Suzuki GSX1100ET Street Special

Suzuki GSX1100ET Street Special

Life’s a drag

Suzuki GSX11000ETUpon first impression, this GSX looks much like a standard bike, as the initial impact fades away however, it becomes clear that little of the original bike still exists. The weedy front end has gone, as has the entire back end too, in their place items that wouldn’t look out of place doing a far more industrial task.

Viewed from the left side the bike looks to be pert and ready to go, the back end is clearly extended but, it doesn’t look out of scale with the rest of the bike, the rear shocks lifting the bike to suit, balancing out the bulky tank and front end to perfection, while the cut down seat and raised rear section adds some bulk to the proceedings. Walk around the other side of the bike and the story changes, the huge engine, usually found dominating the look of the bike has had its spotlight stolen by the gorgeous chrome work of the Vance and Hines pipe work. This masks the front of the bike before running the whole length of the casings stopping short, ending with a stunted megaphone, half way along the lengthy swing arm. It’s a strange look for a road machine but one that grows on you within minutes.

Suzuki GSX1100Aimed squarely at getting up the drag strip as rapidly as possible without losing its composure, the GSX apparently has little about it endearing it to use on the public roads. Once on the move however, within the first few yards you soon realise that this isn’t the case and the GSX special rides well. Ground clearance issues aside, the drag equipped GSX is a fine road machine. The lengthy chassis doesn’t make a nuisance of itself, and actually helps keep the huge amount of power and torque on tap well under control. Likewise under braking the extra distance between the front and rear wheels keeps the plot ship shape and inline which is a good job as the six-pot calipers on each side of the beefy upside down fork legs have tremendous bite from the very first grab of the lever right down to the wheel grinding to a halt. This stability is a bit of a problem when you need to change direction at any speed, and the GSX has a hard time trying to understand what it is you actually want it to do. Thankfully the wide bars do help getting the thing to do you bidding but even so it isn’t easy and needs a heavy hand to get the bike into your way of thinking. To be fair this was never an easy task on a standard GSX1100E so adding a few inches, four to be precise, into the wheelbase is never going to help any, but in use and at speed it isn’t so bad.

Suzuki GSX1100ET SpecialGet the bike in and out of a corner, and just open the taps for the ride of your life, forget the cornering process for a while, the big brute of an engine just loves to pull and doesn’t seem to have a particular redline in mind either. Gary’s work on the engine has yielded a wider, and punchier, spread of power too, the open carbs and pipes adding a sweet soundtrack to the proceedings. What begins as a business like growl, soon develops into a screaming howl, all backed up by the heady breath of four open carbs.

Gary’s street special, has retained much of the character and most of the looks of the original GSX. What it does do better is all the right things, stopping for example, is now controlled and predictable, whereas on the standard bike it was always a lottery; the calipers and discs being too small to have any authority over the bike at speed. Handling is now rock steady with its mix of Bandit and Gixxer running gear aided by the Ohlins shocks and hefty JMC swing arm, at the back end. Much was made about the frame and its flexibility under power when the GSX was the latest toy but, the finger of blame can be pointed squarely at the suspension and steel-tube swing arm as with newer and higher specification items now holding the beefier wheels in place the chassis gives no cause for complaint.

GSX1100 SpecialThe work carried out on this machine has all been for the right reasons with nothing added purely for cosmetic ends. The result however is something of a surprise, it’s a bike capable of tearing up the strip at a cracking pace, while still being totally useable on the street which, in turn, makes for a cheap way of competing in “run what you brung” drag races and having a good chance of riding home with a pot or two in your rucksack.

The GSX 1100 ET, a great bike without all of the extra stuff ?

First seen in the autumn of 1979 the powerhouse GSX1100 ET broke the mould of acceptance in the super bike stakes. Its brutish looks and 1074cc,16-valve, engine made it the most powerful and fastest four cylinder bike to date, kicking the opposition into the ring and not letting them out without a nasty fight. All it was in reality was a bore and stroke job carried out on the GS1000 engine, wrapped up in a chassis barely capable of holding it all together but it worked. The press of the day loved it as, all of a sudden they had something different to get their teeth into and this was reflected in sales too, the big Suzook proving popular on the street. It remained in the Suzuki line up for the next 3 years and gradually the power was upped, eventually producing 111bhp at 8700rpm when the Katana‘esque EZ model arrived in 1982. By 1984 the engine was revamped making way for the 1135cc unit, similar in basic design but now using a joint air/oil cooling system and with a whopping power increase too, the GSX1100EE model now produced 124bhp at 8500rpm.

