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Finally released in the USA in 1981, American riders wasted no time making the 900 four a best seller here too. With its capable RCB inspired engine and chassis, the 900F took Honda to a new position of respect among the riding public, many of which had waited years for the motorcycling giant to get serious about the sporting market with a truly competitive motorcycle. Perfection is the only word to describe the 900’s Bol d’Or endurance style, and Honda’s success in the Castrol 8-hour and other Euro events gave the 900 a heritage like no Honda before it. An appreciating classic that’s stayed on the fast track, we’d pay real money to find one in Euro trim or fit with items from Honda's accessory catalog for our files.
Suzuki GS1000S ‘Wes Cooley’ replica
Retired machinist David Smith and I have more in common than age. Growing up in the early superbike era, we both lusted after the same machines but David has acted, nailing down this stunning GS1000S which he restored to ride and show. “I always considered the 1000S an underappreciated machine” David said after he and his son delivered the Suzuki and a recently purchased Honda 900F to park in front of our cameras. “To me, the Suzuki was the best looking bike in its era, and it performed among the best available. It took a while for the public to see it, but now the GS1000S is a collectible machine. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
Against the (Digital) Wind
It is nearly impossible not to view Honda’s CB750 of 1969 as the most profound motorcycle ever made. Brilliantly executed and released at precisely the right time, few that know the scene would actually claim it as the best motorcycle though; especially those whose favorite color is Kawasaki green. Had Honda not gotten the drop on those great shipbuilders from Japan, it might be Kawasaki’s own DOHC 750 basking in the limelight, but that isn’t how it played out. The magic began as Honda’s competitors serviced notice, and history’s skyline remains a blue-tinted haze from the resulting performance wars. For a time the SOHC and Zed 900 shared throne space, tolerating intrusions from Suzuki and Yamaha. Each took aim at that all important 1/4-mile podium, and the exchange led to an ultimate showdown in 1978. The boldest year of a golden decade..
Described as ‘The King’ by Phil Schilling, the Z1 lost its throne in 1978 at the hands of three newcomers. First was Yamaha’s XS-Eleven, then the CBX, and finally the GS1000 Suzuki, arguably the best of them all. The fact that each took turns kicking the Z to the curb didn’t sit well with the previous administration, so with Kawasaki’s blessing a group of enthusiasts from the USA branch commissioned a kit from American Turbo-Pac, using a Ray Jay turbo and other assorted hardware to transform the 1015cc Z1-R into 1978’s fastest accelerating motorcycle. “They’d break them down, right on the docks and fit TC specific parts on hand to be installed” relates Jackson. Look for an expanded view of Jackson’s TC sometime early in 2019.
Kawasaki Z1-R TC
Life would be harder and not nearly as much fun without TJ and Pam Jackson around. An old school horsepower junkie, TJ broke into the business in the 1970s and wrenched for food and shelter. Saving every scrap of knowledge he learned, TJ and new wife Pam opened Eastside Performance in 1981, establishing a new standard of excellence of motorcycle service and development in suburban Phoenix. A recent addition to TJ and Pam’s collection is this cosmetically original Z1-R TC; pulled from a local collection and put back on the road. “I got it running and made it pretty” grinned Jackson after experiencing the famous Zed at boost. “I’ve ridden a ton of stuff, but it’s pretty impressive for a 40-year old bike.”
This special feature comes after decades of research and collecting scraps of info on both the Ago/DMB V1000, later DMB built Le Mans 1000 III and more variants from France and for the USA. Truly an international affair, working stateside with me has been record setting land speed tuner/rider Bill "Billoni" Ross (world's fastest Moto Guzzi) and Alex Woodbury, contributing photos, making contacts and months of research translating text. In the UK, Guzzi specialist Joe Caruso and V1000 Agostini owner Gary Danielz have both shared material and photos. From Joe has come invaluable information from his considerable files, greatly adding to the content with his expertise and experience. Simply put, this project would not exist without Gary's involvement, producing most of the feature bike photography for Part 1 and what could be the most interesting aspect of the entire story. Carsten Tegeler and Friedrich Holtkämper in Germany have also contributed brilliantly, taking turns presenting the next missing piece to this Guzzi-shaped puzzle. Finally, the contributions of Alis Agostini (daughter of founding Duilio and longtime company manager) provides the final accreditation that takes this article to print with complete confidence. Still a work in progress. look for Part One early in 2019. Nolan Woodbury
Developed as a new line of high performance inline fours, the GS family began in 1976 with the GS750. Unlike rival four-strokers from Kawasaki and Honda, Suzuki’s ground up approach netted a frame and chassis engineered to deliver at-speed stability, composure while cornering, and provide all day ergos. Amply braced, the frame served to hold a slightly over-square, 987cc DOHC four with 2-valves per cylinder, 4-28mm Mikuni carbs and a five-speed. Dry weight was just over 500-lb. In standard GS1000 form the Suzuki floored testers and owners all over the globe with its speed, endurance, and later, durability. 1981’s 4v was even better, but dressed in Cooley colors the limited edition 1000S might be the most attractive machine the firm ever released. Am instant classic upon release, those machines not ridden into the earth are scarce…and harder to find than ever. Thrilling to see, look for this underrated superbike classic in an upcoming issue of RealClassic.
Honda CB900F Super Sport
Developed by the factory as a 1000cc four alongside the six-cylinder CBX, Honda’s original plan was to test each prototype and release the best machine. They released both as it turns out, the flashy CBX six making its debut in 1978 while the 900F (labeled Bol d’Or in other markets) arrived after downsizing it to 901cc in 1979. Naturally, the grandiose six made the headlines, but real performance enthusiasts moved to the more balanced and capable 900. It didn’t take Honda long to get the message, and after a short period of digesting the widespread, positive coverage lavished upon the 900 Super Sport, the same machine served as a base for the even faster and more exotic CB1100R – truly a flagship classic.
As I may have mentioned before, my motivation for becoming a moto journo came from a lack of press on the motorcycles I personally found interesting. Still in development in 1990, the internet had not yet become a part of daily life but when it did, the entire scope changed. I count it as fortune being in a position to watch it happen, and thanks to the online materials to follow, my focus opened to include those historical events that transformed motorcycling from cheap transport to personalized road burner. Not surprisingly that dig through history is causing the hole to get deeper, but as facts confirm and events harmonize, real progress shows with old mysteries solved and new friends gained. Many of these contributions have come from like-minded enthusiasts, some anxious to tell their story to an audience that didn’t exist before. So while the progression in technology has in many cases come with a certain amount of social regression, a wonderful new circle of contacts and associates has caused Woodbury Moto Media's digital catalog to expand. We’ll attempt to post regular updates on the homepage preview section, and we welcome contact for other details, questions, submissions or requests. Happy motoring!
V1000 Le Mans II ‘Agostini/DMB’
In the very late 1970s German Moto Guzzi importer DMB requested a special, high performance version of the Le Mans 850; opened to a full 1000cc and competitive with the fastest Japanese models of the time. In granting this request, the factory commissioned Mandello tuner and aftermarket Guzzi specialist Duilio Agostini to build them, with some 200 machines completed using both the 850 Le Mans II and 850 III as a base. Omitted from previously published works covering the Le Mans model line, I have been granted a two-part series in RealClassic magazine to tell the story. Another, more expanded chapter will be published here at Woodbury Moto Media after the print articles are released.