We’ve never considered the Suzuki GSX-R 750 as custom material. A classic and soon-to-be collectible 80s sportbike, for sure—but not the sort of machine to take a grinder to.
Kurt Walter begs to differ. He’s the design director at ICON Motosports, and lives and breathes fast Japanese machinery. And he’s got us looking at the Gixxer in a whole new light.
This is ‘Major Tom,’ the latest ICON 1000 creation. It’s based on a 1986 model, the year the GSX-R 750 was launched in the USA.
“It’s the bike that ushered in a new age of store-bought GP performance,” says Walter. “Many young men hurt themselves badly on this and similar ‘crotch rockets’—the ICON team included.”
But it was the Gixxers themselves that would pay the ultimate price. “There was scarcely a road shoulder throughout the land that wasn’t bedazzled with shards of Suzuki ABS plastic.”
“Major Tom started life as most great bikes do, all shiny and lustful,” says Walter. “She was high-speed sex delivered to the adoring groins of Middle American teens.”
She started her second life about 15 years after her first ended. “We pulled what remained of her from a ‘barn’ in Oregon. This particular ‘farmer’ specialized in one of Clackamas County’s primary crops, meth.”
The Gixxer was in a most peculiar way. The lower fairings had long since been discarded, presumably to increase airflow to oil coolers.
Also spotted were fake carbon turn signals from Lockhart Phillips, a spider-webbed Zero Gravity windscreen, and a first-gen Yoshi slip-on.
A set of Uni pod filters had been eaten by mice, or gas, or both. “Visually she was a mess,” says Walter. “Legally she was hot. Together: a certifiable hot mess.”
Most buyers would have run screaming from this impending disaster. But not Walter’s crew. “We like our dames rough and rugged.”
But the circuits were dead and the engine wouldn’t start. “She would only talk when we sprayed ether down her throat. But we could tell she had some serious stories in those spindly aluminum bones.”
This was three years ago, when the sadly prescient Major Tom name was chosen too. (Walter is a huge David Bowie fan.) “That’s the norm for an ICON project,” Walter reveals. “We build all our customs inside our Portland design studio, worked on by the collective staff.”
“It takes more time this way, but literally every hand of the ICON team has touched Major Tom in some meaningful way. Some touched her in ways not fit for description, even on the Internet.”
The GSX-R looks very different today. The frame is cradle braced, and the subframe has been moved upwards a few inches—chopped, channeled and massaged with a large iron pipe.
The front end is a salvaged Kawasaki ZX-7R unit: “Chosen for its ridiculously long lowers, which straddle the line between USD and conventional.”
The most striking aspect of the build is the solid aluminum wheels—from a first generation Harley V-Rod and shod with Avon rubber. “Our advice when swapping V-Rod wheels onto a Gixxer? Don’t,” says Walter.
“Single-handedly the hardest swap ever. You’ll need a very good friend at EBC Brakes and access to a lot of JB Weld—or a competent TIG welder.”
Next to draw the eye is the bodywork, which came from Airtech. “The plastics are a combo of Moriwaki and XR69 glass, we think. They’ve been heavily reworked, so it’s tough to remember where they started.”
The fuel tank has been narrowed by three inches, and took three months to get right. It holds less fuel, but looks worlds better.
Walter describes the exhaust system as “A Nike Atlas twist-up of Vance & Hines drag headers, capped with a cast brass Yoshi can.”
But the ace in the hole lurks under the seat: A wet Nitrous system capable of putting Major Tom into a lower Earth orbit.
It’s the kind of build that could have descended into bad streetfighter territory, but Major Tom really makes the grade. And it’s a machine that begs to be ridden hard.
As the song goes, take your protein pills and put your helmet on…