSX’s and I love drag racing. I enjoyed playing at it on the EF last year, despite all the chassis modifications the engine is stock. My best time was 11.3 at around 120 MPH terminals, not bad for an engine built in 1984. This Katana is one I built for the road, but it’s perfect for drag racing. The turbo will spit and growl and I’ve got to get the swinging arm out in the week so it can be lengthened by a friend”.
I could’ve stayed in John’s air cooled wonderland for many more hours, but with his Mum expecting him to visit we had to shut the throttle on our natter. I’m going to sign up to the ACS website, and until I can catch up with FBJ in the real world at either a show or Santa Pod, I know that I can keep up to date with his project progress etc on his website. You can too.