Tanking Custom Trends

February 8, 2024 | By Mike Seate

The Benelli Mojave fuel tank on our Yamaha SR500 project bike.

A few years back, a single, off-beat motorcycle part came to define the modern custom cafe racer era. The narrow, 2.6-gallon gas tank that first adorned Benelli’s dualsport Mojave, somehow became the go-to custom accessory for cafe racer builders the world over. Scroll through older digital issues of Cafe Racer magazine or any of the popular one-off motorcycle websites, and the slander, all-steel Mojave fuel cell was nearly ubiquitous. It was an unusual and unlikely choice for modern bike designers as the Benelli tank was far too small to look anything but misplaced atop the frame of a Japanese four. It had been designed for the Italian company’s 360cc single which was offered to customers here in the Us through both Benelli dealers and the popular Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog. Yes, the same retailers who filled our Christmas mornings with toys and household goods helped popularize motorcycling in late 1960s America.

Eventually, the supply of original-issue Mojave fuel tanks dried up and custom bike builders were forced to look elsewhere for inspiration.

We recently noticed a new hair to the NOS parts throne in the equally unlikely form of Suzuki’s GS450E fuel tank. Like the Benelli gas box, the GS450 tank is imbued with a classic, high-profile shape that echoes the hallowed Manx Norton contours, complete with nifty knee-cut-outs on each side. The first we saw of a GS450 tank being re-purposed for cafe racer duty came back in 2011 when Harrisburg, PA’s J&B Moto Co. Were brought on as part fo the multi-shop build team charged with creating the Royal Flush racebike for Discovery Velocity’s “Cafe Racer” TV series. The lads at J&B were clever enough to rebuild the Suzuki tank for use on a fuel-injected Royal Enfield Bullet 500 single, hiding the fuel injection hardware back beneath the racing seat unit.

Suzuki GS 450 tank re-purposed on our Royal Flush Enfield Bullet

The narrow, angular tank proved the prefect compliment to the wasp-waisted, air-cooled single, which reached nearly 91 MPH at New Jersey Motorsports Park later that year.

We’ve been spotting an increasing number of GS fuel tanks in custom applications, and, as purveyors of old Benelli bodywork would have seen coming, the prices have shot into the stratosphere in recent months. How much, you ask? Well consider this: Cafe Racer magazine managing editor Kim Love picked up a 1978 GS450 Suzuki back in 994 for just $500, which is about what used fuel tanks are fetching these days.

Necessity is the mother of all custom motorcycles, and this is just the latest example of adaptable, cool-looking old parts serving a modern purpose.

Boffo-looking Honda CB750 fitted with Suzuki’s GS450 tank. The part is now worth more than a complete motorcycle!