Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Suzuki GT500

Fri, March 19th, 2010

1975–77 Suzuki GT500
Basically two mildly-tuned 250 trail bike motors put together, the GT500 engine was nearly identical to the T500 Titan and Cobra models that came before it; its sole upgrade was solid-state electronic ignition. Something approaching 40 HP (at the crank) and quarter-mile times in the high 13s had been stunning performance in late 1967, but was not impressive seven years later when the GT version came along. It's even less so today. It's admirably simple, but unrefined; the intake honks, the cooling fins ring, and vibration is quite noticeable. Fuel mileage and emissions are atrocious. On the up side, it is remarkably torquey and tractable for a two-stroke.
Remember when they said that Japanese bikes couldn't handle? This was one of the bikes they were talking about. The super-long swingarm helps steering, but hurts rigidity. The front disc brake, considered strong at the time, is only halfway decent today.
I always loved the Titan engine and exhaust's stark, simple mojo; the GT version finally got a modern-looking disc and an attractive fuel tank to match it.
GT500s are now rather old, and any example you find today will probably need lots of TLC. Few shops would dare take one in for repair, but a GT500 is an ideal candidate for your first amateur restoration. Everything is straightforward, simple, tough and slow to wear out. Plus, it shares many parts with other Suzuki models of the time. Unlike later motorcycles, the electronic ignition is seemingly indestructible. The fuel tank would be the only part truly scarce and expensive to replace.
The GT500 is right on that dividing line between useful transportation and historical artifact.
Most people who enjoy (or are just willing to put up with) a two-stroke's noise and smoke desire something that's faster than the GT500, or handles better, or has a more vintage appearance. But I would put one of these in my workshop before any 750 triple, 250 Gamma or Super Six.
I'm not sure what it's good for nowadays, but it's still cool.