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Naming Rites

(Travels with Guido series #263, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, November 2020)

Suzuki GSX-R750F

Naming a motorcycle is much riskier than it seems

It was former colleague Rod Chapman who hit the nail on the head. He was enquiring after my Suzuki GSX-R750F and, knowing they all get a name eventually, wondered what I’d called this one. “Bob,” was the response.

“Gee, you put a lot of effort into that,” was the understandably sarcastic response. I cringed a little, as I wasn’t happy with any suggestion up to that point and had been struggling with the problem. We’re talking about a motorcycle that literally changed the sportsbike game, particularly for the four big Japanese manufacturers. So it was deserving of a proper moniker.

Naming a bike isn’t always easy. It’s something that is sometimes opened upto the brains trust at home, however this time they expressed a disappointing lack of inspiration. For some reason, they seemed to be suffering naming fatigue.


Naming individual motorcycles is anything but new. It dates back at least several decades and is fraught with danger or misunderstanding. However the risks are nothing when compared to the poor sods who have to come up with whole brand names. How many sleepless nights have they suffered over time?

There have been some absolute clangers. Here are my top five:

Juncker – France, 1930s: This is a great argument for saying the name out loud in a few different accents and wondering what it might mean in another language. I’m sure the Juncker family was suitably proud of its creation, but it would have had a whole other meaning across the Channel or the Atlantic;

New Motorcycle – France, 1920s: The French seem to have had more than their fair share of lulus. Can you imagine the conversation when proudly showing off your latest toy to a friend? “How do you like my New Motorcycle?”
“Nice, what brand is it?”
“New Motorcycle.”
“I know, what but what brand is it?” Pure Abbott and Costello (look up “who’s on first” on YouTube);

RIP – England, 1905-09: Really? Could there be any possible confusion on why this is all wrong? Even today, there is an outfit in the UK listed as RIP Custom Motorcycles, which is right up there with Highside Motorcycles, in Australia;

Silver Pigeon – Japan, 1946-63: Cultural context is clearly everything. Mitsubishi’s now defunct scooter brand did alright for quite a while but could you imagine rocking up to a mate’s place and proudly declaring, “Come outside and see my Silver Pigeon!” You’d be lucky if it was just the door that slammed in your face;

Sissy – Austria, 1957: Did anyone get off the schnapps long enough to think through the consequences of this one?

So, back to the GSX-R. I was hoping for some inspiration that allowed a name that started with G or S, as in S the Suzuki or G the GSX-R, but have come up dry. That’s if you ignore a bunch of corny possibilities that are just downright annoying. Sometimes mythology helps, and I’ve already tapped that well a few times.

Etsuo Suzuki GSX-R750

One possibility had been haunting me since day one. It’s the name of the head engineer who is held responsible for the GSX-R project getting up and running: Etsuo Yokouchi (above). His life has been interwoven with much of the brand’s model development and racing history, through the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Despite the scale of the achievement of his engineering team, he clearly saw that the first-gen Gixxers were far from being the ultimate development of the performance motorcycle. In a 1986 interview with a technology journal, around a year after the launch of the first GSX-R, he said: "I think we can reach 200 horsepower per liter in a production engine — we're already approaching 150 today." The author of the story went on to suggest that no consumer would ever want a 200-horse motorcycle!

It’s unlikely I’ll come up with a better person to name the bike after, so Etsuo it is – might take a while to catch on…


See more Travels with Guido stories here


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