Jack Cooper-White had just purchased a house with his wife, making it evidently clear where the majority (if not all) of his money was destined to go in the foreseeable future—that is, if he wanted the next four years of his four-year marriage to continue being the best years of his life.
So, when Jack heard that a local farmer was giving away a 1979 Suzuki A100N, it was too good of a deal to pass up. He would be able to get a new bike without immediately diverting any funds from his new home, and, since he planned on just restoring the A100N, the project would be a budget motorcycle build. This was Jack’s chance to get a little something for himself during a time when such prospects are essentially nonexistent.
But based on the bike’s condition—and Jack’s severely limited budget—even a cheap restoration was out of the question. “That would have cost me too much and take too much time,” says Jack. “An ugly ratbike was a much more achievable goal.”
One can only imagine what the bike must have looked like if the best he could do was not just a rat, but an ugly rat.
To give you an idea, the farmer giving away the bike had found it lying in a state of dereliction at another farm—where it had been for five years. The brakes were locked on, the chain and control cables were rusted, and the seat had already rusted away.
But the bike was free. So why not take it off the farmer’s hands? And Jack did. Soon, the bike was literally in Jack’s own hands—in pieces—at his 20′ shipping container workshop.
In this cozy space, he followed a strict regimen for a year: remove, clean, inspect, repair and replace, reassemble, carefully test—then repeat!
Amazingly, all of this only cost Jack $700. And the most expensive purchase was an oil-mixing pump with oil lines for a whopping $100. “The original pump had seized, and the bike had been run off premix fuel with two-stroke oil in it,” Jack says. So, if he didn’t want to deal with “excessive exhaust smoke” and the “spark plug fouling,” then it was prudent for Jack to get a new pump.
Once the bike was ridable—ridable means it moved when the throttle was open but had little to no features accommodating basic comfort—Jack went for a test ride. “I gave sitting on a rag over the pressed tin frame only one go before I set to work fabricating my own seat,” remarks Jack.
If he wasn’t going to purchase a period-correct saddle, then he definitely wasn’t going to get an expensive base to fab. So Jack went scrounging around and found some 20mm-thick pine boards lying around the house. Pine would work just fine.
Jack first took a jigsaw to the wood and sawed off one center and two side pieces. Next, he put a 45-degree angle cut on the sides’ edges so they’d form a U-shape when fastened to the center piece, which he did using metal brackets from a DIY store.
But he didn’t like how it looked, so he scrapped it and tried again. The second iteration was much better. Jack then borrowed a staple gun from his wife’s grandfather and stapled $5 high-density offcut foam and $15 black vinyl to it. Luckily, the stock bracket mounted the vinyl-wrapped pine onto the bike just fine. “It’s rough, but cheap and functional,” Jack says of his seat.
When searching for other material, Jack found some in the unlikeliest of places: his home, the very thing whose main contributions up until that point had consisted of roadblocks and other hinderances. To be precise, Jack used material from his garden shed. To be even more precise, it was a pile of corrugated aluminum panels from this shed. He and his wife had removed them so they could more readily move the shed’s front wall to make more room in their yard. The panels, Jack thought, would make a perfect rear fender.
Using an angle grinder, Jack cut out a trapezoid from the aluminum and then beat the trapezoidal shape into a “U” that would taper down to a thin line at the taillight. “After that, I hit it up with some $4 gloss paint and called it a day,” he says. “The metalwork is really rough and there are dimples all over it, but I feel like it is in line with the ratbike look!”
Jack also envisioned a spare piece of guttering in the backyard as a chain guard. “It already had a groove that fit over the chain perfectly,” he explains. “I attacked it with a pair of tin snips and the hammer, and before I knew it, I had a cool-looking homemade chain guard.” The guard bolted onto the swingarm without any brackets, too.
Similarly, Jack had to get creative when making a wiring harness since the previous owner had chopped the original in half. Jack’s handiwork consists of a “heap” of electrical tape wrapped around a bunch of wire he purchased from an auto store. “The press tin frame of the A100 is hollow all the way along the frame which made my life a lot easier,” Jack continues. “I was able to feed the wires through pretty easily.”
And while the paint was done exclusively using $4 matte and semi-gloss spray paint cans, the tank’s bright red paint was altered by nature—saving Jack even more money.
“The paint faded to an interesting apricot color thanks to years of sun damage,” Jack explains. “So it really stands out from the rest of the bike.”
All of this $700 work may sound highly resourceful—especially the use of a $4 pod air filter that, according to Jack, was “easily the cheapest part that offers the best price-to-style ratio”—but it came at a price, one that, ironically, didn’t involve actually buying anything. The Suzuki, in Jack’s words, rides terribly. Other descriptors he used were “wobbly pogo stick” and “gutless” in reference to the engine. It’s for reasons like these why Jack leaves long journeys to what he calls his real bike, a 2007 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom.
At least the interminable housework is going well. “My wife and I enjoy working in the garden together when we can,” he reveals. “But there’s always a list of things to do on the weekends.” While understandable, we have a feeling that those projects don’t take place in—or have anything to do with—Jack’s 20′ shipping container workshop. RC