The Suzuki DR 800 S Big is the sort of bike no one would design today. It was the thumper to rule all thumpers, with a whopping 779 cc single-cylinder motor, long-travel suspension, a big front wheel and rally styling. That meant it was a little ridiculous, but sort of cool at the same time.
Depending on your perspective, the DR Big’s late 80s to early 90s styling is either retro-fabulous, or hasn’t dated well. And while it has something of a cult following, it’s not considered as untouchable as, say, a mint condition BMW R80G/S Paris Dakar.
So when this 1991 model Suzuki DR Big was dropped off at Unik Edition’s workshop in Moscavide, near Lisbon, shop founders Tiago Gonçalves and Luis Gonçalves (not related) weren’t too precious about cutting into it.
“A customer had this original but rusty DR 800, and said that he wanted something ‘cool’,” explains Tiago. “So I said why not do something more ‘artistic’?”
Tiago referenced a Land Rover built by local Landie workshop CoolNVintage as inspiration. It was most notable for its chassis, which was adorned with offbeat artwork by multi-disciplinary artist Vasco Costa.
Tiago, Luis and their team decided to shed the DR Big’s shell, ‘scrambler‘ it, and get the very same artist to finish it off.
In place of the rally-esque beak and contoured tank is a whole new set of pick-‘n’-mix bodywork. Unik modified and fitted the fuel tank from an older Suzuki GN model, and paired it with a custom leather seat. The subframe below has been shortened and looped, and the sides are finished off with a set of hand-made side covers.
The Suzuki wears abbreviated fenders at both ends too. The rear’s particularly tidy, and is kitted out with an enduro taillight, and a custom license plate bracket that also holds the turn signals.
The crew left the DR’s suspension and brakes alone, but rebuilt the 21F/17R wheels. The rims have been powder coated black and laced up with stainless steel spokes, and now wear new rubber: a Metzeler Karoo up front, and a Mitas E-09 at the back.
One major change is the DR Big’s new exhaust system. Unik TIG-welded a new one-into-two header, and fitted a pair of Arrow mufflers. They’re actually designed for the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Ténéré, but here they’ve been cut, shortened and put back together.
Up front, Unik imported a classic Marchal headlight from Japan and retrofitted it to a Honda housing, mounted on off-the-shelf brackets.
Further back, Renthal handlebars and grips are mated to Brembo brake and Domino clutch controls. The switches are stock Suzuki, but the traditional long-stem mirrors are actually LSL parts. And the speedo’s a Daytona unit, encased in a custom enclosure.
There’s little in the way of ‘paint,’ other than a white base for Vasco Costa’s artwork. It adds an eclectic touch, with illustrations adorning the tank, frame, sump guard, and even the rear suspension linkages.
The overall effect is quirky and playful… and also a little deceptive, when you consider the size of the piston that’s lurking inside the motor.