It is almost impossible to describe the impact the original Suzuki Katana had on the motorcycling industry and the culture at large. The combination of a European design team and the finest Japanese engineers produced a bike with world-beating performance and styling that had simply never been seen before. Many predicted it would be a failure and oh how wrong they were, so it should come as no surprise that the long-time owner of one of Taiwan’s most successful motorcycle dealerships should desire a very special Suzuki for his collection. With a large involvement in racing, his bike would need to be more than a simple show pony, so he turned to the best in the business and let AC-Sanctuary build him RCM-588, a killer Katana to slice through the competition.
There is, understandably, a rather large wait time for an AC build these days, but Mr Wang had an ace up his sleeve; for the last decade he has been the sole licensed dealer for AC-Sanctuary in Taiwan. This meant the Japanese master Hiroyuki Nakamura was more than happy to help his friend and also explained some unique differences about the experience. “What I felt was more free and unrestricted than the Japanese. The Japanese force third parties to say, ‘This is how it should be.’ There is a tendency to do so, but overseas users do not. RCM users in Taiwan, Europe and America are tolerant of others, feeling free and even imaginative.”
So, even with his decades of experience and more than 600 complete custom builds to his resume, this was a unique chance for Nakamura-san to let his imagination run wild and be unshackled from any customer input, with Mr Wang more than confident he was in good hands. To start the build the bike was sent from Mr Wang’s CHMoto dealership in Taipei across the sea into eagerly awaiting hands. The AC crew immediately had the Suzuki stripped down and the chassis into their famed jig, so they could commence the creation of a bike that would be a championship racer for the street, both in looks and performance.
New steel is welded into known weak spots in the frame, gussets are added so it can handle the increased suspension feedback and then the whole chassis is aligned so that it is arrow straight. The next step is to reconfigure the engine mounts so that the offset ensures a perfect line from sprocket to sprocket to handle the new wide wheel package. Helping to achieve that, lowering the weight and delivering outstanding feedback to the rider is the stunning Sculpture alloy swingarm. Controlling this party piece is a set of Ohlins fully adjustable Blackline shocks, and the wheel is a lightweight Oz Racing item, with a 43-tooth Sunstar sprocket onboard.
At the front end, more of the company’s own goodies are used to transform the bike’s already impressive handling, with an inverted steering stem kit for adjustability. A completely custom set of triple clamps follow and dropped through these are the Ohlins E×M package inverted forks. Another Oz Racing rim joins the party and the Pirelli rubber measures 120 in the front and a chunky 180 in the rear. The brake package is a combination of all the best parts available on the market with RCM concept 320mm front discs grabbed by Brembo billet GP4RX calipers. The rear end sports a similar package, with more braided lines and a beautiful billet caliper hanger.
The looks were one area that Nakamura-san truly enjoyed developing, creating a Suzuki works racing style to pay homage to the glory days. “It’s novel because you don’t see many examples of Katanas painted like this in Japan,” he smiles. But before his friends at YF Design could lay down the stunning paint and graphics package, the bodywork was largely built from scratch, to create glass parts of superior quality to the originals.
A new headlight and lightly smoked screen were sourced, while the front fender is a modern Nitro Racing piece. A pair of small modern wings have been added, a NOS taillight used and then that picture-perfect seat is bolted down.
The engine has always been the major party piece of the Katana lineup, but immediately there was a hurdle. “In recent years, Suzuki’s Katana parts inventory has decreased dramatically, and engine internal consumable parts are no exception. I got the parts that were not available in Japan from USA Suzuki,” Nakamura-san explains. Now with the pieces needed the team tore in, boring and honing the cylinders, skimming the head and cutting new valve seats. The crank has been balanced and forged Wossner pistons built to AC specs help to punch the capacity out to 1135cc. The gearbox is reworked, a new clutch pack and master fitted and a host of new paint and billet covers give it an unbelievably good finish.
On the outside, electronic and programmable ignition has been used and a Suzuki from this period has to have some Pops parts, with the carbs a bank of Mikuni Yoshimura TMR MJN 40mm DSFs. A Nitro Racing 9-inch oil cooler helps to keep the temperatures managed and the hot gas exits via the stunning full titanium exhaust system which is finished out with a Grenade titanium ⅤⅢ muffler in a half-polished finish.
Having measured Mr Wang up for size, a set of Daytona clip-ons and those raw alloy rearsets ensure that he’s absolutely locked into his Japanese missile. With a final check performed the bike was on the boat to Taiwan, and Nakamura-san has delivered to his old friend the Katana of his dreams and simply one of the best of its kind ever built.
[ AC Sanctuary ]