1977 GT500 Frame, Body, Chrome, Etc..
- Power Coating - Prep
- Powder Coating - Process
- Wire Harness
- Fork Boots and Battery Protector
- Locks and Keys
- VIN Label
- Fuel Cock
- Tool Kit
- GT500 Project Menu
I've spent the past few days disassembling and getting them stripped down, taken lots of photos and bagged and tagged many of the smaller bits and pieces, nuts and bolts. Today I spent some time washing off the accumulated dirt and oil from 30+ years of use. I had briefly thought of doing this in my driveway using my pressure washer, but very quickly rejected the idea as it would flush various amounts of oil and grease down the storm drain. Instead, I took everything over to a local Shell car wash as they (supposedly) are set up to keep this sort of debris out of the storm water system.
After washing all the parts I took everything over to the good folks at Consolidated Compressor here in Calgary to sand blast all the bits and pieces. I wrote about them previously here, and this time I used their indoor glass bead blasting cabinet for the smaller items and the outside sand blasting stations for the two frames. I have to admit, for someone like myself who doesn't have to do this sort of thing for a living, there is a certain fascination about watching the old paint, rust and anything else that happens to get in the way and isn't firmly attached get blasted into oblivion
I was careful to wear disposable mechanics gloves, as I did not want to touch any of the bare, clean metal with my hands as doing so could potentially cause the powder to not adhere. Once I had the parts back home, I blew out the grit from everywhere I could find, and also washed the freshly sandblasted parts down with brake wash, just to be try to be absolutely certain there were no traces of oil which would ruin the powder coat application.
The photo shows the two frames, as well as the other frame components which are all to be powder coated.
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I hadn't seen this type of paint/plastic application done before, so for me at least it was quite interesting. Essentially, the metal is electrically charged and then sprayed with a plastic powder - the charge causes the powder to 'stick' to the metal, after which everything is put into an oven and baked at 400 F for 40 minutes. Below to the left my parts are being sprayed, in the middle shows the parts fresh out of the oven and cooling down, and on the right back home and ready to be unloaded.
Back to Top 1973 GT750 and the 1977 GT500 were in very poor shape - many wires had been cut, poorly spliced, the correct connectors were missing, the protective jacket had been removed or it had just weathered away with age. Replacement wire harnesses are available in some cases from Suzuki, and also from some speciality suppliers such as KnK Cycle but items like handlebar switch gear are generally only available via eBay, and of course these will be the same age and often in the same state of repair as the ones you already have. I plan to rebuild the switchgear and repaint it as shown here, but the harness posed a few problems- chief among which was where to source the components. Luckily, I was directed to an outfit in the USA that was able to supply most of what I needed !
Vintage Connections sells the OEM style fittings, both the 2.8mm latching and non-latching box connectors used in the headlamp shells for the harness interconnects to the instrument pods, and handlebar switchgear, as well as the larger 6.3mm box connectors (latching and also non-latching) used for connections to the regulator panel and ignition coils under the tank. They also sell the black vinyl tubing in sizes suitable for you to replace the protective sheathing leading from the switchgear to the headlamp shell, and from the headlamp shell around the headstock to under the tank, and the leads from the ignition to the electrical connections panel and under tank connections. I like their crimper, although for smaller wire sizes (22 ga. for example) I use a second crimper or sometimes actually solder the joint, just to ensure things won't come apart at an inconvenient time !
Update: Sadly, Vintage Connections no longer sells to non-USA customers. Pity.
While Vintage Connections was able to supply most of the sleeving I needed, I ran into a snag trying to replace the sleeving on the magneto, as they didn't have the 10mm OD size I needed for the magneto lead. I finally tracked down what I was looking for at a place specialising in H-D wiring repairs and custom harnesses called 4RCustoms. Although what they had was in imperial measure, the 3/8 size was close enough to to the job; the critical issue being that the lead passed through a grommet and so it needed to be a tight fit to prevent water leaking past it.
On these bikes that's an easy fix as all you need to do is change out the on/off lever - the 1977 version (57712-33011) has a tab on the underside that prevents the slide switch from moving as you can possibly see in the photo. The current part number available (57712-33012) doesn't have this 'feature' so its an easy and inexpensive swap.
With the switch gear refurbished with new paint, sleeving and switches it looked ready to go !
