1967 Suzuki X6 Hustler

Suzuki's unforgettable motorcycle
By Doug Mitchel
January/February 2009
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Although announced in 1965, the Suzuki X6 Hustler didn’t appear in U.S. showrooms until early 1966.
Photo by Doug Mitchel
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Suzuki X6 Hustler
Years made:
 1965-1968
Claimed power: 29hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 100mph (period test)
Engine type: 247cc, 2-stroke, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 134.7kg (297lbs)
Price then: $650 (approx.)
Price now: $1,500-$3,500
MPG: 45-50mpg (est.)

When Suzuki first hit the U.S. market in 1963, it was just another link in a growing chain of new — and often forgettable — companies from the Land of the Rising Sun. Three years later we got the Suzuki X6 Hustler, and Suzuki got remembered. Today, it's one of the most popular classic Japanese motorcycles.

Suzuki chose three models to headline its 1963 U.S. lineup; the S31, powered by a 124cc 2-stroke twin, and the S250 Colleda (a transcription of “Kore-da” or “that one”) and TC250 El Camino, both powered by a 248cc 2-stroke twin. Like Honda and other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, Suzuki hoped to cash in on U.S. riders seeking a smaller, simpler machine than the booming twins coming from Milwaukee or Great Britain at the time.

1964 saw those models phased out in favor of a new trio consisting of a 50cc single, an 80cc single and a new 246cc twin, the T10. More new models were announced  in 1965, including the highly anticipated Suzuki X6 Hustler, although it would be 1966 before the new model finally hit U.S. showrooms.

New frame, new engine
The Suzuki X6 Hustler made quite a splash when it hit dealers’ floors. With the T10 from 1964 leading the way, the X-6 set new standards for style in the rapidly expanding field of mid-size bikes from Japan. A 247cc, 2-cylinder engine was bolted to a tubular, duplex frame, a first for Suzuki. All previous Suzuki models had used a pressed-steel frame, making the steel tube frame of the X-6 a step in the right direction.

Suzuki tapped Masanao Shimizu to create the X6 Hustler engine. Masanao, previously in charge of Suzuki’s racing program, had already earned an enviable set of records under the Suzuki banner and quickly turned his talents to the design of the X6 engine.

The parallel twin Masanao designed was a 2-stroke, as were all Suzuki engines until 1977. A major advancement was the engine’s Posi-Force automatic lubrication system, which freed owners from having to keep a can of 2-stroke oil in their tool bag. As long as the separate oil tank was full, the Posi-Force system did the rest, increasing reliability and ease of use immensely.

Made of aluminum alloy for lightness and strength, the X6 Hustler's 247cc parallel twin was rated at 29 horsepower at 7,500rpm, which was, for the day, a fairly significant figure. Only three years prior to the release of the street legal X-6, the Suzuki factory race bikes were only achieving 28 horsepower at 11,000rpm.

Six speeds and more
Suzuki set another standard when it chose to add a 6-speed gearbox to the compact Hustler. Known as the “Suzuki Super Six” in some markets, it was the first ever production motorcycle to feature six ratios, just one of the many endearing qualities of the new model. Mating this stone-solid engine to a 6-speed gearbox meant it was easy to stay right in the powerband. The bike was easy to start and almost as easy to maintain and ride. And at just over 300 pounds wet, the Suzuki X6 Hustler was quite light and manageable.

Additional features that helped to set the X6 Hustler apart from the crowd were the front brakes, of racing design with double-leading shoes in an 8-inch dimension. A wide saddle had enough room for two grown adults and was well padded for their riding comfort. The rear shocks offered three positions so you could cater the stiffness to your size and riding style. The circular instrument mounted in the top of the headlight nacelle features a split display with both a tachometer (featuring an 8,000rpm redline) and speedometer. An onboard air pump came in handy when you found the pressure in the tires a bit low, and it saved you a trip to the corner filling station.

The X6 Hustler could turn the quarter mile in 14 seconds at a speed of 90mph, with a top speed of 100mph. The fuel tank held 3.7 gallons of fuel, enough to provide hours of fun for the rider and a passenger. With fuel at about 35 cents a gallon, who wouldn’t have fun? Buying a new Hustler wasn’t much harder, with new bikes available for around $650.

