A street-legal, 2-stroke vintage road racer…
In the early 60s, East Germany’s MZ team rider Ernst Degner escaped the Iron Curtain to work for Suzuki, using the knowledge he gained from 2-stroke genius Walter Kaaden to help build some of the most bombproof, civilized 2-stroke motorcycles of the era. (We highly recommend Isle of Man TT winner Mat Oxley‘s book Stealing Speed for the full story.)
One such machine would be the Suzuki T500 Titan, a lightweight, 47-hp air-cooled twin that could outrun many larger, heavier 4-strokes. Suzuki went on to develop the TR500 factor race bike with their 500cc motor — a bike that the legendary Barry Sheene would ride.
Enter Justin Weber of Oregon’s Weberwerks, an aircraft mechanic who’s been involved in road racing since he was a teenager. Inspired by Barry Sheene and the glory days of 1970s GP racing, he decided to build his dream vintage 2-stroke Suzuki T500 road racer. Justin, who works out of his garage, says he wouldn’t necessarily classify himself as a bike builder, but he’s created one incredible 2-stroke road race tribute.
Below, we get the full story, with incredible photographs from Erica Johnson.
Suzuki Titan Road Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Justin I’m an A&P (aircraft mechanic) mostly working on in business jet turbine engines. My first motorcycle, a Honda Z50, was a present for my 5th birthday. I most rode dirt bike growing up and was heavily involved in OMRRA, the local road racing association as a teenager. Which is where my love of road race bikes started.
My workshop is my single car/ two motorcycle garage. Quite sparse, I don’t own a band saw, drill press, or at the even a vise. Just my hand tools and a MIG. There’s something nice about hand-finishing metal with a file!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike started out as a 1975 Suzuki T500 Titan.
• Why was this bike built?
I originally was going to slap some fairings on and flip the bike, but not too far into the project I realized I was building my dream vintage 2-stroke road racer.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
1970’s GP racing!! Really the 10 minutes of the movie Little Fauss and Big Halsy. Some thing about that skinny, bubbly, vintage body work draws me in. I looked back to Suzuki’s race bikes from the 60’s and 70’s and want to stay close to the spirit of those machines.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
More hours of frame grinding and bracket building than I can count! Airtech bodywork, powder coated frame, lots of hand polishing. I tried to refinish as much of the original parts, defects and all, and replace the rest with NOS parts.
17” anodized rims, custom punched and laced to GT500 front hub and stock rear hub.
Seat upholstery by my lovely girlfriend Erica. Beautiful paint by Kevin Miller.
Jemco chambers heavily modified to fit in the bodywork. Beside the expansion chambers and pods the engine is stock, runs dependably well.
• How would you classify this bike?
Vintage road race tribute.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
This is the most involved bike I built, I wouldn’t classify myself as a bike builder necessarily. So it kind of caught me off guard the amount of time and effort that goes in to a motorcycle build, so many tiny details that all add up. I guess I’m most proud of the fact that I don’t have a “shop” just too much time on my hands and some hand tools!
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Photographer: Erica Johnson