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THE NINTH SON. Beautiful Machines’ ‘Kuro’ Suzuki GS550 Neo-Racer

Posted on October 20, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer, Racer. 34 comments

Written by Martin Hodgson

For nearly four decades the middleweight sportsbike was a staple of almost every manufacturer’s line up, often out selling the companies more potent models. With enough power for the street, nimble handling and rev happy engines few will go through their motorcycle life without owning one. But now the class has all but been abandoned with just Yamaha’s new R6 left to fly the flag. So when Malaysia’s Beautiful Machines found themselves working incredibly long hours preparing two spectacular builds for a show, they decided it couldn’t hurt to another yet another bike to the mix. From the remains of a motorcycle that’s been an old friend to the shop comes this trick neo-racer from one of the original middleweight legends; a 1979 Suzuki GS550 they call Kuro.

Hard at work on the previously featured Monster and lil Monster, the team was also crafting the incredible Typhoon, all three trophy winners. At the same time they were also developing their SR400 supercharged beach racer and of course taking care of customer builds, servicing and maintenance. You’d think that would be enough to keep any shop busy but with less than 12 weeks to go on the deadline of their big builds they happily took on the GS as well. The bike has been around the shop since day one, having previously been treated to a basic café conversion, but a new owner meant a full overhaul.

Beautiful Machines describe this as one of their “simple” builds with the goal being to deliver a bike for their friend that was unmistakably a BM motorcycle without going over the top so it could remain a regular rider. Rather than draw up fancy plans or spend time they didn’t have designing the bike on a computer they simply imagined the rough silhouette they wished to create and got to work. “We also decided that black on black was how we would want this build to be and that also served as a premise for us to work from,” explains Julian. The only other firm idea they had was to do something interesting with the seating position, but even before that thought was finished disassembly had begun.

Absolutely everything came off the bike with a mix of original and previously used custom parts finding a home in the corner where they’d stay. The first task was to take on the subframe to create an elevated seating position they had envisioned, that had to both look interesting and give the bike a more sporting riding position. The subframes mounting points and tabs were all ground off and the original steel smoothed out. Then on top a second frame was created from smaller diameter steel tube to create the floating effect. Then the whole frame was ground perfectly smooth and new coats of black flowed over to cover it all.

“Because the bike was going to only be black…the separate layers that you see were important so the finished bike did not look flat”.

Now they could get down to fabricating the custom body work that consists of a minimalist tail and beautifully executed tank. The boys brilliantly describe the process of making such a look work “The tricky thing for this build was to be able to ‘picture’ it as a finished bike even from the early stages in order to make the right decisions along the way through fabrication. Because the bike was going to only be black, the usage of different textures, nuances in the metal highlights, or asymmetrical curves to separate layers that you see were important so the finished bike did not look flat.”

To further enhance the look there are plenty of custom touches as you start to examine the Suzuki more closely. The tank features a modern style filler for a racy feel and a neat raised three eyed cat graphic. The front fairing is one of the few large areas that isn’t black with the raw metal providing contrast to the three black ringed LED headlights that give the graphic extra meaning. Meanwhile the name has been neatly ghosted into one of the engine side covers and a clear LED taillight strip means no colours are artificially introduced. The seat takes cues from the entire design with the floating item a mix of black suede and metal grey leather.

“The engine was perfectly painted in various shades of black but it’s the exhaust that steals the show”.

Like any good middleweight machine the Suzuki likes to rev with peak power from the 549cc four pot coming at 9000rpm. So with the GS nearing 40 years of age the boys stripped the engine down and treated it to a full overhaul with new gaskets and seals throughout. The stock Mikuni carbs were pulled off, rebuilt and balanced before the crew fabricated a set of exquisite black velocity stacks with unique metal inset filters. The engine was perfectly painted in various shades of black but it’s the exhaust that steals the show. Deliberately “wrong” as the lads describe it the conventional headers get crazy when the system splits in two for a GP inspired look with the stainless system finishing out in twin end cans, one under the seat.

