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Suzuki GS1000S Cooley replica

Suzuki GS1000
Today’s guest post is by Mitch Boehm, Editor & Publisher of Moto Retro Illustrated. It’s a common thread with us ’70s/’80s superbike guys. We either owned (and sold) or wanted one of the streetbikes we saw sliding around Laguna or Daytona beneath guys like Wes Cooley, Freddie Spencer or Eddie Lawson. Kawasaki KZ1000Rs. Honda CB900Fs. Or Suzuki GS1000Ss. Just looking at the nasty things made our blood boil, but for whatever reason many of us just couldn’t get—or hold onto—them in our youth.

Now, of course, more of us have the money, time and patience to source, restore, maintain and ride these legendary superbikes. And for many fans they provide massive aesthetic and road-going satisfaction.

Suzuki GS1000
Larry Pearson is one such enthusiast. After watching Lawson, Spencer and Cooley duke it out in the early ’80s at the AMA Nationals in the Pacific Northwest, Pearson had always harbored major-league lust for a Suzuki GS1000S—a limited-edition open-class superbike available in ’79 and ’80. Pearson finally found an S-model when buddy Devin Corbit bought one and got bogged down on its restoration. “Devin got tired of me whining about buying it,” says Pearson, “and since he needed money for his street rod project, he sold it to me.”

Pearson had always wanted to set up a 1000S with the Right Stuff—the stuff Cooley and the Yosh crew used on its racers: rearsets, low bars, a step seat, a Lockhart oil-cooler with lines running along the right side of the cylinder, and everything blacked out—with an era-correct Yoshimura header topping it all off. “The Yosh pipe took me over a year to find,” Pearson says, “and it’s mint. I’d have probably taken this bike back to stock had it not been for that pipe.”

With only 18,000 miles on the clock, Pearson’s GS1000S was mechanically sound—which he verified with help from Honda tech Charlie Brown. So he began his chassis customization with an engine removal and a complete strip and powder-coat of the frame, including replacing all seals, bearings and bushings once that work was done. Next came stainless brake lines, slotted discs from an ’80-spec GS1000S, a set of NOS mirrors, new cables, Conti Blitz tires, Tarozzi rearsets, and a new master cylinder. Pearson refurbished the wiring harness, and added a new subfender, piggyback Honda CB1100F shocks and a front fender from the same bike, which routed air right to the oil-cooler. “They’re pieces I always knew would look perfect on this bike,” Pearson says. “The fender has that cool spoiler on top, and it’s way lighter than the stock steel fender. I had to modify it, but it’s easily one of my favorite pieces.”

Pearson spent tons of time on his S’s aesthetics to get them perfect. “I painted the engine two shades of black,” he told us. “Flat for the cylinders, head and block, and semi-gloss for the valve cover and engine covers. I like contrast. Two blacks ensure the engine doesn’t look like it’s been ‘dipped’ in paint. I also painted the wheels, fork and everything else I could think of in satin and gloss black. Even the bars are powder-coated black.”

Though black dominates the engine and frame, the bodywork remains the traditional blue-and-white Suzuki/Cooley/Yoshimura livery. “The factory colors have always knocked me out,” he told us, “so I kept the original colors. It’s what makes the S-model what it is. I fixed several dents in the tank and a few cracks in the sidecovers and fairing. Then repainted everything in urethane, using factory Suzuki decals throughout. I also added the Yoshimura decal to the tank, and buried everything under ten coats of clear-coat for a finish the factory could only dream of. I also modified the seat by hacking two inches off the foam and reshaping it, so it’d flow into the tank more smoothly. Suzuki made some ugly seats, but this one looks right.” Royal Upholstery in Spokane covered it for Pearson in two textures, all with beautiful French seams. Much sleeker, he says, and still very comfortable.

The only glitch was the S-model’s hard-to-find dash assembly. “Unfortunately,” Pearson says, “part of the dash was broken off due to a tipover. I took a piece of a broken Kawasaki ZX-14 windscreen, found the correct curve from it, cut it to shape, bonded it to the Suzuki dash panel, and recovered it with matching vinyl. After a complete disassembly and cleaning, the stock dash looked brand-new.” Nice.

Pearson’s custom GS1000S took him more than 18 months from start to finish. But like most projects that involve this much thought, effort and passion, the end result is nothing short of stunning.

“This bike has been burning in my brain for three decades,” Pearson says, “and now I have one in my garage! It’s a dream come true. It rides, handles and runs as good as new, maybe even better. These bikes have a soul, and the sound of that Yosh pipe is pure music; it takes me right back to the early ’80s! It’s so much fun to ride, and it stops people dead in their tracks when they see it. ‘Whoa,’ they say, ‘that’s a freakin’ Cooley-replica Suzuki!’” Which is pretty much what we said when we first laid eyes on his S-model special.

Thanks to Mitch Boehm. Get your subscription to Moto Retro Illustrated here.

Suzuki GS1000

  • Beautiful bike! I’m experiencing major lust right now.

  • I have a soft spot for these and have listed quite a few on our site. This one is spectacular though! What a work of art!


