1976 Suzuki GT750A LeMans
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Suzuki made heavy use of the two-stroke engine during the 1960s and 1970s, and developed the technology extensively, paying little to no attention to emissions.
It began with the X6 Hustler of 1967, an appealing, cheap 250 cc twin capable of 100 mph. Next came the 500 cc T-500 Titan twin, a very quick bike that appealed to racers lasted largely unchanged until 1976.
While Suzuki fiddled with the two-strokes, Honda brought out the 750 cc four-cylinder in 1969 and changed the motorcycle market forever. A 120 mph top speed, fantastic reliability, a front disc brake and electric start made it the perfect all-rounder, and it stormed the market previously dominated by British bikes.
Forced to answer Honda’s 750, Suzuki came up with the rather odd GT750. The 1971 GT750 Le Mans broke new ground in several ways. The engine was a water-cooled three-cylinder two-stroke. At 531 lbs it was rather heavy and at as little as 21 mpg it was rather thirsty, and it was certainly eye-catching in various 1960s metal flake colors. The GT750 also featured four exhaust pipes even though it had just three cylinders. It made for uniformity, but it also added weight. The GT750 earned the nickname “kettle” in the UK, “water buffalo” in America and “waterbottle” in Australia.
It was equipped with Suzuki’s automatic CCI oiling system as well as electric start, but for the first couple of years it also retained a four-leading shoe drum brake. This was replaced with dual disc brakes in 1973, but these didn’t work as well in the wet.
Critics at the time derided the bike’s modest performance, hefty weight and considerable height. It’s a large bike with a wide engine and the low position of the exhaust pipes limit aggressive riding. Even so, it’s a comfortable, smooth and quiet if not exactly sporty ride. It’s therefore a great cruiser for nice weekend afternoons, but with spindly forks and swing-arm, trying to go fast can be scary. Another issue is tires. They are tiny by modern standards and they can wear away fast at higher speeds.
The GT750 saw relatively few changes over the years. The exhaust was lifted up a bit in 1974 for better ground clearance, rubber gaiters were removed from the forks and the three carburetors changed to 32 mm Mikunis. These grew again to 40 mm Mikunis in 1975, and the pipes were raised again and the gearing increased. Colors were toned down for the last years.
Finding a sound GT750 can be a challenge. Many were used for commuting or just ridden often and are therefore not all that well preserved. Spare parts can also be hard to find, and lean running can burn a hole in the middle piston, requiring an overhaul. They do remain relatively cheap to purchase, however, and a Suzuki GT750 will always make a good conversation piece.