Suzuki GT750 Le Mans The Story
1972 Suzuki GT750J tank
cosmic smoothy
I can't take credit for the title, that goes to D. Randy Riggs who coined the phrase for the November '73 issue of Cycle World magazine, and even though I had never ridden the bike I immediately knew exactly what he meant, he captured the GT750's personality to a tee. The bike on test was from the second year of production and was burdened by some of the clumsiest styling of the decade, in this particular case a pair of broad white stripes running down both sides of the tank from the nose to the seat. It was a pretty awful effort and this amateurish styling was not limited to this model or year! Still, stripes aside, the bike was a game changer for motorcycling and for two-strokes in particular.

Until the big triple appeared two-strokes were lean, light and barely able to contain their explosive powerbands, perpetually on the verge of a seizure, however the Suzi turned all that on its head. There are three things that I always remember whenever I think about the GT750; its size, the corny paintjobs (at least during the first three years of production) and how much  chrome it had. No matter from where you stood the triple was big and muscular, in fact to me it almost looked as if it were supposed to be a bigger bike. From any angle the engine bay dominated; the radiator, engine cases and exhaust header pipes formed a lumpy mass of polished aluminium and chrome. Viewed from behind it was all tail light and exhaust pipes, the lower pair poised to slam into the pavement and give the rider a thrill at the mearest hint of a lean! From the side it was hard to know where to look, there was so much to take in. The tank caught your eye because of the colours and striping (I always thought the shape on the first models was quite nice) and the pipes and mufflers stood out because of their sheer size (as thick as your upper-arm).

1972 Suzuki GT750J engine block
When you got over the glare and examined the block there was something odd about it too, where were the fins? The only finless engines we ever saw were under the bonnets of cars, we were looking at the future and it was water-cooled!
The bikes overstyling reflected Suzuki's expertise in that area at the time; there was too much chrome, too much polished aluminium and too many needless styling tweeks. The complicated side covers with 3 forward sloping slits, the black end cones on the exhausts and above all the colour and striping choices were unneccessary and gaudy. Somebody in the Suzuki styling department (if one existed) must have had a lot of time on their hands. Compared with its European contemporaries the lack of design sophistication and taste displayed by the Kettle's designers are impossible to ignore.
Perhaps Suzuki's understanding of Western tastes was more limited than today (though I have my doubts-the B King is hardly a paragon of good design!). The later models L through B were a definite improvement, hardly inspiring but pleasant enough to look at.
What Suzuki did get spot on was the engine which was famously easy to live with and earned a reputation for stress free reliability. For its time the powerplant was quiet, very smooth and quite economical, a refined piece of work that brought civility to big two strokes that rivaled Honda's CB750.

1972 Suzuki GT750J right sidecover
In New Zealand in the mid 1970s the bike was always on the perifery of the 750 class, it was too big and too slow to get much attention, its reputation as a bit of a portly slug condemed it to obscurity and even the later M model with 70 HP was too little too late. For an 18 or 19 year old in 1975 the GT was not sexy enough to stimulate much interest, the Kawasaki H2 was the 750 triple of choice, it's fearsome reputation an irresistable red rag to many a young dude. Most of us passed the GT by which was a pity as we missed the chance to experience a refined and sophisticated machine, a bike with qualities we were just too young to appreciate.