Given the bike was going to be heavily street ridden as well as making the odd show appearance alongside the other Beautiful Machines masterpieces braking and handling had to get the job done without compromising the distinctive look. The rebuilt wheels are naturally all black with new spokes and rims, the Firestone rubber matching the shops other bikes but is easily switched out for sticky stuff. The front forks have been slightly lowered through the trees and given a rebuild to suit the reduced weight Kuro carries. While out back the old chrome shocks have been thrown in the bin for a set of remote reservoir units.

With the Suzuki’s seat up, the bars come down to exaggerate the look and add to the feel the team were going for. A set of clip-ons are mounted down the forks with only the barest of essentials fitted up. New grips were a must while a set of all new levers in black and a new master cylinder was just about all that is needed to control the GS. Running from the new master is all new braided brake lines to improve the stopping power of the twin disc front end and ensure no tyre rubbing issues with running the bike sans fender. Finally, the rider can feel like a real GP star with a set of modern rearsets finishing out the job.

Despite the deadline of less than three months and the need to build all new metal work while also building a bunch of trophy winning machines the deadline was met with ease. Beautiful Machines is a slick operation and whether they’re building thunderous Harley’s, bubble gum fun Monkey bikes or this triple shot black Suzuki GS550 nothing seems to faze the Malaysian crew, as evidenced by the bike winning the Cherry’s Company pick at the Malaysian Art of Speed show this year. But there was one surprise on this build, Kuro doesn’t just mean black as they originally thought. It also means ninth son and as fate would have it, this is the ninth full build undertaken by the current Beautiful Machines operation; it was just meant to be.

[ Beautiful Machines – Instagram | Photos by Studio DL ]

  • guvnor67! And this build has some ideas that really go left of centre but work magnificently. Throw on some seriously sticky rubber and go have some fun!

  • Black and chrome are always a tasteful choice.

  • Tomatenfisch

    A beautiful motorcycle! Nice details. The bad tires bother me. But the tea strainers before the carburettors will steal enough power not to drive too fast …

    • You think? I’d need to see a dyno comparison before I’d call that. Could increase turbulence and swirl to increase power, no?

      • You ever seen that Roadkill video where they crush the exhaust pipes of an engine on a dyno and it makes zero difference to the hp?

        • Tomatenfisch

          When I see the few square millimeters, that is a throttling. In addition, an air filter should not only prevent birds from flying through. Have seen enough ruined engines. Also on dynas. But for the photo it looks cool. Even at Cafe Racern the design of the function should follow.

        • martin hodgson

          The dyno doesn’t lie and they have a new video on air cleaners and it was the direction the air was being drawn in through, not the volume that made the difference… velocity stacks being the winners. They actually tape up a K&N filter so it only pulls air through the top and it makes more power even though it’s now only got about 35% of the element open.

          So I’m 100% with you, I’d want to see dyno figures and on an engine this size being fed by four carbs I’d be willing to make a wager that this design isn’t robbing it any power if it’s jetted to suit and probably making more than stock!

          • Tomatenfisch

            At full throttle this works. But you do not get torque over the whole speed range. Look at an air filter in the Moto GP. They have at least seven times the volume of the cylinder volume. Do not just watch videos, there are enough textbooks on motortuning. The connections are however complex and a video is not enough to understand.

          • martin hodgson

            I totally agree you can’t just watch one video or rely on a single source. But I was the tuner for Brad Jones Racing, tuned some of the fastest turbo bikes in the world, have every cert from HP Academy, was tech editor of a number of magazines where I got to test all this stuff for years and I’m very confident in my suggestion this won’t rob power. And if you watch the video I’m talking about from Engine Masters they show the full torque curve too. The GP bikes its the airbox not the filter that has a capacity larger than the cylinder volume, it’s two very different things that really can’t be compared.

