The Suzuki Katana GSX1000SZ was a ground-breaking machine that proved to be one of the most successful production motorcycles styled by an outside design house. It’s also a bike that has stood the test of time quite well and a strong example never fails to draw admiring glances from enthusiasts young and old.
The Katana project actually began in Germany with a company called Target Design in 1979 with Target Design to improve Suzuki’s GS1100. Ex-BMW designers Hans-Georg Kasten and Hans Muth partnered with Brit Jan Fellstrom to overhaul the Suzuki lineup in Europe. The Katana, named for the famous Japanese sword, first appeared at the Intermot show in Cologne in May 1980, and production examples appeared a year later with only a few changes from the show bike.
The Katana took occupied a place in Suzuki’s lineup between roadsters like the GS1000 and the more hardcore race replica GSX-R 750 and 1100 that came out in 1985. The Katana was powered by a tweaked 997 cc, 16-valve four that made an impressive 108 bhp and breathed through 32mm smoothbore Mikuni carburetors. The 1,000 cc Katana achieved a top speed of 143 mph and a quarter mile time somewhere around 11 seconds. The 1100 cc model is predictably a bit quicker, and both models received better exhaust timing, twin-swirl combustion and a lighter alternator.
The American market got around 2,500 1,000 cc bikes in 1982, which were distributed roughly two per dealership as part of a homologation program to make them eligible for superbike racing. In 1983, the GSX1000S was replaced by an 1100 cc model with conventional 34 mm carbs, and 750 cc and 650 cc models also became available. A flip-up headlight followed in Europe in 1984, and today that feature is particularly desirable.
At 541 lbs, the Katana is quite heavy by modern standards. The fork rake is 29 degrees and the slippery fairing makes it stable at speed, but the anti-dive ceases to work once the fork oil froths and the long wheelbase and weight make it hard to ride quickly through the corners.
The drivetrain of the Katana is quite solid and reliable and not much tends to go wrong with it, but a noisy fifth gear is a warning of future transmission problems. Brake discs can also warp, and the rear tire tends to wear quickly. The electrics are typically dependable, though water in the switchgear can cause problems. Vaseline will keep it out, though.
One odd footnote to the Katana’s design is that they can’t seem to get enough of it in Japan. Suzuki cranked out 200 replicas of the 1980 GSX1100S model in 1990 for the domestic market to celebrate the company’s 70th anniversary. All of them were silver, all were individually numbered and all were sold the same day.
Suzuki did the same thing again in 1991, and got the exact same result. Smaller 200cc and 400 cc versions were made for another two years, and in 1994 the GSX1100SR Katana returned to the Suzuki range and remained all the way up until 2001. The final model was the GSX1100SY of 2001. After 1,100 examples had been built and after 20 years in production, Suzuki finally discontinued the Katana.
1992 Suzuki GSX750F Katana Info
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