The 1975 Suzuki GT550 didn’t earn any crowns in the beauty pageant or break any track records in its day. Power-wise, the 543cc 2-stroke Triple topped-out at around 50 horses, but it was a reliable and fuel-efficient mill that proved to be a sensible option for riders that wanted a good, all-around motorcycle. In its stock trim the GT550 may be more of a hit today in the atmosphere of vintage love that pervades many corners of the motorcycle world, but even now it’s not become anything close to a collector’s item.
The fact that the ’75 GT550 is innocuous and often overlooked played perfectly into Pat Jones’ hands when he began his search for a street-capable 2-stroke to modify. Jones operates MotoHangar, a custom shop based in Virginia, and his initial thought was to find a Kawasaki H1 or H2 for the project. A GT550 came up at the right price during the search, however, and Jones bit the bullet, even though the machine was in pretty bad shape and would require a significant engine rebuild.
“It was a terrible mess,” explains Jones. “The engine was seized on it and I actually ended up buying another engine on Ebay and picking it up in Pennsylvania. Then I think I bought another donor bike and another engine just for parts over the whole course of time. They were cheap, I guess they were a little less desirable than some of the bigger name stuff. I ended up having almost an entire second bike and two extra engines when it was all done.”
Up to this point Jones had only finished two personal projects, piecing together work when he could afford the parts. With the GT550 though, he worked with two friends, Matt Osburn and Jon Brindley, from concept to completion. MotoHangar as a fully-fledged business didn’t yet exist and the guys were building the bike in order to enter it in a custom streetfighter contest. Jones and Osburn had worked as mechanics and in the construction field together before, and Brindley picked things up as they went, but for all three the process was a fruitful learning experience.
At the outset the goal was to create a street-worthy 2-stroke with contemporary sportbike parts, there was no finished concept to achieve or detailed schematic to follow. This organic process led Jones and crew down the rabbit-hole, fitting found and received pieces where they could until the bike began to take shape. One piece in particular, the tail section from an old Kawasaki GPZ that had been dropped off at the shop, led to the decision to keep the original tank. The look felt right to Jones, who wanted the machine’s stance to be “mean and aggressive.”
They then modified the stock frame out back, opening it up to allow a mid-2000’s SV650 swingarm and wheel to fit, keeping the SV braking system out back as well. As for rear suspension, Jones found that a Kawasaki 636 shock was a drop-in piece on the SV and a common upgrade amongst SV owners at the time. The front end proved less demanding labor-wise and is a stock GSX-R600 fork and brake set-up.
They cut the stock Suzuki headers and fitted new pipes from a Kawasaki H1 with Tony Nicosia-designed expansion chambers. The oil reservoir is crafted from a German Pilot’s Beer can, a piece Jones also found on Ebay. The seat and seat-pan were fabricated in-house and the seat is covered in elk skin. The headlight is a dressed-up unit sourced from a Honda, as are the rear sets which come from a CBR600.
Early on, as pieces from various bikes made it onto the build, Jones, Osburn and Brindley nicknamed the bike “Honduki,” since in the initial stages it was made primarily from Honda and Suzuki parts. As the build progressed a number of Honda parts were swapped out for others, but the name had stuck. They entered “Honduki” in Fighter Fest 2011 where they won “Best in Show” as well as “Trick Bits” awards, met with others that shared the same passion for custom motorcycles and walked away with the confidence to open up a full-time shop. It wasn’t long before the shop’s work allowed Jones to make custom building a full-time gig.
“I had a job at the same time we first started,” says Jones. “Then the job just started getting in the way of the work here and I decided to move into this a little bit more and it got a little bit busier. Actually this spring has been the busiest since we’ve had it.”
Customers can choose from different levels of customization at MotoHangar, from basic aesthetic and ergonomic upgrades in the Moto1 package down to a full frame-up custom job in the Moto3 option. The Honduki falls into the latter category, and would run a customer somewhere between $11,000 and $14,000.
In the almost four years since starting MotoHangar, Jones and company have sent bikes all over the country and have even had inquiries come in from across the pond. The shop’s website currently profiles 15 previous builds, which have generated quite a bit of customer interest.
“We’ve got maybe eight to 10 customer bikes we’re working on right now,” says Jones. “We haven’t really had a lot of time to work on our own projects, there’s lots of demand for the work they’ve already done.”
To keep up with the growing business, the three have branched out to focus on separate parts of a build rather than work on every project as they did on “Honduki.”
“With that bike (Honduki) at that point everybody just did everything. It was a collaborative effort. Matt’s good at doing our seats and exhausts now and John is helping with fabrication and design ideas at the current moment. It goes from project to project, but on that particular bike it was all hands on deck.”
It’s unique and lovingly crafted, but “Honduki” is also a great example of what can come of time spent with friends, wrenching in the garage. Check out more of MotoHangar’s builds at their website
If you have a cool custom, know a builder or are a builder yourself with great work to share, let us know. Send us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.