Suzuki's unforgettable motorcycle
Suzuki X6 Hustler
Years made: 1965-1968
Claimed power: 29hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 100mph (period test)
Engine type: 247cc, 2-stroke, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 134.7kg (297lbs)
Price then: $650 (approx.)
Price now: $1,500-$3,500
MPG: 45-50mpg (est.)
When Suzuki first hit the U.S. market in 1963, it was just another link in a growing chain of new — and often forgettable — companies from the Land of the Rising Sun. Three years later we got the Suzuki X6 Hustler, and Suzuki got remembered. Today, it's one of the most popular classic Japanese motorcycles.
Suzuki chose three models to headline its 1963 U.S. lineup; the S31, powered by a 124cc 2-stroke twin, and the S250 Colleda (a transcription of “Kore-da” or “that one”) and TC250 El Camino, both powered by a 248cc 2-stroke twin. Like Honda and other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, Suzuki hoped to cash in on U.S. riders seeking a smaller, simpler machine than the booming twins coming from Milwaukee or Great Britain at the time.
1964 saw those models phased out in favor of a new trio consisting of a 50cc single, an 80cc single and a new 246cc twin, the T10. More new models were announced in 1965, including the highly anticipated Suzuki X6 Hustler, although it would be 1966 before the new model finally hit U.S. showrooms.
New frame, new engine
The Suzuki X6 Hustler made quite a splash when it hit dealers’ floors. With the T10 from 1964 leading the way, the X-6 set new standards for style in the rapidly expanding field of mid-size bikes from Japan. A 247cc, 2-cylinder engine was bolted to a tubular, duplex frame, a first for Suzuki. All previous Suzuki models had used a pressed-steel frame, making the steel tube frame of the X-6 a step in the right direction.
Suzuki tapped Masanao Shimizu to create the X6 Hustler engine. Masanao, previously in charge of Suzuki’s racing program, had already earned an enviable set of records under the Suzuki banner and quickly turned his talents to the design of the X6 engine.
The parallel twin Masanao designed was a 2-stroke, as were all Suzuki engines until 1977. A major advancement was the engine’s Posi-Force automatic lubrication system, which freed owners from having to keep a can of 2-stroke oil in their tool bag. As long as the separate oil tank was full, the Posi-Force system did the rest, increasing reliability and ease of use immensely.
Made of aluminum alloy for lightness and strength, the X6 Hustler's 247cc parallel twin was rated at 29 horsepower at 7,500rpm, which was, for the day, a fairly significant figure. Only three years prior to the release of the street legal X-6, the Suzuki factory race bikes were only achieving 28 horsepower at 11,000rpm.
Six speeds and more
Suzuki set another standard when it chose to add a 6-speed gearbox to the compact Hustler. Known as the “Suzuki Super Six” in some markets, it was the first ever production motorcycle to feature six ratios, just one of the many endearing qualities of the new model. Mating this stone-solid engine to a 6-speed gearbox meant it was easy to stay right in the powerband. The bike was easy to start and almost as easy to maintain and ride. And at just over 300 pounds wet, the Suzuki X6 Hustler was quite light and manageable.
Additional features that helped to set the X6 Hustler apart from the crowd were the front brakes, of racing design with double-leading shoes in an 8-inch dimension. A wide saddle had enough room for two grown adults and was well padded for their riding comfort. The rear shocks offered three positions so you could cater the stiffness to your size and riding style. The circular instrument mounted in the top of the headlight nacelle features a split display with both a tachometer (featuring an 8,000rpm redline) and speedometer. An onboard air pump came in handy when you found the pressure in the tires a bit low, and it saved you a trip to the corner filling station.
The X6 Hustler could turn the quarter mile in 14 seconds at a speed of 90mph, with a top speed of 100mph. The fuel tank held 3.7 gallons of fuel, enough to provide hours of fun for the rider and a passenger. With fuel at about 35 cents a gallon, who wouldn’t have fun? Buying a new Hustler wasn’t much harder, with new bikes available for around $650.