          • I was wrong.It was Engine Masters with the guy from Roadkill (David Freiburger).

          • Tomatenfisch

            I sit a few yards from our Dyno and also have some experience.
            The comparison with and without this design tea strainer would interest me. But most of all, the tires still bother me. What useful performance if the chassis does not keep up. Nevertheless a nice bike.

          • An engine can only make as much power as it can get fuel and air to burn. A restricted intake restricts what can get in. You can jet a 20mm carb to run smooth on a big single, but that in no way will mean it’s just as good as a 38mm. An engine will only run as good as it’s smallest restriction, be it valve size, piston size, carb, air cleaner or exhaust.

  • Greybeard1


  • the watcher

    Right; tyres? Sigh. Nose fairing? Yikes! The rest; oh hell yes. Brilliant styling and execution, brilliant donor (from the best of the USJ ranges of the 70’s and 80’s), in fact, just brilliant. And it’s matt black, thank Christ.

    • guvnor67

      I quite like the light housing fairing thingy, it reminds me of one of the ‘bots in the second lot of Star Wars movies, Attack of the Clones or whatever it was called?!

      • Greybeard1

        I thought the light housing was an unused prototype of Wonder Woman’s power cuffs.

        • guvnor67

          Wonder Woman. . . I feel better already!!

        • the watcher

          Still way fucking random to find on the front of an otherwise cool cycle though, eh?

        • Splitting the crowd like a good bike always should…

          • Greybeard1


          • Neil_TonUp

            “Splitting the crowd.” Excellent phrase. Separating the lemmings for the malingerers, or something equally daunting.

  • See, a guy wants to build a bike and has a bunch of ideas rattlin’ around in his head. So he puts every idea he ever had into the same build. Some are really cool and work out great. Some are kinda out there. But then the bike is done and when everybody finally sees it, it has a G-string fairing that stands out like mustard in a goal bin.Too late to change it at that point and the comments start to roll. Also not sure the shower head aircleaners will keep the debris from the square profile tire from shooting right down all the way to the guts of the engine. But that’s what boring and valve job are here for.

    • Pretty sure the air cleaners had a second layer behind them, deeper in the velocity stack’s throat…

      • Could be, but there are a lot of fads/trends currently that boggle the mind with their logic. Full knobbies and clip-ons being my fave. On the no inner fender craze, the stripped down coolness (I guess that’s the purpose), is seriously outweighed by the, “Yeah, but what about the crap getting into your motor?” factor.

      • Greybeard1

        “deeper in the velocity stack’s throat…”
        Wordsmith that you are you had to go there?
        Watergate or Linda Lovelace?

    • Neil_TonUp

      “Mustard in a coal bin.” Consider the phrase stolen with a wink and a tip of the chapeau.

  • Dave Coetzee

    Pardon me if I mentioned this with the last GS550 featured here but way back in ’79, my last year of high school, while I was still 17 and riding a Honda SS50, a friend got a brand new original one of these. To attest to these engine’s bullet-proof nature, I recall the friend taking me for a ride (pillion) in order to peer over his shoulder to witness that the bike could achieve our national speed of 120km/h in first gear!
    I also remember him trading it in for a Kawasaki Z1R the following year but it’s engine was unable to handle the abuse he delivered.

  • Паша Петров


  • Some really nice details and it looks like fun. Beautiful body work in the rear. But I must say, this bike obviously calls for better rubber and better brakes. The exhaust is well-TIG’d but really no reason for the weird routing (gonna probably see very different numbers on those right two cylinders) and why cover up those headers? To Guvnor67’s point, this bike certainly is left of centre, illustrated perfectly in the forward fairing/light stack that has never known center. But i digress..

  • Neil_TonUp

    I’m not sure which to respect more, the refined sensibilities of the design or the impressive work ethic of this group of builders. Best wishes to them, and thanks Pipeburn.