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One thing about the GT500 variant is of course that there are a few items that are quite specific to those years and that model which are no longer available from Suzuki, and are in fact very difficult to locate anywhere which is a problem if you are trying to do a 'factory' restoration - the front fork dust boots for example. These were only used on three models of Suzuki - the 1974 GT550, and the 1976 and 1977 GT500's. As a result, they have not been available for quite a while and although many parts for other models show up regularly on FleaBay I have yet to see these. Luckily, via the Sundial Moto board (a must if you happen to work on older Suzuki's) I was able to locate a fellow in France who is making good quality reproductions of the original pattern, so I ordered two sets which arrived this past week.
As you can see in the photo to the right, they look very nice indeed ! The original is on the left, and the copy is on the right - the new ones measure exactly the same as the old ones and will look very smart when I finally get them installed !
In addition to model specific items as with the fork boots above, parts being re-issued by the manufacturers as replacements quite often do not match the original - an example would be the oil pump rod boot on the GT750 which originally had a pleated sleeve (16765-31200) and which now is only available as a plain seal (16765-31201). Another problem you run into, is that in many cases, the part you need was never offered as a separate component to begin with together with its own part number, so locating a NOS part to copy is not even an option. The rubber hoods that cover the water temperature sensors for the cooling fan and water temperature gauge that came with the wire harness for the GT750 for instance. While it quite easy now to restore the harness as the components for the wiring are readily available from several sources including Vintage Connections, the rubber hoods are unique, do not have a part number and were never available as a separate item. This means to get a good one requires you to scavenge salvageable hoods from other old harnesses.
With all of this in mind I have started to try to help the process along by collecting a few specific good NOS or used parts and have begun to arrange to have them copied and made available for sale - but not by me. While this may change in the future, currently I'm just interested in increasing the supplier list for folks who, like me, just want to keep these old girls running and looking original so other than satisfaction, I'm not making a penny on these.
For this 1977 GT500 rebuild, one item I'd been trying to track down for some time was an original style battery protector (33651-15000). While it would have been easy to piece something together that would do the same job, it would not have looked the same. This specific part has not been available from Suzuki for many years, and the NOS stock seems to have disappeared long ago also. The part was used on the T/GT500 series of twin cylinder oil burners between 1968 and 1977, and the Cobra and Titan models were, and still are, quite popular both as collectable bikes as well as for use on the vintage racing circuit.
After much searching, I was finally able to locate a used item in very good condition which could serve as a pattern, and then I hooked up with Gregg Clauss the owner of Clauss Studios in California. Gregg has been providing reasonably priced, small volume 'unobtainium' reproduction plastic and rubber parts for Lambretta, Vespa, Honda and Kawasaki plus many other makes for several years now, and is well-known on the US west coast in the vintage motorcycle world. As of last week, Gregg can now add Suzuki to his list of parts offerings !
In the photo to the right, you can see the original battery protector on the bottom, and Greg's copy is above it - I'm really pleased with how well it turned out. These replica battery protectors are now available directly from Clauss Studios so just drop him an email to get pricing and delivery info. If you own a Suzuki Cobra, Titan or GT500 and care about its originality, I suspect you probably really need one !
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The GT500 'A' and 'B' used a different seat and tank than the rest of the T500 line, and the seat mounting was a very poor design. The pan is only supported at the very front and at the rear, so the centre flexes and eventually cracks. As a result good usable GT500 seat pans are almost impossible to locate. Luckily, Suzuki just used the seat pan from the GT380/GT550 and welded on some brackets, so it is possible to make your own seat pan fairly easily. Below is a GT500 seat on top of a GT550 seat - and on the right is a shot of the underside of the GT500 seat pan. As can be seen, the holes for the hinges, catch and rubber cushions are all there for the GT550 - all that is different are the mounting brackets and the lack of a cut-away for the seat lock on the right side.
As luck would have it, I was able to find an original, intact GT500 seat pan that saved me a bit of work for which I'm grateful.
I have recovered the seat using a kit from Pit Replica in Thailand. As I think I've mentioned previously, I sent them my original GT500 cover as a sample and they now offer GT500 seat covers specifically to fit the 1976/1977 model years as they are different from either the T500 covers (too narrow and wrong length), or the GT380/GT550 covers (same seat pan, but the GT500 doesn't have the cut-out for a seat lock as the seat is just bolted to the frame). The cost is reasonable and the quality is acceptable.
