Return of the Cafe Racers - Suzuki GSX400 Dented Brat

Suzuki GSX400 Dented Brat

It's not often motorcycles remind me of people, but this Suzuki GSX400 with its "dark, rather cruel good looks", instantly looked familiar. It was an undeniable similarity to the James Bond character played by Daniel Craig in recent years. It wasn't the fact that Craig's pout resembled its fork gators or that his swim…




It’s not often motorcycles remind me of people, but this Suzuki GSX400 with its “dark, rather cruel good looks”, instantly looked familiar. It was an undeniable similarity to the James Bond character played by Daniel Craig in recent years. It wasn’t the fact that Craig’s pout resembled its fork gators or that his swim trunks were fashioned from the same material as its seat though, it was because this bike seems to have the same ability to look great despite having gone through hell. It’s almost as though it was beaten to a pulp then slipped into a beautifully tailored suit that manages to make all the dents, rust and dings insignificant, just like the Bond character does in the film. The Suzuki is the work of Nuno Capêlo from Portugal and he calls it “The Dented Brat”.

The Dented Brat is Nuno’s first attempt at custom bike building. The architectural student found the bike online in a cheap but worse for wear state and after staring at photos of it for a month decided to go see it in the flesh. Upon arrival he discovered a much cleaner version of the bike that he’d seen online thanks to a considerate seller and when it started first try the deal was quickly done. Nuno’s original plan was to create a Cafe Racer but his direction was soon altered as his personal taste started to influence his sketches. He developed sketches of the bike which he shared on the Cafe Racer 351 forum and received positive feedback which gave him the confidence to go ahead with his ideas.

By stripping away all the plastic and non-essential running gear Nuno had the bike ready for its transformation. The airbox was replaced with pod filters, mufflers swapped for short and loud baffle free megaphones and it’s carbs tuned to suit the improved air flow. Lighting was scaled down for a narrower streamlined look and the rear end was trimmed down and a new loop added to shorten the bikes stance.

As for the fuel tank. Since the start of the project what I had in mind was to give it a raw look. For this I decided to strip it. Then I realized that the fuel tank featured several dents. These dents made me question the original idea. Should I go for the raw aspect or should I paint it? Several people advised me to paint and remove the dents. However, my instinct forced me to stick to my initial idea so the only paint I added was a black belt at the bottom to merge it with the black of the frame.” 

Nuno refers to the bikes brass gas cap as “the crown jewel” of the bike. It’s a very nice touch to a tank that would otherwise appear unfinished. The seat wentthrough several design phases with a Cafe Racer and Tracker style considered but a Bobber seat came out as the chosen option. Nuno even considered the stitching direction so that it would flow with the lines of the bikes frame and the curve in the back is also matched perfectly to the rear loop.

Painting or not painting elements of the bike came down to each parts patina. Large items like the frame and wheels were treated to a fresh coat of black while the rear hub and shocks were left “as is”. The custom side covers were the final touch and were an element from Nuno’s original Cafe Racer design for the Suzuki that managed to survive the multiple iterations of his evolving build.

“The bike is fantastic in terms of driving. Is fairly light and easy to drive. This is not a bike with a lot of speed. That was not the objective. I proposed to build myself a bike to ride and have fun. And that’s exactly what I have.”

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