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Special K - Suzuki's Katana

This is my brother on his Suzuki Katana 1100, based around the 16 valve four cylinder GSX1100. Before Target came up with the ED1 in the previous post and the Katana, motorcycle seats were long and pillion accommodation extended far behind the rear axle. The stance was parallel to the road and the visual mass was usually central, or around the fuel tank and cylinder heads. Fairings, if fitted, were separate from the fuel tank.

Target changed all that. The rider, fuel tank and fairing were brought together, and the stance of the motorcycle was lower at the front, as if it was about to plough down into the road. Back tyres were brought into view, even if Suzuki fitted a huge rear mudguard to satisfy those who rode all day, every day. Instruments were considered as part of the design, rather than a bolted on afterthought. Target changed the way people looked at motorcycles.

The Katana divided opinion. I loved it, but initially many did not. Despite great press reviews they sold poorly: I picked up a 1000cc homologation special for over 20% below list price in 1983. Two years later I sold it for what I’d paid, because suddenly people got it. But it was a short lived revival as a new generation of lightweight monoshock superbikes, led by the Kawasaki GPz900R and Suzuki’s own GSX-R750 rewrote the rules and heavyweight 1100s were no longer sportsbikes. More on the ED1 and the origins of the big Kat (including original sketches and mock ups) in Benzina 15, available in the shop.



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