Blacked-out Super Kat from dB Customs…
When the Suzuki GSX1100 Katana appeared on the scene in 1981, it looked like nothing else on two wheels. Suzuki had enlisted German designer Hans Muth to design the machine — the man responsible for the BMW R90S, which helped to redefine BMW’s image. While some thought the Katana was a mere styling exercise, the design was actually much more innovative than that:
“Muth and fellow Target Design directors Hans Georg Kasten and Jan Olof Fellström presented Suzuki with a radical design created through wind tunnel testing. The rider and motorcycle were incorporated as a complete aerodynamic package, with the fairing and fuel tank flowing air over and around the rider.” –MC News
To say the radical styling was polarizing was an understatement. However, the Katana has stood the test of time, earning its place as a cult classic:
“Insectoid, low, hunched, futuristic, space-age: many manufacturers have tried to provide truly avant-garde styling and most have embarrassed themselves in the process…. Well, Suzuki didn’t fall into that trap…. It remains one of the truly innovative styling jobs to come from Japan, and its influence can be seen even in today’s machines.” –Classic Bike Hub
With 111 horsepower available from the 1074cc air/oil-cooled inline four, the Katana was the most powerful production motorcycle available at the time. However, like so many other heavyweight superbikes of the era, the handling and braking didn’t match the straight-line performance. Says one of the world’s leading motorcycle historians, Ian Falloon:
“The 1100 Katana was one of the last Japanese bikes built to the old formula of an engine massively overpowering the chassis. It may have been fast but my vivid experience of testing the top speed of a new 1982 wire-wheeled 1100 Katana on a deserted Victorian country road was horrifying.”
Fortunately, there are builders like our friend Darren Begg of dB Customs who are in the business of retrofitting these air/oil-cooled monsters with modern suspension, brakes, wheels, tires…and some serious power upgrades to boot.
If you’re a fan of restomods, then you know Darren’s work. And if you know his work, then you know Darren is not a man who compromises when it comes to his builds. They are built right, with the best available components and a sharp eye for the perfect balance of past and future, heritage and performance.
This newly-completed ’82 Katana 1100 restomod is no exception. Built for a client, the bike boasts a heady array of high-grade hardware. On the chassis end, the frame itself was braced and outfitted with a reinforced Bandit 1200 swingarm. Öhlins forks are yoked up with custom 7075 aircraft aluminum triple clamps with 40mm of offset. Brembo brakes bring the big Kat to a crawl, while Dymag wheels with Avon Spirit ST tires keep it glued through the curves.
Then there’s the engine, a 1216cc Bandit-based mill with Wiseco pistons, high-lift cams, stainless oversize valves, flowed heads (thanks to Ray Mancini of Tennessee’s Xtreme Motorsports), and Hayabusa con rods, breathing through Yoshimura TMR-MJN carbs and a Racefit exhaust. The resulting power-to-weight ratio is right in line with that of a 2010 GSX-R1000 (.38 hp / lb):
“Approximately 155 rwhp, weighs 405 lbs (crankcase oil only).”
Then there’s the heavy black and subtle red paint laid down by Sketch’s Ink, earning the bike a very apt name nickname: “Sinister Katana.” This Kat is downright evil in the best way possible. Below, we talk to Darren for more details on the build.
Suzuki Katana Restomod: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
1982 Suzuki Katana 1100.
• Why was this bike built?
Customer commissioned build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Restomod utilizing all the components I’m an authorized dealer for.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Reinforced frame, Bandit 1200 based 1216cc Wiseco piston engine with .370” lift cams, oversized stainless valves (30In / 26Ex), flowed head, Hayabusa connecting rods, Bandit 1200 reinforced swingarm conversion, custom AA7075 triple clamps (40mm offset) with Öhlins suspension, Brembo Brakes, Dymag UP7X wheels, Avon Spirit ST tires, Racefit exhaust, Yoshimura TMR-MJN carbs, KOSO RX2 gauge cluster, paint work by Sketch’s Ink (all paint no vinyl graphics).
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
Approximately 155 rwhp, weighs 405 lbs (crankcase oil only).
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Very light and nimble with incredible braking.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The balance achieved between black paint and subtle red color highlights throughout.