Keith Carlson, who builds out of his home garage in Indiana, has become one of our favorite builders. With a background in vintage motocross, he has a preference for two-stroke street screamers that are, as he says, “all show and all go.” His CRF-framed RD400 custom was one of our most popular builds ever.
Now Keith is back with yet another two-stroke street smoker, a Suzuki GT380 cafe racer built for his annual trip to the Tail of the Dragon. The Suzuki GT380 Sebring was a 38-hp, two-stroke triple built from 1972-1977 — the smaller sibling of the GT500 and GT750 “Water Buffalo.” Keith combined modern GSX-R suspension and brakes with vintage two-stroke power, choosing a paint scheme that pays tribute to the Suzuki motocross machines of yesteryear.
Below, we get the full story on this staggering build, along with some gorgeous photos from Dan Tijerina.
Suzuki GT380 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I restore from my home garage in Indiana, have been restoring vintage motorcycles for 12 years. Started in the Vintage Motocross world and transitioned to street. Many of my builds still pay tribute to the dirt roots — i.e. Pro Taper bars and handgrips — also the two-tone blue striping on the tank pays homage to the early 80s RM motocross machines.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1972 Suzuki GT380 Sebring engine and midsection. Suspension, brakes and wheels are 1997 Suzuki GSXR 750. Most of the rest is “built to suit.”
• Why was this bike built?
Built for the annual trip to Deals Gap in early May 2017 to run the Tail of the Dragon. I would say it liked the Dragon and Dragon liked the GT380.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Something unique. Modern wide tires and modern brakes/suspension while still keeping the 2-stroke scream. Not many builders give the Suzuki GT series the love, so I went with a GT380 as the platform.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Offset front sprocket to accommodate the 190 rear tire and GSXR swingarm. Also, the entire rear frame was built and changed to accept the beefy rear end. Powerdynamo ignition making it a lighter/faster spinning flywheel, removing the points and upgrading all the electrical. An old NOS bottle became the new 2 stroke oil tank under the seat, yes it still runs the factory oil injection.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Chose to go with a heavy metal flake paint. Always like the BLING factor on my builds. They are all show and all go! The offset front sprocket is also a machined work of art, too bad it is hidden by the cover.