Whoever said “Chrome won’t get you home” never met Eternity- Customcool -S40 Suzuki Boulevard
The Poms pretty-much created the café racer genre, modifying the single-cylinder Nortons, Triumphs and Beezas of the time. So in the purest homage, a latter-day café racer really needs to be a single too.
Trouble is, nowadays there aren’t many singles which don’t have dirty roots: about the only streetable singles bigger than modest mini-motos are the over-exposed Yamaha SR400 and 500. Good as they are, they’re as common as political promises, if a lot more reliable.
Finding a donor-bike that isn’t ho-hum-common is a good first step to building a unique creation; the very sanitary treatment of this bike makes it hard to believe it left a factory in Japan as an ugly duckling mini-cruiser, the S40 Boulevard from Suzuki. The 40 is refers to 40 cubic inches, like the rest of Suzuki’s Boulevard range (50, 90 and 109) using a scale of measurement really only still seen in America.
Bland to the point of invisibility, it’s hard to believe that the Boulevard’s been around since 1986, first as the Savage until 2004 and reintroduced as the Boulevard a little over a year ago.
In stock form, its lowly stressed OHC motor makes a lazy 23kW at 5400rpm, perhaps why Suzuki doesn’t admit its engine capacity is 650, with no apparent links to Suzuki’s other venerable air-cooled 650 single, the dual-sport DR. Showing its age is a drum rear brake, although it does offer a trick-looking belt final drive.
The model is a veritable undiscovered blank canvas for customisers; given its cruiser roots, it’s not surprising that many modded S40s end up as mild to wild bobbers. Bucking that trend with a sweet cafe racer is New South Welshman Tony Dunn, who wanted a lithe single with easy manners, an oil-tight and reliable bike that was distinctive but not too wild. The Nortons, and Beezas of the Golden era made do without milled-from-billet bling, space-age carbon or MotoGP power levels, and so does his reborn Boulevard, now known as Eternity.
The name was inspired by a bit of nostalgia and perhaps a search for eternal youth. Eternity’s also a great name for a bike that’s survived almost unchanged for nearly a quarter of a century: the S40 Boulevard differs little from the LS40 Savage, but the air-cooled single with its polished fins and cases could fool you into thinking the engine’s been taken apart, extensively worked and lovingly rebuilt.
Not so. In fact, Eternity was constructed mostly using on bolt-ons, with many parts coming from California; this is not to belittle the work done, as inevitably some custom parts didn’t fit well with others and there was some drilling, welding and small-part fabrication required.
Some of the bolt-on parts were significant, too. For example, new 18-inch laced wheels meant the swingarm had to be longer than stock to accommodate them.
The bike was built at Gasoline Custom Motorcycles in Sydney. Owner Tony had a clear image of what he wanted, and in discussion the Boulevard was suggested as a basis upon which to work. It would certainly be different, and amazingly, a small Californian company offered a range of suitable components that would fit one of history’s most overlooked motorcycles.
One of the underlying traits of a café racer is weight-saving: lots of parts are trimmed, deleted or replaced with smaller, lighter components. Once the final spanner had been twirled, Tony had a very large box of almost-new Suzuki parts (can you hear the Gumtree calling?) and a motorcycle that was an incredible 36kg lighter than the chunky 173kg of the showroom model.
Without doing a thing to the engine, the bike was already quicker and more fun to ride. With some subtle – and some not so-subtle – changes to bar, ’pegs and seat, it feels like a café racer. It certainly looks the part.
Completing the picture and helping out in the cosmetic department is a triple-layer pearlescent paint job. While some professional customisers or even gifted shed-based amateurs will try to do everything in house, it’s a wise man who knows the limits of his own skill set – especially when it comes to paint. If ever there was the opportunity to completely screw up months of care and detailed fabrication, it’s triple layer pearl.
Yet Eternity is far from either of those – it’s a bike that gets ridden with passion, chasing the echoes of youth and the shadows of those old café racers which have gone before.
The difference is that in Eternity, the cafe racer genre has become reliable. In this case, chrome really does get you home.
WORDS STEVE KEALY PHOTOGRAPHY ZALMPY