Designed to shine
Styling on the Suzuki X6 Hustler was right on target and remains a crowd favorite. The curves of the fuel tank were accented with chrome side panels and rubber knee pads. The front fender was silver in color and included a painted accent stripe that ran down the center, matching the body color of the tank. Some traditions remained despite the dramatic new features of the X-6. A telescopic front fork also used oil damping to improve the ride, and the exposed coil springs were an obvious feature. The flat-bottomed headlight housing has become a classic today, although it’s very difficult to replace if lost or damaged. Anyone who takes on a restoration will quickly learn of the scarcity of parts for these early Suzukis.
The combination of innovative design, sturdy assembly and ease of operation all added up to make the Hustler a popular choice for those who raced their 2-wheeled craft. It didn’t matter if you chose paved or dirt tracks, the X6 quickly became a dominant factor in every segment of the field.
The 1966 X6 Hustler was little changed from its debut offering and continued to be the biggest machine in the Suzuki ranks. American buyers were getting used to seeing the perky Japanese machines around their towns, and they continued to gain in popularity. The Suzuki sales catalog for 1967 grew to include 16 models, and while there were many smaller displacement models shown, the Hustler remained at the top of the heap. Yet as popular as it was, 1968 would be the final year for the T20 X-6.
1968 saw Suzuki pare down the lineup, but add several new models with larger displacements. Two machines carried a 305cc mill, while yet another, the new T500, was listed with a whopping 500cc powerplant in its frame. As buyers looked for more and more power, the days of the small displacement machines were waning fast. While the Hustler name lived on until 1973 (from 1969 on it was attached to Suzuki’s uprated T250), after 1968 the X6 designation disappeared forever.
The $25 Hustler
To look at Tom Sanecki, you have to wonder where his passion for the Suzuki X6 Hustler stems from. He appears to be much too young to have been around when the machine made its premier offering, so what’s the catch?
In 1974, the story goes, Tom had a buddy who was moving away but owed him the princely sum of $25. To satisfy this debt, the friend offered Tom his 1967 Suzuki X6 Hustler. A deal was made and Tom brought his new ride home. Although non-running, Tom soon had it going and it became his main transportation during his last two years of high school. After high school, he disassembled the bike to correct a problem with the shifting — and there it sat.
At some point, a girl Tom was dating suggested he get rid of the bike because, she said, “it will never run again.” Although Tom reassured her it would, she scoffed at the notion: The gauntlet had been thrown. Within two hours, Tom had the bike reassembled and running. The bike, we should note, is still around, but the girl is long gone. “I threw it together because she dissed me, and it’s still running to this day,” Tom adds.
Tom found the bike shown here on eBay. “It was just a parts bike, and it was rough,” Tom says. “It hadn’t run since 1977, the oil pump was seized, the clutch was locked up, it was junk.” That Tom works as a Lexus technician tells us he has higher than average mechanical ability, and that a build like this wouldn’t likely scare him.
Before beginning the actual restoration, he gathered most of the parts he needed and prepared them. Pulling together his shopping list of parts meant hours spent searching in faraway places like Singapore, Thailand and England. Adding more frustration to the process, many components for early Suzuki models have become scarce on a good day and almost impossible to find on the rest.
“When I was younger, I’d just go down to the Suzuki dealer and get what I needed. Now, it’s all unobtanium,” Tom says, adding he found the correct hand pump for the bike in Japan after exhausting U.S. sources. “NOS [new-old-stock] seats or seat covers are unavailable, and NOS grips are virtually unobtainable now,” Tom adds.
Thanks to his mechanical chops, the only things that Tom didn’t do himself were the paint, powder coating and chroming of parts. From rebuilding the crankshaft (Tom has his own press and the jig to line up the crankshaft) to lacing the wheels, Tom attended to every facet of the restoration to achieve the standard he sought. The end result is stunning, and worthy of any collection.
And Tom’s hardly done. Including the Suzuki X6 Hustler that kicked off his fascination with the model back in 1974, he’s got four more, including a 1966 with VIN No. 10702, making it the 702nd X-6 ever made. “That’s in the basement waiting to get done,” Tom says. “It has a chunk out of the case, but I’m gonna save it because it’s the lowest numbered one I’ve ever seen.” MC
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