Designed to shine
Styling on the Suzuki X6 Hustler was right on target and remains a crowd favorite. The curves of the fuel tank were accented with chrome side panels and rubber knee pads. The front fender was silver in color and included a painted accent stripe that ran down the center, matching the body color of the tank. Some traditions remained despite the dramatic new features of the X-6. A telescopic front fork also used oil damping to improve the ride, and the exposed coil springs were an obvious feature. The flat-bottomed headlight housing has become a classic today, although it’s very difficult to replace if lost or damaged. Anyone who takes on a restoration will quickly learn of the scarcity of parts for these early Suzukis.

The combination of innovative design, sturdy assembly and ease of operation all added up to make the Hustler a popular choice for those who raced their 2-wheeled craft. It didn’t matter if you chose paved or dirt tracks, the X6 quickly became a dominant factor in every segment of the field.

The 1966 X6 Hustler was little changed from its debut offering and continued to be the biggest machine in the Suzuki ranks. American buyers were getting used to seeing the perky Japanese machines around their towns, and they continued to gain in popularity. The Suzuki sales catalog for 1967 grew to include 16 models, and while there were many smaller displacement models shown, the Hustler remained at the top of the heap. Yet as popular as it was, 1968 would be the final year for the T20 X-6. 

1968 saw Suzuki pare down the lineup, but add several new models with larger displacements. Two machines carried a 305cc mill, while yet another, the new T500, was listed with a whopping 500cc powerplant in its frame. As buyers looked for more and more power, the days of the small displacement machines were waning fast. While the Hustler name lived on until 1973 (from 1969 on it was attached to Suzuki’s uprated T250), after 1968 the X6 designation disappeared forever.

The $25 Hustler
To look at Tom Sanecki, you have to wonder where his passion for the Suzuki X6 Hustler stems from. He appears to be much too young to have been around when the machine made its premier offering, so what’s the catch?

In 1974, the story goes, Tom had a buddy who was moving away but owed him the princely sum of $25. To satisfy this debt, the friend offered Tom his 1967 Suzuki X6 Hustler. A deal was made and Tom brought his new ride home. Although non-running, Tom soon had it going and it became his main transportation during his last two years of high school. After high school, he disassembled the bike to correct a problem with the shifting — and there it sat.

At some point, a girl Tom was dating suggested he get rid of the bike because, she said, “it will never run again.” Although Tom reassured her it would, she scoffed at the notion: The gauntlet had been thrown. Within two hours, Tom had the bike reassembled and running. The bike, we should note, is still around, but the girl is long gone. “I threw it together because she dissed me, and it’s still running to this day,” Tom adds.

Tom found the bike shown here on eBay. “It was just a parts bike, and it was rough,” Tom says. “It hadn’t run since 1977, the oil pump was seized, the clutch was locked up, it was junk.” That Tom works as a Lexus technician tells us he has higher than average mechanical ability, and that a build like this wouldn’t likely scare him.

Before beginning the actual restoration, he gathered most of the parts he needed and prepared them. Pulling together his shopping list of parts meant hours spent searching in faraway places like Singapore, Thailand and England. Adding more frustration to the process, many components for early Suzuki models have become scarce on a good day and almost impossible to find on the rest.

“When I was younger, I’d just go down to the Suzuki dealer and get what I needed. Now, it’s all unobtanium,” Tom says, adding he found the correct hand pump for the bike in Japan after exhausting U.S. sources. “NOS [new-old-stock] seats or seat covers are unavailable, and NOS grips are virtually unobtainable now,” Tom adds.

Thanks to his mechanical chops, the only things that Tom didn’t do himself were the paint, powder coating and chroming of parts. From rebuilding the crankshaft (Tom has his own press and the jig to line up the crankshaft) to lacing the wheels, Tom attended to every facet of the restoration to achieve the standard he sought. The end result is stunning, and worthy of any collection.

And Tom’s hardly done. Including the Suzuki X6 Hustler that kicked off his fascination with the model back in 1974, he’s got four more, including a 1966 with VIN No. 10702, making it the 702nd X-6 ever made. “That’s in the basement waiting to get done,” Tom says. “It has a chunk out of the case, but I’m gonna save it because it’s the lowest numbered one I’ve ever seen.” MC 

Resources
Suzuki T20 Homepage 


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Post a comment below.

