A pro stunt driver’s ongoing love affair with the Suzuki Katana takes him down Custom Road.
Colour Me Orange
It was a hot, humid, Toronto day back in 1982 when I bought my first Suzuki GS1100SZ Katana immediately after squeaking my 1976 H1 Kawasaki 500cc triple on Highway 401 for the last time. The bike with the notorious front forks nearly threw me over the bars, so the next day I walked into the local Suzuki dealer and bought the new Kat.
I was amazed how many police officers wanted to sit on that bike. To me, it often seemed I was being pulled over just so they could pose on it. I remember being stopped once that first summer with my new Kat as I rode back from Wasaga beach, north of Toronto. The officer asked for my pilot’s licence, and said something about thinking his radar gun was broken. As I recall he too spent about 10 minutes admiring my bike.
I sold that one in 1986 and didn’t get another until I moved to BC where I work as a professional stuntman in the film industry. One day about eight years ago, a fellow stuntman pulled up on set with a Katana and my jaw dropped. I hadn’t seen one for decades. I bought that bike from him and then went about planning my first custom creation. But first I had to get those bicycle tires off and lever on something with some grip, and something that would stop it. That’s how it all started. Now I help other Kat lovers from all over the world with details, tricks, and tips that inspire them in their own projects.
My love is resto-mods: keeping the overall look but with updates and modernization. The bike on these pages is a solid example of where I’m coming from. It started life as a 1982 GS750SD Katana and came to me in several baskets and oil stained boxes. Not all the OEM parts were there but that didn’t matter, I didn’t use many. Though this is a trophy-winning bike, it’s no trailer queen. I believe bikes were made to ride and ride them I do. At press time on this issue, there were about 10,000 kms logged on the clock. On numerous long road trips this Kat has pulled her weight—no factory break-in or pampering here.
About a year from concept to completion, I poured my heart into this build, and though the Corvette Z06 “Atomic Orange” (and black) colour scheme was a risk, I am very happy how Willowbrook Collision handled the project, layering in details such as hand-painted pin stripes. The bike is all about detail work though aspects like the custom countoured fairing lowers, the Harley flush-mount fuel cap, and the custom underseat pan hiding the electrics might escape initial inspection.
Housed in a braced and powdercoated frame is the 1100cc mill that has now been bored to 1260 and bolstered with Wiseco 10.25:1 pistons, a high-flow oiling system and Dyna 2000 ignition.
I borrowed heavily from the Katana’s supersport cousins by introducing GSX-R forks and brake calipers in the running gear. But the Bandit line had something to offer this project as well in the wheel and swingarm department.
(For a more comprehensive overview of the parts inventory, see sidebar, “Inside the Wilton Katana,” or visit Rob Wilton’s website www.suzuki-katana.com.)
My custom Katana may not keep up with many of the modern sportbikes but she holds her own and what she lacks in technology, she more than makes up for with character.
Story and photos by Rob Wilton, Canadian Biker Issue #287, December 2012