  • john bazeley

    after 10 years mine still puts a silly grin on my face.Suzuki.GS1000S=”Big Fun”

  • Larry Pearson

    Thanks for the kind words, and thanks especially to Mitch at Moto Retro Illustrated magazine and this fine site for featuring it. I had no idea it would garner the attention it’s getting, and it’s very flattering. The one change I would make to the story is that the tank graphics (pictured) are painted on. When I originally submitted the info to Mitch, the decals had indeed been used, but I redid the tank when a friend of mine with a vinyl graphics business cut me the stencils so we could airbrush the Suzuki and Yoshimura on. I actually paint bikes for a living. Anyone interested in having theirs done, I’d be glad to talk to you about it. (Shameless self-promotion)

  • Steve Locke

    The style, charm and performance of the 80’s GS bikes is unmatched amongst other UJMs of the era. The Kawasakis were never good looking. The Hondas just look dated (especially with those wheels). Yamahas were never in the same league, performance-wise.

  • Andrew Schuler

    I’ve got two of these. The one is a ’79, my first liter bike bought new. I was young and into the cafe racer look, when most of my peers weren’t. I built it to a 1085cc right away. It sits in pieces in my basement from long ago, testiment to a failed attempt of making it a 1176cc. I boxed up a falicon crank configured with straight cut primary gear, knife-edged throws, welded and balanced, the rods with polished leading edges and bushed small ends; a converted clutch basket with beefy back plate & stainless welded rivets; new ’80 head (they had larger intake ports for the 34mm CV carbs Suzuki went to in ’80); a set of new 33 Mikuni smooth bores; andrews cams; heavy duty cylinder studs; box aluminum swingarm… all because the machinist didn’t follow instructions and ruined the cases and cylinders. It was a harebrained scheme anyway. I wonder what ever happened to the period RC 4-into-1 pipe? Years later, I spied my brother’s ’80 ‘S’ sitting in his back yard under a tarp and bought it from him to save it from ravages of the weather. I now have a rolling bike and a basket case on shelves, both in my basement and see them on a weekly basis. I no longer wonder of those people who hoard things from long ago and stash them away. I need to make one ‘period bike’ of my youth out of the two. Heck, its only been a scant 31 model years ago. I feel it coming on… just waiting for the right time…

  • Bill Smith

    I had a 79 back in 1979. Let it go with kids etc in the 80’s. Now have a 1980. Still on e of the best looking bikes I have ever seen. Am keeping this one completely stock, should have it running soon for some short rides, but honestly just looking at it makes me feel better.

    You should check out there are a lot of old Suzuki fans there and these show up fairly regularly.

    Am looking for an users manual and the supplemental owners manual to help complete the package. If anyone has a spare maybe we could work something out. I am wtsmith on the thegsresources site.

  • Rick McLaren

    I owned a brand new `78 GS1000N and it was the best handing, most powerful bike I ever owned. Rode it a few years then parked it ’cause of insurance costs. It got sold in `83 or `84…..
    Well, 26 years later I come up with a “cherry” `78 GS1000C with 20 odd thousand KM on it.
    Gonna be reliving the youth (not to the extent I rode the 1st GS though)

  • Doug Hassett

    I am looking for a stencil or template to paint the blue and white paint scheme for the Wes Cooley Replica and also the proper paint colors – Do you know where I can find these items. Any help would be appreciated. My bike will be a blank canvas when I start.

    Thanks, Doug

  • Reproduction Decals makes a striping kit for the S model, complete with tank, side cover and tail piece lettering. You could either use them, or use them as guides for templates. I had two S model tanks, so I was able to measure the stripes out on one and transfer it to the one on the bike now. The white I used is called “St. Lawrence” white. It’s not a pure white like an appliance (refrigerator) white, it’s more of an antique white. The blue is almost exactly the same shade as the late 60’s Ford “Grabber Blue” that came out on Mustangs. If you use those, they’re very, very close to the factory original.

  • Shay

    Hi Larry…Thats one of the most beautiful Paint Jobs Iv ever seen in my life.
    Im doing a Wes Cooley Tribute Bike using an insurance write off 02 Suzuki Bandit 1200.My budget is very tight but Id would like to at least paint my bike the Red Colour Wes 1980 race bike was but I cant find the colour code for it.You wouldnt happen to know it and would you know of a painter in the Portland Oregon area that could paint my bike.

    [email protected]

  • Thanks, Shay. We may have actually emailed about your project..last summer possibly?. I remember someone with a Bandit that said he wanted a red Wes Cooley-type paint job for it. I’d love to do that bike. Not sure of the paint codes, but it would be no problem to replicate the colors. A contemporary model would be a fun challenge. I live in Spokane,, not that far from Portland. Let’s talk. (509) 995-4800.

  • Demarco

    Colors are perfect, I am a fan of the cafe look, and I’m 61 years old you would think this would not appeal to us old guys but believe me it does and always will. I know the seat may not be a cafe racer but it looks great.

  • Casey Albert

    Larry: Would you mind posting your email so that I can contact you directly concerning a GS1000s project?


    Casey Albert

  • Casey, you can send Larry a message via this link if you’re on Facebook.

    Good luck!


  • Larry Pearson

    Hi Casey,

    My email address is [email protected]

  • Casey Albert

    Thanks Chris.

    I’m not on Facebook, but as you see Larry contacted me. I appreciate your assistance.

  • Thanks for this one! It is the first time I see suzuki’s “star shaped” wheels (mounted in almost every GS series 70-80’s models) painted in black. I’m planning to paint my 1983 GS400 wheels in couple of days and this project reassured me in black!