Gary Hurd – GSX specialist

GSX1100ETHaving already tasted Gary’s take on the Katana thesis some time earlier, this stretched GSX came as no surprise. Bags of useful power and torque are at your right wrists beckoning, while down right top notch mechanical skill make for a bike so rideable it beggars belief. All too often, meeting with a specials builder and owner can result in a long list of excuses why various parts of the bike in question are not ready or simply not working. This is never the case with Gary and he takes a lot of pride in his creations, also every bike has to justify its being so each bike in the Hurd garage are working machines as well as pure eye candy.

The GSX came about after Gary had been following the exploits of Pip Higham during the mid 80’s. Eventually in 1986, after searching for GSX1100ET but with little, luck Gary decided to opt for a later version and make do. An advert in the weekly bike rag soon had him travelling to look at a bike that actually turned out to be exactly what he was looking for and then some. It was an ex-demo machine, used at some stage by Dixon racing as a showcase for the Yoshimura range of go faster goodies, party on.

GSX1100ET SpecialOnce back home Gary ran the bike in its original form for a short while but then an alloy JMC braced swing arm beckoned. Being a whole four inches longer than stock meant the bike would lend itself to a bit for strip work which after a few hours of fettling and skilful riding by Gary the GSX returned a stunning 10.9 second standing quarter. With the longer rear end the front with its 16-inch wheel looked down right weird and simply had to go. Since that day, Suzuki Bandit 1200 wheels have replaced the stock items, as has a GSX-R 1100M upside down front end which now plays host to a set of six-pot calipers borrowed from a TL1000, and a GSX-R600 front mudguard, making for an aggressive and business like looking machine. A Dyna ignition keeps the sparks in check while a bit of Gary’s own gas flowing, has the head breathing far better than it ever left Japan. The 1135cc Yoshimura top end that the bike came with remains in place fed by a bank of 38mm Mikuni flat slides, surprisingly perfect exactly how they came out of the box, requiring nothing in the way of re-jetting or fettling. These get their air via a set of open filers which can often do their very best to upset the jetting and low speed running, however once again this is not a problem on gary’s bikes. To date no work has been done to the cams and valves, gas flowing apart the valves and profiles are still standard but clearly it works well.

Helping the engine breath is a set of, virtually straight through, Vance and Hynes exhaust pipes, these do compromise the bikes cornering ability by a good degree around right handers but, the extra gains up the strip that this system provides must surely be worth it.

Suzuki GSX SpecialCurrently he has a set of 39mm Keihins but admits these are probably a step too far s the power has shifted to the upper end of the rev scale losing much in the way of tractability and usefulness.

Once the bike was pointed down the strip it soon became clear that the fuel supply wasn’t plentiful enough to get it all the way to the end with power still on tap. To this end a Pingle High Flow tap has been fitted with the subsequent increase in breather size to facilitate the engines thirsty habits once the throttle is pinned back.

In the future Gary would love to add a turbo of some description just to experience the extra push in the midrange but for now he is happy with his GSX. Of course every top job has a long list of supporting artists and this is no exception, his wife Jackie, Straightline Racing and Reservoir Cogs have all played no small part in the creation of this machine.

Suzuki GSX1100 Special Specifications

  • Engine – air-cooled four-cylinder inline-four
  • Capacity – 1135cc
  • Bore &amp – stroke 76 x 66mm
  • Carburetion – 38mm Flatslide Mikuni
  • Max Power – 135bhp @ 8750rpm
  • Torque – 72 ft-lb @ 6500rpm
  • Ignition – Dyna Coil
  • Transmission – 5-speed, wet clutch, chain drive
  • Frame – steel tube twin cradle
  • Suspension – 43mm USD forks twin Ohlins rear
  • Wheels – 120/70 x 17, 180/55 x 17
  • Brakes – 310mm disc 6-piston Nissin calipers, 240mm disc 2-piston caliper
  • Wheelbase – 1610mm
  • Weight – 250kgs
  • Fuel capacity – 20 litres
  • Top speed – 150mph

Suzuki GSX1100ET Special Gallery

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