Saturday, September 09, 2006

Suzuki Katana: Taming of the Sword

The 1982 Suzuki Katana GSX1000S. Awesome!

Back in the early-1980s, Suzuki went to a German design house – Target Design – and asked them to help out with the styling of their new sportsbike. And thus, the mighty Katana (means sword in Japanese) was born. The Target Design team that did the original Katana consisted of three men – Hans Muth, Jan Fellstrom and Hans-Georg Kasten – of whom Hans Muth is still actively working with the motorcycle industry. He has, supposedly, also worked on the styling of some of the recent motorcycles from BMW.

Coming back to the Katana, the bike’s styling was a radical departure from anything else available at the time. With its aggressive stance, butch, naked styling, a brutal 1100cc engine, and the very stylish mini-fairing, the Katana was a stand-out bike all right. Target Design had actually designed a very similar prototype machine for MV Agusta, in the late-1970s, but that never went into production, and Suzuki probably got to benefit from that!

When it came out in 1980 at the Cologne Motor Show in Germany, the Suzuki GSX1100 Katana was criticized for being too radical. “It’ll never work!” cried purists. “We all want one!” said punters everywhere. And within the next 2 – 3 years, other manufacturers were trying to copy the Katana. Through the 1980s and till 1991, Suzuki made 1000cc, 750cc and 250cc versions of the Katana, which still had all the charm, all the allure of the 1100cc version. They also made a bunch of 650cc and 550cc versions in the early-80s, which were complete and utter rubbish – a disgrace to the Katana name. In any case, from the mid-90s onwards, Suzuki completely ruined the Katana by slapping the name on to slow, heavy and dated sport-tourers and even a bunch of Katana-branded scooters. The fiery, cutting-edge sportsbike that was the original Katana was lost forever.

Is there any hope of the Katana ever being resurrected? Well, at last year’s Tokyo Motorcycle Show, Suzuki showed Stratosphere concept bike, which incorporated some design elements from the original ED2 Katana, and was fitted with a six-cylinder engine! We doubt if the Stratosphere will ever make it to production, though if various rumours are to be believed, that six-cylinder engine just might make its way to the 2008 Hayabusa.

Read some old road tests of the Katana here

A Yoshimura-tuned and fettled GSX1100S Katana

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