The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
I bought a Suzuki GS550 new in late 1977 as a college student, but sold it in ’86, a couple of years after our daughter was born. I still think the ’77 — in black — is the best looking bike from that era. Long story short, I was perusing Craigslist, when I spied what looked to be a pristine 1977 Suzuki GS550 in the dark green color with 6,000 miles on it. Yes, it had a horrible looking touring seat and National windshield on it, but it was essentially an unmolested bike located about 100 miles away. I drove up to Santa Rosa and hauled the bike home on January 15.
The original owner passed away in August of 2013, and his widow sold the bike last October. The guy that I bought it from was used to smaller bikes and didn’t feel comfortable on it, so he put it up for sale. The bike had virtually no rust, low miles, and everything was intact. That said, the fork seals were leaking and soggy, the shocks and springs were too soft, and it needed some cleaning. Three weeks later I had rebuilt the forks, including Progressive springs, All Balls seals, and Race Tech Cartridge Emulators. I replaced the shocks, the seat foam and cover, added lower bars (with heated grips), installed a Dyna electronic ignition, and replaced the tires with Conti Classic Attacks.
As for the original owner, he saved almost everything. There’s a note on the air cleaner cover showing when he cleaned and oiled it; original ads from before he bought it; receipts; etc. I believe he bought the bike with plans to do lots of touring on it, but instead, life got in the way and he never got around to it. Fortunately, he apparently had a fondness for the bike and kept it stored and mostly maintained. Lucky for me.
Just over five weeks on, and it’s basically done. Even though it was in great original condition (the carb boots were still soft and pliable!), I did have to do quite a bit to get it to where I want it.
But now I have what should be a reliable bike that’s fun to ride in the hills and commute on.
Photos courtesy Stuart Hayashida: Stuart's GS550 before the restoration (top), and Stuart's lovely GS550 after the restoration.