Cole Parnell resurrects a first-gen GSX-R750 Slabby…
In 1985, the world received the original Suzuki GSX-R750, a lightweight aluminum-framed race replica that would set the standard for modern inline-four sportbikes.
“With a clean sheet of paper the engineers at Hamamatsu drew up a bike that could both win races and yet be legal on the streets. Which meant it would also have to cope with the hammering of the Sunday ride. And they did an astounding job.” —Rider
The first-gen Gixxers — aka “Slabsides” or “Slabbies” for their flat sides — were 50+ pounds lighter than much of the competition, and the air-and-oil-cooled engine made 100 horsepower — enough to launch the bike through the 1/4-mile in 11.2 seconds at 121 mph. It was a stiletto among bludgeons, an uncompromising weapon for the street:
“The Suzuki feels like a racebike on which someone has done an exceptionally thorough job of conversion, making it into a streetbike by adding lights, an effective muffler and some padding to the seat. But it’s still a racer at heart, and as such it makes demands on its rider that go beyond those made by a typical sportbike.” —Cycle World, 1985
At the 2021 edition of The One Motorcycle Show earlier this month, we came across a mouth-watering matte-black Slabby and managed to track down its owner, Cole Parnell (@coley_roller) — a young man whose motorcycling life began on a Honda CT70 and progressed through dirt bikes and onto street bikes.
“I currently have eight motorcycles, which are constantly in a flux of project mode and ride mode. Currently I build bikes, race flat track, ride dirt bikes and street bikes. It’s pretty much a daily part of my life and a big part of my identity. I don’t do it professionally and work a 9-to-5 on the side, haha.”
One thing Cole had never built was a sportbike, so when a rough ’86 GSX-R750 turned up at a friend’s salvage yard, he pulled the trigger. His inspiration was the two-stroke GP500 machines of yesteryear:
“I really wanted the bike to have that classic vintage race bike look. I didn’t want it to look like a show bike. I wanted it to look like it gets ridden and it does.”
Though the bike doesn’t have any custom fabrication, it’s been well restored and outfitted with a host of upgrades, including 34mm Mikunis, K&N filters, NGK wires, Pirelli Diablo Rossi tires, Galfer brake lines, and a Yoshimura exhaust. Cole also designed and cut all the vinyl decals and graphics.
“The first time I rode it, I couldn’t believe how fun and fast it was. The first thing that gets your attention is the sound coming from the Yoshimura pipe. It’s incredible. Then the second thing that got me was when I looked down and was going 100 mph and it felt like 60mph.”
In an effort not to become a motorcycle hoarder, Cole will be selling the bike soon — get in touch with him @coley_roller if you’re interested! Below, we get the full story on this vintage Gixxer.
Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Name is Cole Parnell. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa. Lived in Santa Barbara, CA before moving to Portland, OR. I’ve been here for roughly 6 years.
My history with motorcycles began with a 1974 Honda CT70. I mainly rode dirt bikes as a youngin. Eventually graduated to an RM125 and then a KTM250. Then I moved to California and my interest in road bikes began. My first-ever build was my first street bike, which was a 1979 Honda CX500. Building and riding bikes really went to the next level when I got to Oregon. I currently have eight motorcycles which are constantly in flux of project mode and ride mode. Currently I build bikes, race flat track, ride dirt bikes and street bikes. It’s pretty much a daily part of my life and a big part of my identity. I don’t do it professionally and work a 9-to-5 on the side, haha.
My workshop is my home. I live a above my garage, which is full of motorcycles and my truck parked outside. I have a small apartment above it and it’s very nice being able to walk down some stairs directly into the shop.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1986 Suzuki GSX-R750.
• Why was this bike built?
I’d never built a sport bike and my friend had it for sale at his salvage shop. Was in pretty rough shape and I just loved the look of it and wanted to take a crack at it. Ended up probably being my favorite build and also one of the most fun to ride. The bike is extremely fast.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design concept for the build was a vintage MotoGP 500cc race bikes. I really wanted the bike to have that classic vintage race bike look. I didn’t want it to look like a show bike. I wanted it to look like it gets ridden and it does.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The only thing really custom done were the bike decals and graphics. I cut and designed all of them myself with a vinyl cutter and slapped them on. Other things have been upgraded mechanically from OEM, but no custom fabrication. Has new 34mm Mikuni carbs, K&N air filters, Yoshimura exhaust, NGK wires, Pirelli Diablo Rossi tires, and Galfer brake lines.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The first time I rode it, I couldn’t believe how fun and fast it was. The first thing that gets your attention is the sound coming from the Yoshimura pipe. It’s incredible. Then the second thing that got me was when I looked down and was going 100 mph and it felt like 60mph. The bike is very stable for as old as it is. It’s also extremely fun to bust the rear tire loose.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I think it’s just the overall aesthetic of the bike. The thing looks rad.