After several months of checking several sources, I had still had no luck finding these bushes, and so bit the bullet to have a dozen made from stainless. As each bike uses four of these, I now have two sets of spares left over which will be useful on the next project I have in mind. Roy Hansen at Cactus Machine came through for me again - he was the fellow who made the brake bell crank for my custom '1978' model GT750
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For the 1977 model year in Canada, the GT500 used a brown faced gauge set with kilometre markings. It took me quite a while to track a set down as they were specific both to the model and the year but I found a set eventually.
In 40 years of riding, this will be the first bike I've ever owned that reads in KM/H !
At first glance, the set I managed to pick up looked quite good, but upon closer inspection there were a few problems.The turn signal indicator lamp on this style of housing is slightly recessed and so water pools there and over time the sealant around the amber lens breaks down and then water fills up the lamp housing, corroding the bulb unit into a solid mass of rust ! As well and as was the case with the other areas of the wiring harness, the sleeving had perished and cracked and needed to be replaced.
- trip reset cover
- trip reset knob
- wire harness
- speedometer and trip reset and above it the tachometer
- under plates that hold the gauges in the housing
- chrome underside covers
- amber turn signal lens and beside it the Suzuki "S" emblem
- turn signal lamp holder rubber sleeve
- turn signal lamp holder
Item #9 typically perishes and rots away completely and is what provides a weather, and I suppose light seal for the turn signal indicator lamp. I replaced this with a short length of harness sleeving, and then re-glued the amber lens back into the housing. I also had to replace the turn signal lamp and lamp socket as it had corroded into a solid lump, and then re-sleeved the harness and replaced the connector blocks. The gauge cluster now looks much better than it did, and should last a few more years.
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As I have done with other rebuilds, I wanted a matched ignition and steering lock key set, so I re keyed the steering lock to match the new ignition key. It is an easy change to make and I describe how to do it here.
In the photo to the immediate right, you can see the tool I made from a small Allen wrench, ground down to fit the release hole at the base of the lock cylinder barrel. What you are doing is pushing a small release tab which you can see in the photo to the far right. When this tab is pushed in, the lock tumbler will drop out of the cylinder - or at least it should if it isn't corroded or gummed up with old grease etc.. ! Once you have it out, then you can just re-key the lock by swapping the spring loaded tabs around - it helps to have a selection of these as they are obviously of different shapes to fit the various shoulders and valleys in the key you are trying to match up.
Obviously, this is also a useful thing to know how to do if you are dealing with broken keys, or just locks that are not working correctly - having the lock cylinder out of the barrel makes it much easier to clean, but be very careful to not lose the very small springs !!!
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Jerry (his email address is email@example.com) offers a very handy service as he will duplicate exactly what you need, at what I think was a very reasonable price. The labels are the same sort of aluminium foil material as the originals, and you have the option of having the VIN number and build date printed on the label, or left blank so you can stamp it on yourself. They also have a clear vinyl covering that you could leave on, or remove for a more original look.
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For the calliper however, there is no longer a full ASCO repair kit available as the calliper piston is not offered, although you still can buy the seals individually. After doing a bit of checking, I've decided to use a calliper piston from the Tokico supplied calliper kit as the bore is identical to the ASCO cylinder housing. The only differences I can see are that the the Tokico piston as used on the GT550 is perhaps 0.4 mm longer in overall length, and the groove for the dust seal is slightly different. I'm hoping that the difference in length will not mean that I'll have trouble remounting the calliper housing on the rotor with the new brake pads, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there !
Update: The brakes work fine, so using the GT550 piston as a replacement for the no longer available ASCO one is the way to go. I'm also using DOT 5 fluid, not because I need to, but rather to ensure I don't damage the paint at all. The hose I've used is a black jacketed braided stainless steel which looks very similar to the original, but should provide a more positive brake feel.
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One of the things I mention in my on-line book "A Field Guide to the GT750" is that the original tool kits are often one of the first things lost with these old bikes - possibly because they were border line useless I suppose and 'real' tools from an automotive tools supplier were so much easier to use. However, for a restoration, having the original tool kit is a big plus, so I have been collecting original Suzuki tools to allow me to put together the correct tool kits. Note that while Suzuki does still sell tool kits listed as being for this model, the actual tools that are in the kits are: not stamped with the Suzuki 'S', are not the same selection as the original tools, and also often include tools not required for your bike.
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