Radicalized: Suzuki Katana 1100 Restomod

Suzuki Katana Restomod

Final Edition Katana, Radicalized by AC Sanctuary…  

In 1980, the original Suzuki Katana 1100 rocked the motorcycling world with its angular, space-age design. It was the vision of legendary German designer Hans Muth, who’d been design chief at BMW and responsible for iconic machines such as the R90S and R100RS — juicy, brightly colored bikes that transformed the once staid image of the German brand.

Suzuki Katana Restomod

In 1979, Suzuki enlisted Muth and his firm, Target Design, to update their own image with a groundbreaking new machine. Newly independent of BMW, Muth hit the ground running, delving deep into Japanese culture and history for inspiration.

“Especially influential were two books: Eugene Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery and Reinhard Kammer’s Zen and Confucius in the Art of Swordsmanship. And it’s from this second title that the concept emerges, inspired by the classic, gently curved Japanese sword named katana.” –Cycle World

Muth conceived the bike according to a unified “flyline,” which incorporated the headlight, fuel tank, seat, and fenders into a single continuous design element. The bike was silver, like a sword, with the red Japanese character for katana on the side. The clip-ons were below the top yoke, like a real racebike, and the riding position was much more aggressive than other superbikes of the era.

When he presented the design to Osamu Suzuki, Muth said:

“The sword first serves as a weapon, but a katana also has a mythological meaning in Japan. If you don’t treat it right, its sharpness can be lethal. The same is true for a motorcycle.”

Suzuki Katana Restomod

The radical design was polarizing, but no one could argue with the performance. At the time, it was the quickest (acceleration) and fastest (top speed) 1000cc production bike Cycle World had ever tested. However, it was a dizzying time for superbike evolution, and the arrival of the Suzuki GSX-R series in 1984-85 cast the Katana in shadow.

“The Katana was a brief, outstanding moment in all of it, drawn by a man whose genius has stood the test of time, with a design that ­continues to resonate and turn heads 40 years later.” –Cycle World

Suzuki Katana Restomod

Today, we think of the Katana as a time capsule of the early 1980s — a bike that’s long been out of production. However, the Katana 1100 was produced much longer than you might think…in Japan, at least. In fact, you’ll be surprised to learn a version of the original air-cooled bike was available as recently as the year 2000!

Suzuki Katana Restomod

In 1994, Suzuki released an edition for the Japanese Domestic Market with several updates: larger oil cooler, electric power-assisted clutch, rear piggyback shocks, and slightly lower seat height. Then, in 2000, twenty years after its appearance at the 1980 Cologne Motorcycle Show, the Final Edition Katana 1100 was offered. Yes, just 24 years ago, you could still buy an air-cooled 1100 Katana — if you lived in Japan.

1994 Katana: Note the piggyback shocks and larger oil cooler…

The bike you see here began life as one of these year 2000 Final Edition models, and the owner had owned and enjoyed the bike for many years before bringing it to Hiroyuki Nakamura of AC Sanctuary for the RCM (Radical Custom Manufacture) restomod treatment for which the Japanese workshop is world renowned.

Suzuki Katana Restomod

Typically, a full engine rebuild is de rigeur for any RCM build. Says Nakamura:

“Especially when the engine is from an old bike, it can be said to be a requirement, but some newer models such as the ZRX DAEG and Z900RS do not require it… The newer the model year of the base vehicle, the less overhaul it will require.”

Suzuki Katana Restomod

In this case, the low mileage and great condition of the engine precluded the need for a rebuild, so Nakamura and his team could focus on other areas of tuning and customization: frame reinforcement, suspension, intake and exhaust, ignition system, instrumentation.

Suzuki Katana Restomod

The frame was reinforced and modified to RCM specs, then kitted out with a Sculpture swingarm made for a 17-inch rear wheel with 180 tire and a Katana-specific Sculpture steering stem for mounting the Öhlins forks.

The bike is now rolling on 17-inch OZ Racing GASS series wheels at both ends:

  • Front: GASS RS-A for ZRX1200, 3.50-17
  • Rear: GASS RS-A for ZRX1200, 5.50-17

The brakes have been upgraded with Brembo and Nissin components, and the rear shocks are Öhlins units.

The OEM gauges were replaced with a custom instrument panel, built around a STACK brand tachometer with built-in speedometer / odometer functions.

Suzuki Katana Restomod

All in all, RCM-607 might be the most drool-worthy street-going Katana we’ve seen, and it’s just the beginning, as the owner can opt for a Stage II engine optimization when the time is right!

Suzuki Katana Restomod

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Website: www.ac-sanctuary.co.jp
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One Comment

  1. Firstly, IMO, Suzuki Katana design still looks as fresh and new as the day it was introduced almost forty (??!!) years ago. Yes, some like the design while others don’t, but I think all would agree it to be very distictive and prob’ly more memorable than 99% of current motorcycles out there. This design is iconic. And the Ac Sancuary is a well-known hand at modding this design like good doctors- without hurting it one bit. A brilliant restomod (as always) of a brilliant design (even if the bike as a whole was not brilliant to ride when first released…) Cheers!

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