ANY FAN OF the evergreen Suzuki GSX-R has their favorite model. Some are drawn to the nostalgic appeal of the older ‘slabside’ and ‘slingshot’ GSX-Rs, while others prefer the refinement and performance of the newer Gixxers. Marc Bell plays on both sides of the fence.
His latest project proves it. It’s based on a 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9, but it’s been treated to a retro-fabulous makeover, with new bodywork and a retina-searing livery. He calls it the ‘Slabshot.’
Day to day, Marc works as a fabricator under the moniker HAXCH, specializing in high-end metal work for designers, architects and artists. But part of his workshop is set aside to build custom bikes and prep his race machines. It helps that he has a lathe, milling machine and welding setup on hand at all times.
The idea for the Slabshot was conceived after last year’s Bike Shed custom motorcycle show. Marc had brought his recently-completed custom 1980s slabby to the show, and the attention it garnered got him thinking.
“The idea came to me to combine the aesthetics of the beautiful old school bikes with the advanced performance of modern machinery,” he tells us. “Riding modern sports bikes is an amazing experience on track—they’re so planted, turn beautifully and have insane power. But they’re horribly ugly!”
Marc crunched the numbers, and figured that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 would give him the performance he wanted and still stay within budget. He snatched up a suitable donor, and took it and his slabside build to the Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk, England, to compare them.
“The difference was incredible,” he reports. “There’s 20 years of development between the two, and you can feel it instantly. I’m used to riding classic bikes on track and road, so it was a massive surprise to me how easy it was to ride and corner with—it’s so planted, and the power’s just amazing throughout the rev range.”
With that, Marc was sold on the concept—but he wasn’t quite sure how it would translate in the real world. So he stripped the GSX-R1000 down, and crudely attached some Yoshimura-style fairings that he had to it (with cable ties, no less).
Next, he hacked open an old slingshot fuel tank to fit it over the bike’s airbox, and started mocking up a tail section in cardboard. Things were coming together—but Marc could see potential to take the concept further.
“I wanted to progress things along from the slabside style,” he tells us, “so I started looking at the early slingshot endurance bikes. They seemed like a more natural fit, slightly more aerodynamic and a natural evolution from last year’s build. With this transition came the name of the build—a homage to both iconic bikes.”
With a final direction set, Marc ordered a Suzuki Endurance Racing Team-style front fairing, and a Yoshimura-style tail section, from a shop that specializes in classic racing bodywork. Getting the fairing to sit right meant fabricating not only a new fairing mount, but also a new aluminum dash plate to relocate the stock speedo. Then came the arduous task of massaging the tail section and tank to harmonize.
Marc took the slingshot tank that he’d been using for the mockup, then modified it at the back to change its angle. Next, he cut the front open, filled the void in with polyurethane foam, and shaped it into the profile he was after. Lots of hours of fiberglass work later, and the final tank and tail now flow seamlessly into each other—as if it rolled out of the factory like this back in the 90s.
Once the bodywork was sorted, Marc stripped the bike down again, and sent the frame and swingarm off for soda blasting. With the OEM black paint stripped, the parts were sanded and brushed repeatedly, until they had the same bare aluminum look found on 90s sport bikes. “This was a key detail in the build to get that 90s aesthetic,” says Marc.
Another nod to older race bikes is the new CNC-machined top yoke. Marc kept it blocky and basic, with cut outs underneath to save weight. The ignition mount is gone now too; the bike’s been rewired with a keyless system.
Upgrades include new clip-ons, a quick action throttle, race-style switches, braided lines, Brembo M4 calipers and a Nitron rear shock. Marc also milled out new rear-sets for the bike, emulating retro Yoshimura race bike designs. The overall vibe is pared-back and functional… until you get to the paint job, of course.
A glorious tribute to the neon-drenched excess of the 90s, the Slabshot’s livery was a result of hours spent in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, layering potential designs over a photo of the bike wearing its blank fairings.
“There were lots of 90s font packages tested, and lots of inspiration drawn from my favorite 90s bikes,” Marc tells us. “I think a lot of it filtered in subconsciously; the drop shadow logo font is slightly like an early Fireblade, the pink tank line and logo a bit YZF750, and the zig zag pink and purple comes directly from my current road bike, a little 1992 GSX-R400.”
As a final detail, Marc slipped an LED headlight into the fairing’s front air vent, and replaced the air box with a custom system that mimics the ‘Hoover tubes’ you’ll find on many 90s sportbikes.
So what’s next for HAXCH and the Slabshot? Marc’s planning a track day with it, after which he’s taking it to this year’s Bike Shed show in May—where it has the honor of being one of the bikes on the show’s official poster.
After that, it’ll be for sale. Interested parties, please form an orderly queue.