New Zealand has a remarkably strong motorcycle culture, as befits an island blessed with wonderful country roads and a strong do-it-yourself nature. But the focus is usually on classic rather than custom motorcycles: you’ll see a lot of old British iron at moto events, but few ‘modern’ customs.
So it’s good to stumble across this 1978 Suzuki GS550E, built by Alan Pritchard of Stray Dog Moto in Nelson. The bike was a basket case when Alan bought it, and he originally intended to simply clean it up and get it running. But when he got the project underway, it snowballed into a major operation. And nine months later, this is how ‘Stray Dog’ turned out.
Alan de-tabbed and modified the frame, and lowered the original forks internally by 50mm. The restored spoked wheels are from a 1977 GS550, and the rearsets have been lifted from a GSX-R1100. Shocks are YSS. Alan also fitted the calipers and master cylinder from a Suzuki SV650, fed by Venhill lines. The motor got a rebuilt top end with fresh pistons and rings, and a Dyna S electronic ignition and coils. Thermal paint gives it a factory-fresh look and many other parts on the bike have been powdercoated.
Breathing is now helped by a Supertrapp muffler and K&N filters. Other mods include a custom fabricated seat, Renthal Ultra Low bars, Bates head- and tail-lamps, LED indicators, and a new electrical loom. The battery is now hidden under the seat and the bike is kickstart-only: Alan removed the starter motor.
“It took a few attempts to get the fuelling correct,” he reports, “but she now handles the twisties of the Nelson region beautifully. It’s a pleasure to ride and sounds great without being offensive!”
He also notes that the GS550 blew his budget big time. But I’d say it’s worth every penny.