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1987 Suzuki GSX400 S “Dented Brat”

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Scott in Brat, Café Racer. 16 comments

Written by Ian Lee.

The Suzuki GSX twin. A plastic fantastic model from the 80s, with a timeless ability to look slightly uncool enough to inhibit a comeback. On the other hand, their ridiculously good engine build quality means that many a GSX has been dusted off, started happily, and ridden into the sunset. So how do you reconcile these two qualities? Capelo’s Garage, based in Oporto, Portugal has managed to do this, by breathing new life into a well parked 1987 GSX400, dubbed ‘the Dented Brat’. Nuno Capelo, the workshop’s founder, has built into it a dark metallic aesthetic that gives a big middle finger to the bike’s polyethylene clad beginnings, and shows the whole bike, scars and all.

A year and a half ago, Nuno was in a small village in Portugal, looking over a freshly washed bike. This is a bike he had only seen in pictures, covered in dust. In person though it was much more impressive. After seeing it start first time, Nuno shook the owner’s hand, and he was the proud owner. First thing to go was all the unnecessary plastic. Blinkers and seat were given the flick, as Nuno envisioned a much darker look for the bike.

Performance wise, the mods are simple but effective. Ditching the airbox, a set of pods have been mounted and the carbs rejetted to suit. At the tail end of the combustion cycle, the original exhaust tips have been replaced with a smaller set but no silencer, which according to Nuno gives a ‘phenomenal sound’. Brakes are standard, the big change being a change to steel lines on the front brakes. The rims are factory GSX, suiting the dark metallic look nicely.

In relation to looks, the bike is definitely not the same as when it rolled off the Suzuki floor 16 years ago. The factory handlebars and mirrors are gone, replaced by Isl branded items. Sitting in place of the stock headlamp is a smaller unit, a light generally found on older 50cc motorcycles that are found in the area. Three different seat designs were considered for the build, first a trimmed cafe racer seat for one. Then a two person flat tracker seat, and finally the one person bobber style seat you see today, mounted on a rear hoop fitted by Nuno.

Catching your eye the minute you look at the bike, is the choice of aesthetic for the fuel tank. Much thought was put into this look, with people trying to influence the builder into painting the tank, but eventually the ‘Dented Brat’ was deemed to show it’s rough inside, including the dents on the tank. The side covers were a choice that was not changed at all from the beginning, they were going to be on the bike no matter what. It was decided that apart from having the rims, frame and a small line on the tank painted to delineate it, the rest of the bike would be left. Or in Nuno’s words: ”leaving the other components with the existing patina and aspect when I bought it”.

From a dusty bike found on the internet in a small village in Portugal, to the badass ride you see before you, I’m sure you can see the quality of the work coming from the Capelo’s bike studio. A warts ‘n’ all homage to everyone who can see the potential in a bike that has been parked, and inspiration to those who haven’t looked. I’ll leave the last words to Nuno Capelos himself: ”The bike is fantastic in terms of riding. Is fairly light and easy to ride. This is not a bike with a lot of speed. That was not the objective. I proposed to build a bike to ride and have fun. And that’s what I have done”.

  • Geno

    Paul McM and Mule are probably rolling they’re eyes pretty hard right about now. I love it!

    • coldsunshine


  • Stephen

    Everybody needs one of these. Just to peel around on, whether through town or down a country road. And its just crazy how dependable those Suzuki motors are.

    • gr333nyboy

      Agreed, they are almost indestructible, and given this fact can anyone explain to me why their are so few Suzukis on these and related retro bike pages? For some reason they dont seem to be restored half as much as they deserve, maybe theyre just not very ‘in’? whereas cx500’s (i rode one for a good few years in the 80s and know only too well their charms and limitations) seem to be unfathomably UBER cool these days.

      • gr333nyboy

        But adjusting the carbs on the gs’s is so tortuous it could be one of the punishments from dante’s inferno, so maybe thats the answer right there…

    • Agreed. This would be my work bike. Something that looks cool and that you could drop without shedding any tears.

      • Blueline

        Sometimes it can be hard to see past the excess of plastic cloaking the GSX model bikes. Without the plastic they are actually pretty nice bikes. I have the economy ‘naked’ GSX250E, with the squared off toaster style tank. And it looks awesome, even as a stock bike.

        As for reliability, you can’t beat the Suzuki twin. My bike was parked up in 1993, spent time in two different sheds, up until last year when I scored it for free. Stripped it down, sealed the tank, chucked on some new tyres, cleaned the carbs and sprayed it black. And it starts first (or second) time you hit the starter button.

        I am all for more GSX action on this blog.

  • coldsunshine

    Dents and rust (aka patina) are OK if they are come by honestly. If a builder wants to keep them, that’s fine, but some hammer work and paint are OK too.

  • Lewn

    There’s nothing really wrong with it. But then again there’s nothing really wrong with the original. If this is a custom bike then I’m in! An afternoon with a wrench and pull off some plastic, bolt on some mesh, a few air filter pods and a bit of pipe wrap, job done! Mule and Sanctuary can get lost, all that hardcore wrenching is unnecessary. Wanna custom bike? Got a free afternoon?

  • John in Pollock


    • Fantome_NR

      yes, meh.

  • Chris Saddler Sam

    i used to hate these wheels
    i considered them really ugly!
    till i saw this:

    another nice interpretation of an ugly factory bike!


    PS: nice lil brat

  • F48

    Tire is 120/80/18 rear and 100/80/19 front or 120/80/17 rear and 90/90 x 18 front i want to know

  • Davidabl2

    This one’s “aspirational” while Paul McM’s & Mules are “inspirational” 😉

  • Piyasawat Vilathong Dek Pum

    tire size ? rear and font

  • PJCF

    It’s good see this kind of quality work from a fellow portuguese. Way to go Nuno Capelo! Thank you Pipeburn for posting this.