 

Tahmi Hall
1/2/2014 7:13:31 PM
The day I brought my 1969 TC250 home from Midway Suzuki in St.Paul for $625, my draft notice was in the mailbox. A friend trucked it out to San Diego for me where I toured & off-roaded during my Navy days. It must have been one of the last x-6's as it looked different from any others I've seen. It was a high piped scrambler with a gray painted swoosh on the black tank (no chrome) surrounding the rubber knee pads. The tailight holder was the same as the GT's. They must have pieced it together with various parts toward the end of the model. It was faster than my friend's Honda 350. Oh...and I still have it & it runs.

daversp
12/28/2013 4:17:06 PM
i had one used to blow away sportsters for about 2 blocks & then superior torque won out i had a rotary trans.had an indicator lite on the speedo.told you that you were in 6th& your next upshift would be a major down shift into 1st.at 60 or so it was worth a trip to the hospital.never had that experience,but wondered about the bulb burning out.

Joe_3
11/12/2011 12:04:22 PM
A great story on a great bike...can't believe I haven't seen this one until this morning. I lusted after these when I was a teenager...truly one of the world's all time greatest classics. Thanks for a great read.

Stan Millard
8/20/2011 10:16:43 AM
I was a Suzuki dealer in '67. I used to ride for Fox Corp, a Kawasaki regional distributor, and we had a friendly rivalry once I got into the Suzukis. I ported every X6 that we got in and put them back in the crates. Fox were on the phone to Cali all the time getting the latest "poop" to modify their Samurais and I kept telling them my X6 demo was stock. The X6 kept whipping their Samurai and they kept saying my X6 wasn't stock. Finally I asked their guy, Ed Spenski, to come over and help me set up a new demo so he'd know it was stock. By then I was getting really good at it and the new "Stock" demo beat them more baddly than the 1st one. The X6 in America came with a carb slide with W A Y too much cutaway and had a low rpm flat spot and then hit like gangbusters. I measured the distance between notches on the needle and cut that much off the back of all the slides and raised the needle one notch to get the midrange back to stock. Even my ported engines pulled from near idle screamed to high rpm. Good times indeed.

Charles
4/19/2011 9:28:12 AM
"The parallel twin Masanao designed was a 2-stroke, as were all Suzuki engines until 1977". Not so, you forget the 1974-1976 Suzuki RE-5 Rotary-engined motorcycle. (most people do, it was rather a flop compared to the GT500 and GT750)

Kane Combs
10/12/2010 11:19:42 AM
I owned a 1966 Suzuki X6, cherry red. I am trying to find one for sale (preferably running). I rode this bike throughout high school (graduated 1968). For nostalgic reasons, would appreciate owning one to show off to my 3 grandsons. God Bless, Kane Combs kane-combs@sssvc-inc.com 601/934-5616 cell phone

Dave_2
4/20/2009 8:51:02 PM
I bought a brand new Hustler in 63. It was my first bike and it was pretty darned forgiving. I remember when some guy pulled up next to me on a Honda 160 and rapped his engine and laughed when I rapped mine (ring ding ding ding ya know) but when I pulled a wheelie on him and blew his bike away he wasn't laughing anymore... Damn what a bike that was. I got drafted 6 mo after I bought it and it was the only thing I ever had repossessed in my whole life. I still miss that screaming machine.

Rodger Hoffman_1
3/15/2009 4:47:59 PM
I owned a Suzuki X-6 Scrambler-a high pipe version of this great bike. I was a student in college and several of us had the x-6 bikes. They were fast and reliable although I messed up my wrist trying to trail ride the Scrambler. I used to out drag a buddy who rode a Triumph 500 and I could wheelie that thing pretty well. I dunked it in a lake , rode it down railroad tracks , won a trophy drag racing it , dreamed of road racing the biek , and just really enjoyed owning a great motorcycle. I sold it to get some money after I graduated-wish I still had it!!

Rodger Hoffman_2
3/15/2009 4:10:10 PM
I owned a Suzuki X-6 Scrambler-a high pipe version of this great bike. I was a student in college and several of us had the x-6 bikes. They were fast and reliable although I messed up my wrist trying to trail ride the Scrambler. I used to out drag a buddy who rode a Triumph 500 and I could wheelie that thing pretty well. I dunked it in a lake , rode it down railroad tracks , won a trophy drag racing it , dreamed of road racing the biek , and just really enjoyed owning a great motorcycle. I sold it to get some money after I graduated-wish I still had it!!








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