It turns out motorcycles can get onto your skin as well as under it. We heard about a Suzuki GSX1100 obsessive known as John Martin or FBJ, and considered it our duty to go and find out more. Starting out by discovering the root of his GSX obsession.
“It all goes back to a trip to the Bulldog Bash many years ago. My mates had GSX1100s. I didn’t. I think I was on a CBX1000 or a Z1300. It was the noise that got me hooked, listening to one of the GSXs barking through an Eagle race exhaust, I just had to have one.”
By now, I had to ask John about his tattoos. His left arm is fast becoming an homage to the 16 valve GSX, with two of its most iconic models inked into his skin. “They’re my bikes. I’ve seen a few Katana tattoos, but this one is my actual bike. The guy did the artwork from a picture of my bike and he also did the same with the GSX1100EF one too.” Despite being taught by an old editor to never discuss money, I waded in with a nosy question and fortunately John wasn’t offended. “The bloke charged £90 per hour, and it took him three days.” Even with my rusty maths that’s heading for over £1,500 on ink.
Continuing the theme of John’s addiction to the big 1980s Suzuki four strokes, he’s not only had the bikes, but got the T-shirts as well. And it was the initial on his black Fruit of the Loom I wanted to bend his ear about next. ACS, or Air Cooled Suzuki by its full title, is John’s corner of the internet.
The internet forum was started him by around four years ago, and I was interested to know why he’d do such a thing. After all, most forums have a habit of turning into virtual slanging matches and the cause of much aggro. Thankfully, ACS is nothing like that.
“I like forums and I love air cooled Suzuki’s. After a chat at work someone knew someone who could build me a site for a couple of hundred quid. The logic behind it was to get like minded people together online and also out in the real world. It’s grown steadily, its run for pleasure and I’ve now got registered users in all corners of the globe. We have started to get out to shows too. Over the last few years we’ve made it along to classic shows at Stafford, Donington, Squires Cafe and Newark.”
Fortunately John’s better half, Flo understands his passion. And she probably should, owning a rare Suzuki GSX1000S Katana herself. An accident while riding pillion behind John means she can’t get out on the Katana for the time being. But her enthusiasm for motorcycling hasn’t been dented, and the couple are both happy spending time at the various shows around the country.
The ACS website continues to grow at a healthy pace. And John is chuffed with not just the progress, but also the spirit of those who’ve got involved, including both riders and traders.
“I like banter, but don’t like things if they turn abusive and get out of hand. It can happen quickly online so I keep an eye on my site and deal with anything that’s not constructive. What I really like is how the members help each other out, sharing knowledge and at times even parts. There was a post on our Facebook page the other day. Someone wanted to know what size head race bearings they’d need to graft Suzuki GSXR1000K8 yokes onto a GSX frame. I didn’t have a clue myself, but next time I looked two people had given the bloke the information he required.”
“We’ve got some site sponsors from within the trade who offer parts at reduced prices, free post and little touches like that. The guys at Grumpy1260 offer members discounts and Gary Hurd also helps with technical queries on our site. Robinsons also get involved with discounts for ACS members. It’s not just the big boys who get involved; we’ve two one man band operations who offer a reduction on parts they sell. You won’t have heard of them but they deserve a mention. PrototypePlasticComponents and Yamakawasuzi. Without their support ACS would be a quieter place”.
You might get the impression John lives on his computer, but that isn’t the case. Skipping a second cup of tea, we head outside to his workshop, where the weapons are kept.
There are a total of nine bikes in there. All are Suzukis, and seven of them are air cooled. The two oil cooled examples are a stunning Suzuki GSX-R1100L and a relatively modern Suzuki GSX1400 dating from 2002.
It’s not just the bikes you have to avoid tripping over. There’s a whole stash of GSX parts as well. John thinks about spares as a way to fuel his obsession.
“They’re like a currency, I wish I could keep all my parts but they have to get sold now and again to fund new projects. I’ve just sold a Katana fuel tank for £200. The money will go to fund work on my newest project, a Harris Magnum 2 that will end up with a GSX1100 motor in it, either a Kat lump or an EFE one, I’m not too sure yet.”
It’s a challenge to keep up with John’s chatter. He’s pointing to bikes and telling me their life stories. Each one is worth an article itself, from his standard Suzuki Katana 1100 to a mint Suzuki GSX1100EF with a genuine 18,000 miles on the distinctive clocks. But it’s the big, black, turbo Katana that grabs my attention. This bike is so far from standard it would have members of the VJMC tearing their hair out. Perfect.
John rode his modified Suzuki GSX1100EF 33 times last year. And each time was down the drag strip. In a total of eight and a quarter miles, John was hooked on drag racing. He fessed up to his future plans.
“I love GSX’s and I love drag racing. I enjoyed playing at it on the EF last year, despite all the chassis modifications the engine is stock. My best time was 11.3 at around 120 MPH terminals, not bad for an engine built in 1984. This Katana is one I built for the road, but it’s perfect for drag racing. The turbo will spit and growl and I’ve got to get the swinging arm out in the week so it can be lengthened by a friend.”
We could have stayed in John’s air cooled wonderland for hours, but for the time being we had to be ushered out. We plan to follow the progress of FBJ at various shows and Santa Pod (and get more details on his other bikes). But in the meantime, we’ll be signing up to the Air Cooled Suzuki website to see his updates.
And in the meantime, why not check out some of the Suzuki specials from the archives, including building a Katana to race in the Spa Classic Endurance race, Roger Turners Kwik Kat, or Nigel Lenton’s very special Suzuki GSX1100ET.
If all of that tempts you, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of window shopping on Ebay – there’s always a range of Suzuki GSX bikes of various vintages and price ranges on offer…