Project GSX-Reborn: Episode 1
By Bruce Dunn
Welcome to BeMoto Project GSX-Reborn
This not-so-stunning example of a Suzuki 2003 GSX-R600 K3 has been completely neglected for the past 8 years, not so much of a 'barn find' as a ‘back of the garage’ find. BeMoto Bike Insurance bought this bike for £1,000 about 5 years ago, with the intention of doing a project with the 44Teeth team (it was already in this state then). Having laid dormant with Al Fagan in a garage somewhere for a number of years it eventually came home to Peterborough.
Call us gluttons for punishment, but our aim is to bring it back to life with some TLC and new bits. With the help of our friend and all round bike expert, Bruce Dunn, we hope to turn it into a track day bike for some fun in the summer, with a total budget of around £3,000 (about the going rate for a 600 track bike). Who knows we may even give it away as a BeLotto prize draw when we're done with it.
So, be sure to regularly check our socials to keep yourself up-to-date with how it's going, and feel free to add any comments or advice - any additional support will be appreciated.
Split Personality... No Half 'Easure (ironic)
Either the original owner had a clever sense of humour, or the 'M' fell off (check out the dark side).
The bike is a bit of a mystery as far as its past goes, but one of the initial things that struck me when I first saw it was that it has been fitted with a set of ugly wrap-around engine crash bars, the sort of thing stunt riders usually fit to their bikes. However, other than the bars, there seems little evidence of any stunting going on; the usual telltale signs, such is a big rear sprocket and heavily re-profiled (i.e. massively dented) petrol tank to aid 'high-chair' wheelies just aren't there – which I suppose is one reason to be cheerful.
Anyway, the engine bars will be removed asap... hopefully they won't be holding the frame together, but who knows?
A list of problems
Aside from the crash bars, there is little evidence to support any previous diligent ownership. It's the sort of bike that is often described romantically by some as a 'Barn Find'. This expression has always amused me because the reality is that it has been forgotten about and abandoned. My preferred description, and probably more accurate, is that bikes like these are simply derelict.
I could write a mile-long list detailing what's wrong with it, and probably double it again, based on the idea that with every fault you can see, there is at least another you can't.
Here is the initial list of things that need sorting...
- No key for ignition and fuel cap
- No drive chain
- Old knackered tyres
- Battery fooked
- Fork stanchions pitted, seals leaking
- Weeping oil from oil filter housing
- Old fuel in tank
- Fuel system likely to need comprehensive overhaul
- Bodywork held together by cable ties and gutter bolts
- Evidence of mice infestation in tool tray, possibly airbox
- Rear wheel binding, not brakes, possibly knackered wheel bearings
- Rear suspension binding
- Throttle tube sticking non returning
- Rear sprocket badly worn
- Front brake callipers binding
- Front screen scratched
- Front mudguard missing
- Numerous rusty and scabby bolts and brackets
- Front engine mounts bolts need sourcing
The key, the secret...
So, first things first, problem number one is there's no key (thanks Al)! This is an obvious problem and one that's limiting my progress, because I need to find out if the engine runs. Simply firing it up for a few seconds on a sniff of Easy Start will immediately give me a heads up on the status of the engine.
In order to move forward with this, I removed the top yoke which retains the ignition barrel and took it to our local, brilliant independent locksmiths, Citylocks local to us in Peterborough. I had already asked them if it was possible to cut a key if I supplied the ignition barrel, and they said yes, and are happy to have a go.
Whilst Citylocks had the ignition barrel, I ran the bike's reg number through the online MOT checker just to give me any more clues as to its history. No surprises that the MOT ran out in July 2018, but what did cause me to raise an eyebrow was the fact that the mileage had been recorded at 443,221!! I checked the previous year’s MOT and it was 42,000 miles, so clearly the new ticket details had been typed in wrong.
As expected, the guys at Citylocks made a key and as a bonus it also fitted the seat lock and tank filler cap. The cost of cutting the key was a very reasonable £35. The filler cap needed copious amounts of lube to unseize the mechanism, and once it was opened the stench of stale petrol mixed with water was obnoxious. Once this ancient aroma mixed with the air, it smelt like an old horse stable. I shone a torch in the tank to see the heavily rust lined interior, with what appeared to be the early stages of stalagmite growth of some kind. Then the depressing site of an orange liquid that once was petrol filled half the tank, this means the whole fuel system will need a strip, clean and rebuild... brilliant..!
I took it as a given that the battery was history, the voltmeter confirmed this by displaying .06 of a volt. Another thing I noticed when gaining access to the battery was the mouse nest that was under the seat, this was in the recess where the original tool kit was once located. Needless to say, even the mice abandoned the poor old K3!
Will it, or won't it?
As I mentioned earlier, the idea is to fire up the engine for a few seconds to see if it runs OK with no obvious rattles or knocking. Doing this will give me an early indication that the engine is a runner and not scrap, this in turn will make the project viable and worthwhile.
