Here’s part two of our look at the finest GSX-Rs that fall into the classic era of 10 years or older – plus a look at how the early models did in racing.
As we trumpeted last time – CB-Net can assure you that 2019, not 2020 is the 35th anniversary year of the GSX-R range.
Because while 1985 was the launch year of the 750F Slab-sider, the bike was launched at the Cologne Show of 1984 and – more importantly – the GSX-R400 was in fact a 1984-year model over in Japan.
Here’s part two of our rundown of the best classic GSX-R750s…
Model designation: GSX-R750WN
Finally the old oil/air-cooled motor is replaced by one which is liquid-cooled at last! If that makes you smile, sadly the old double-cradle frame and all-round bloatyness was still there. Worse, for this year in came colours and graphics that made your chavvy auntie’s shell-suit look modest. Power was now 116bhp and weight was 208kilos. Suspension permutations were now also in the millions thanks to multi-adjustable suspension… Well and truly trounced on track and in the showrooms, a few upgrades towards the mid-1990s included blue anodised forks and multi-reflector headlights. Too little… too late!
CB-Net rating: 5/10
Model designation: GSX-R750WT SRAD
Ooooh at last a complete overhaul. The SRAD finally gave us a bike with a beam-frame but still with the trademark twin-beam Gixxer stare. Based on Schwantz’s RGV500 geometry of 1993, it was going to be barking, but on a good day it could also beat a Blade, despite giving away 150cc. Weight was 179 kilos and power from the all-new, ram-air motor was 122bhp. The wasp tail bodywork took some getting used to. For 1998 the W-X featured fuel-injection for the first time.
CB-Net rating: 10/10
Model designation: GSX-R750Y
The SRAD may have inherited fuel-injection in 1998, but the later ‘Y’ once more showed what a good 750 could do. The bodywork was sleeker, even if the basic architecture was the same as the SRAD, albeit with revisions to the engine and chassis. Power was now a clamed 125bhp and weight down to an anorexic 166 kilos dry.
CB-Net rating: 9/10
Model designation: GSX-R750 K4
Smoother power delivery makes this GSX-R feel calmer than the previous two incarnations, which isn’t really what a GSX-R should be and by now it’s in a class of one, following the ZX-7R’s demise, which was a real shame. Still, this 15-year-old model had 145 claimed bhp, radial brakes (which were awesome) and just 163 kilos. We still like this one a lot, even if it’s not the best looking GSX-R ever…
CB-Net rating: 8/10
Model designation: GSX-R750K6
This is more like it: one of the best-looking GSX-Rs ever and one of the best sportsbikes, period. This again is based on the previous model, but with a re-designed cylinder head with narrower valve angles to pump out 148 claimed bhp. The frame was all-new, featuring a new braced alloy swingarm. Weight was still 163 kilos. Amazing to think this model is now 13 years old and still can be found for around £4000…
CB-Net rating: 9/10
Early racing GSX-Rs
Despite being such a massive sales success for Suzuki, the GSX-R750 never won the world’s premier four-stroke title – the World Superbike Championship.
Gary Goodfellow took the bike’s first WSB win in 1988, with Doug Polen taking their second win a year later at the same track, Sugo. The water-cooled WN machine was uncompetitive, and the 1996 WT SRAD was fickle until Keichi Kitigawa won at Sugo in 1998 and Pier-Francesco Chili took five wins between 1999 and 2001.
That’s not to say that it didn’t do well in other championships. It won the World Endurance title in ’87, ’88, 97 and ’99 – the last two with Brit Terry Rymer on board, three Japanese TT-F1 championships and the 2001 All-Japan Superbike series.
In the UK the GSX-R won numerous superstock titles, as well as the UK Production title with Jamie Whitham in 1988 aboard a Slingshot and the MCN TT-F1 title with Whitham again in 1991 on a much-modified GSX-R. 1992 saw the water-cooled WN turn out to be so slow compared to the JPS Norton rotaries and the Team Green ZXR750s. Whitham said: “You couldn’t keep up with the Nortons or the Kawasakis and to make matters worse it wasn’t the best handler either – I called it the ironing board…”
In the USA even the talents of Kevin Schwantz couldn’t win the AMA series with an early GSX-R750. Despite making his and the GSX-R’s name in the 1986 Transatlantic at Donington Park, the best he could do was five wins and second place behind Honda’s Wayne Rainey in 1987. Eventually Mat Mladin won three titles on the 750 between 1999 and 2001 then followed this up with AMA titles from 2003-2005 inclusive. Young gun Ben Spies took the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 to wins from 2006-2008.
Kevin Schwantz is a name who has always been linked with the GSX-R750. He said: “I still remember the first time I saw the 750. I was amazed at how much like a race bike the standard bike looked like, especially compared to the old GS700 which I had ridden in 1985 – we didn’t get the GSX-R until a year after Europe. It’s amazing how things have moved on. At the launch of the 750Y at Misano in 2000, I told people that this machine was now better than the full-on Yoshimura superbike with which I won the Daytona 200 in 1988. Even when the GSX-R1000 came out in 2001, I preferred my 750 as I could wring its neck. I love the GSX-R750 and I guess as long as Suzuki keeps making it, I’ll have a job!”