RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
The infamous “Slabby” or better know as the Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside was introduced in 1985. And it defined the new standards for the 750-class within racing worldwide. It was one of the competitors of the Honda VFR750R RC30, the Yamaha FZR750R OW01, and so on. And so it belongs in our Classic Crush-series.
Let us tell you a bit more about this old school ‘Gixxer’. Suzuki took many lessons learned from the endurance racers of the late 1970’s and 1980’s and integrated those lessons into the development of the GSX-R of 1985. Which resulted in a design with the philosophy of ‘make it lighter than a 600 and as powerful as a 1000’.
An interesting fact of note; the Suzuki GSX-R750 is the sole surviving Japanese 750cc sport bike. It is still produced these days, while all other Japanese brands stopped building them. Yamaha recently did release a new R7 model, but the GSX-R750 is the only one that still resembles some of its historical roots. And another fun fact; there are more units sold of the modern GSX-R750 than there are of the GSX-R600 model.
Due to its huge historical commercial succes, the Suzuki 750cc model enjoys a certain cult status today. While the image that comes with owning a Suzuki ‘Gixxer’ has changed quite a bit over the years, it still remains an iconic model. And it is becoming increasingly sought after by collectors and racers.
When the Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside was introduced at the 1984 IFMA Cologne Show in Germany, it was immediately clear that this road legal bike was build for racing. And it was eligible for various Championships worldwide.
The GSXR 750 inherited most of its looks from the 398cc GSX-R that was introduced to the Japanese market. That little 400 cc sport bike already had the alloy frame, a four-cylinder engine, the slab-sided styling and the double headlights.
Engine: 749 cc Transverse 4 cylinder four stroke
Power: 147.9 hp @ 12.800 rpm
Seat height: 755 mm / 29.7 inches
Fuel system: Carburetors
Dry weight: 176 kg / 390 lbs
Top speed: 146 mph / 235 kph
The Slabside GSXR was the first ever production oil-cooled motorcycle that used the Suzuki Advanced Cooling System. The four cylinder in-line four engine produces over 100 bhp and the bike had a dry weight of only 176 kg. This due to the use of lots of Magnesium to keep the weight down.
Wasn’t that enough? Then a racing trim could let the GSX-R750 produce 130 hp. For competitive racere, there was an extra tuning kit available to make it even faster. The flat-sided carbs gave a better throttle controle, something that wasn’t heard of before. It was that good, that it made riders a bit nervous at the time, since no one was used to it.
After the introduction in 1984, it was produced in 1985 in Japan and Europe. The 750 Gixxer came to the American market with the 1986 model.
In 1986, the limited edition R-version was released. This Suzuki GSX-R750R was the homologation bike to be able to participate in the World Championship. So there were only 500 units made. Which makes it a very rare model. This new edition got new suspension, a longer swing arm and radial tires. Suzuki kept all of those features in the stock base model that was introduced shortly after, making it a very popular road bike.
You might wonder why the Suzuki GSX-R750 has the ‘Slabside’ addition to its name. This nickname originated in the UK. The side panels below the seat were two large pieces of plastic. This is stimulated the nickname and it never got rid of it ever since. Whenever someone says ‘I’ve got a Slabby in the garage’, you immediately know one’s talking about the famous GSX-R of those days.
The Suzuki GSX-R750 initially got a few bad reviews from critics who found the stock or mass production Gixxer to be too similar to the track version. Which might sound like something that’s not so bad. But what they meant was, that is was likely to have mechanical problems rather sooner than later. And that it thus required lots of maintenance.
At that time, Suzuki accepted the challenge to prove them wrong. So the brand got two GSX-R750’s stock off the production line to take part in a 24h endurance race test.
Both the Gixxers made over 3000 miles and attempted to set a 24h world speed records for motorcycles. They ended up setting records for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 hours. No motorcycle ever had gone faster for any of those periods, ever. Those results made it painfully clear to the critics, that the Suzuki GSX-R750 was perfectly capable of enduring high-performance scenarios. And that it was here to stay.
The Slabside proved to be a quite successful race bike. In the year of its introduction, the team raced the bike in the Suzuka 8 hours endurance race. They got 3rd, racing the Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside. It also won almost all the races in the MCN British Superstock Championship in 1985.
For many Japanese brands, the Isle of Man TT was a certain benchmark. If your bike did well in those races, it was more likely to be accepted and adopted by the Western world. Mick Grant rode a stock GSX-R750 in the Isle of Man TT production class and got 1st.
In its colourful history, the Gixxer has taken home quite a few extra championships, race titles and awards.
Whereas the Honda VFR750R RC30 is quite an expensive bike to buy and out of our league for most of us, the Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside might actually be within your reach. The prices are less high, around €4000 – €6000 for an original one from ’85 to ’87.
It is just hard to find a good one. Lots of them were raced, fast. So most of them got beat up over the years. But if you do get your hands on one, then restoring it is quite doable since most parts can still be found. Only stock exhausts are a pain in the ass to find, but that’s a thing with most classic bikes.
The Suzuki GSX-R750 has been around for a long time. And therefore has a very colourful history and legacy. It’s won many races and set quite a few records. It has proven itself to be a quick race bike.
Personally, I think it’s awesome that Suzuki made a road legal stock version that was almost as fancy and fast as the one they used for racing. It was one of the first quicker race bikes that still had a light and nimble feel to it. And it had set the bar for many other manufactures and the bikes to come at that time.
The fact that it is still being produced – albeit a way more modern design – shows how good the initial Gixxer 750 was. And for that reason alone, I think it deserves a spot in our Classic Crush-series.