Because of the rotten fuel in the fuel tank, it would be foolish to try and start it up without disabling the fuel pump, so I do this by lifting the petrol tank up and disconnecting the electrical connector.
The next step is to fit a new battery and check the oil level. The oil was fairly low, so I topped it up... then for the moment of truth: on with the ignition and I turned the engine over with the starter for a couple of seconds. The idea of this is to try and prime the engine with oil, remember it hasn't had oil pumped through the engine for at least 5 years.
After half a dozen 2-second bursts on the starter button, it's time to give it some start juice – a liberal dosing of Easy Start (aka Start Ya Bastard!) After giving both the air intakes on the front of the fairing a couple of 5-second bursts of this combustible brew, I then opened the throttle about a third of a turn and pressed the starter button. Barely had it turned over, the engine struck up instantly, then died almost as quickly as it had used up all the volatile ether-based gas. I fired it up again and ran it for a few seconds by skilfully spraying the Easy Start into the intakes at the same time as managing the throttle opening. A quick feel of the downpipes revealed each one was hot, which indicated that all four cylinders were running. But most importantly there were no rattles or knocks. The engine, so it seems at this stage, is a runner.
There had to be a downside, though... After the start up, a steady trickle of oil appeared under the bike, and after removing the crash bars and fairings I tracked this down to an oil filter that was barely hand tight. In fact, it was so loose the O-ring had popped out and this was the cause of the leak. Luckily, I had a new Suzuki filter in the workshop, so that was an easy fix.
Draining the fuel tank
I mentioned earlier about the fuel being manky so obviously it needs to be removed, in fact because of the state of the fuel, everything in the fuel supply and injection system will need to be cleaned.
The first task is to get to the petrol tank and remove the orange petrol, then remove the fuel pump, airbox and fuel injectors. The fuel is so manky it actually makes me want to dispose of my syphon afterwards, I have never seen petrol this colour and smelling so foul, it's proper rotten! Anyway with 12 litres of the stuff drained out, the next job was to flip the tank over and remove the fuel pump. This is easily done by removing the Allen bolts and gently lifting the pump out and carefully twisting it to prevent damage to the fuel level float mechanism.
Next up was the airbox, to be honest I wasn't looking forward to taking the lid off because there was strong evidence of mouse infestation, and guess where the next best place for the buggers to nest is... the airbox. So, with a bit of trepidation, I undo the crosshead screw that secures the top of the airbox, and discover that, unbelievably, the inside of the airbox is mint, like really mint. There is no evidence of moisture, mice, debris, no ingress whatsoever. This is a good sign, and fingers crossed we can hope that the engine has been equally well preserved.
That's it for now. The next episode will probably be a few more tales of woe as I uncover something that's not been discovered yet. Feel free to contact me for any advice or tips that you might think will aid this project, including any used parts you might want to shift.
GSX-R600 K3 spend so far... £93.94
- 1 x Knackered K3 £1,000 (off some bloke years ago)
- 1 x Oil filter £9.95 Wheels Motorcycles
- 1 x Key cut by £35.00 Citylocks Peterborough
- 1 x Battery £48.99 Halfords
Tally: £1,093.94 (including the bike)
Target: £3,000 (including the bike)
Look out for Episode 2 where we look at the fueling system.
Also, why not check out our various track and race bike insurance products to see how BeMoto can help insure you, your bike(s) and your race van.
Who is Bruce Dunn?
Bruce has, like most of us, been riding bikes most of his life. It was the typical scenario: messing around on C90 field bikes from the age of 10, then progressing to a CZ175 which was collectively owned by half-a-dozen 12-year-olds in a remote fenland village, where they would happily thrash it as fast as it would go on farm droves all sharing one helmet, and wearing little more than shorts and a T shirt. God bless the 70s'! There was no official bike at 16, other than clandestine outings on a Honda 250 Superdream that was 'accessible' (enough said!)
Then the lunacy started; in very quick succession there was a stream of road bikes and a stupidly steep learning curve, from a Yamaha RS100, Suzuki X7, 550 Kawasaki to Suzuki GSX750ET before his 18th Birthday. After a few dead-end jobs, employment was working as a tech in local bike shops, this rolled on for ten years. During that time BD had decided that terrorising locals and other motorists was not a game he could win (2 x driving bans for totting up eventually hit home...) so he went racing where he legitimately engaged in sanctioned 'dangerous riding competitions'. He got quite good at this and has bagged some prestigious awards, ACU National 250GP Star Champion 2002, runner up in the same series, top ten NW200 finishes, and more recently 2022 BEMSEE Bluehaze champ.
The last 25 years has also been spent road testing bikes for all the major magazines and MCN. His duties include producing the weekly tech piece in MCN, and performance testing and datalogging new bikes, at the last count his laptop has over 9500 files of data.