RIDING ON AIR
SUZUKI GT380 RAM AIR - IT'S BIKE OF THE WEEK
The air-cooled two stroke triple Suzuki GT380 was a 1970s delight. Not only was it a delight to look upon but also was a mechanical design classic.
Although it was not a slow bike, it was not particularly fast either, partly due to its weight to CC ratio, so touring was really its USP rather than speeding sportily around. The GT380 was great to ride with an easy to use, efficient clutch and a sixth gear perfect for long straight roads out of town, and it handled beautifully too. All in all a stable ride with great steering but it just didn’t have the glamour and racy look of some of its contemporaries which really led to its early demise.
Keeping A Cool Head
The GT380 had some unusual innovative features. It used the Suzuki ‘ram air’ cylinder head cooling system - a break away from the dragon-breath of the water-cooled GT750s - nicknamed ‘kettles’ for obvious reasons. Basically cool air was forced through the cylinders and behind the block when the motorcycle was moving, which stopped high cylinder-head temperatures and prevented the engine from losing power due to overheating. This kept the bike cool without the spluttering exhausts of its water cooled cousins.
Another Suzuki GT innovation was the patented CCI automatic fuel-mixing system which helped to lower exhaust smoke emissions. The GT380 was also the first motorcycle to use vacuum operated fuel tap which later became a feature on all Suzuki bikes.
The GT380 sported an unusual and handsome exhaust system. The middle pot had a split exhaust with a bifurcated header which exited on each side of the bike. This gave the bike a great multiple exhaust look, but didn’t help the weight much.
Gone But Not Forgotten
However by the second half of the 1970s the GT380, despite being a good looking, practical, comfortable bike, was seen as a bit of a has-been. It wasn’t helped by its rather high fuel consumption - not the best selling point during the fuel crisis of the 1970s.
So by 1978 the bike was discontinued and superseded by sportier looking rivals like the Honda CB400F and the Kawasaki KH400 which became the bikes to be seen on.
Suzuki GT380 Specs
Power: 38hp @ 7,500rpm (claimed)
Torque: 28ft-lb @6500 rpm
Top speed:102 mph
Engine type: 371cc, air-cooled two-stroke inline triple
Transmission: Six-speed wet clutch chain final drive
Weight : 171kg
Brakes: 275mm disc floating caliper 180mm drum
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