SHOOTOUT: Walsh Hybrid Suzuki LT500 vs. Honda CRF450R

What happens when you take a modern race chassis and stuff the most powerful ATV engine ever produced inside? A Suzuki dream machine is born. You see, the chassis kits Walsh Race Craft build are based on the legendary Suzuki LT-R450 Quadracer roller and is the top choice of any open-class racer today. Walsh components are found on top racers in both GNCC and AMA ATV MX racing, under names like Chris Borich and Chad Wienen who are current champions of the sport.

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That powerful engine is not a modern four-stroke, but a nearly 30-yearold, 500cc, single-cylinder, twostroke mill from the original Suzuki Quadzilla LT500. This quad was a favorite of dune riders back in the late ’80s and early ’90s because of its incredible power. Unfortunately, the Quadzilla’s chassis was horrible. The suspension was stiff, narrow, and it was over 2 inches longer than anything out there, so it cornered like a school bus.

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Along with building championship suspension components for the top pros, Walsh Race Craft has made a name for themselves in the hybrid quad world. They have developed a complete chassis kit that includes a frame, subframe, swingarm, steering stem, A-arms, gas tank and engine mounts that will allow you to install a variety of engines inside. The rest of the ATV gets outfitted with bodywork and a few other components, such as brakes taken from a Suzuki LT-R450. Although exotic builds like the aptly named “Walshzilla” stir up the most buzz, the most popular project machine that Walsh sells is the chassis kit for use on 2009-or-newer Honda CRF450 dirt bike engines with fuel injection. For an in-depth look at these two machines, you can find write-ups at www.dirtwheelsmag .com from the April and July 2012 issues. In this issue we are going to put these two hybrid projects together in a shootout and see how they compare.

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TWO-STROKE VS. FOUR-STROKE
This is actually the most equally matched two-stroke-versus-four stroke shootout we have ever done. The chassis weigh the same. The engines weigh the same, and they produce very similar horsepower numbers.

Both engines use a traditional kick-starter, reducing the complications and weight of a battery and extra wiring. The chassis weigh in at 375 pounds ready to race. The bodywork off of the LT-R is pretty much the only bodywork that can facilitate the rearward-kicking start lever. That might be one of the reasons Suzuki made the original Quadzilla chassis so long. The other reason is because it was so powerful and would flip over backward if stuffed into the Quadracer 250 chassis. The Suzuki engine was harder to kick over when cold, but the Honda was harder to start if you stalled it after warm-up. Neither were noticeably hard to start.

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The beauty of this build is that the power Walsh ended up with was strong but very linear. Other than the sound, you didn’t feel like you were riding a two-stroke. There wasn’t a hard ramp-up of power or a pipey top end. To achieve this, Duncan Racing tuned the stock carburetor to work well with the modern and open intake design. On the exhaust side, Walsh went with the most compact expansion chamber they could find. The end result was an FMF product that grabbed attention from either side but didn’t get in the way of the rider’s feet or legs.

The Honda engine was equipped with a custom Sparks exhaust system that had a centralized muffler placement under the rear grabber, just like the original Suzuki LT-R450. On the dirt, the Honda was actually more pipey than the two-stroke Suzuki. Even with a 42-tooth rear sprocket, the Honda had tall gearing and had to be launched off the starting line in first gear. On the other hand, the Suzuki could be started in first or second, and second could pull you all the way to the first turn without shifting. Second felt like it topped out at 70 mph. Furthermore, the two-stroke Suzuki could be shifted a lot quicker.

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TIRES AND MORE
Both quads were equipped with Goldspeed wheels, GBC’s Bomb Squad tires and Fox shocks. Traction was more than abundant under these two machines. Take-off was so aggressive, you had to really lean over the bars to keep from wheelying. We rode the machines on an unprepared practice track and at the Daytona Supercross, and at either location we never searched for traction. You can give credit for the awesome cornering of these builds to the tires or the precise geometry of the Walsh chassis. They cornered like they were on rails with no hint of push or oversteer. When you point the handlebars (Fasst Co. Flex bars in this case) the quads went where you wanted them to go quickly. At the Daytona SX, our riders turned in fast laps only a few seconds slower than the pros.

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In the air, both machines flew straight and landed smooth. This setup would work just as well in the dunes as it does on the MX track. Jumping is confidence-inspiring and cornering is too.

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CONCLUSION
Whether you want an exotic quad for the track or maybe the dunes, the Walshzilla is probably the most unique one you can build. There are
plenty of clean, used LT500s out there, as well as cheap LT-R450s to use as a donor for a project like this. Or, if you like the modern technology of Honda’s EFI-equipped dirt bike engine, Walsh Race Craft can build a chassis kit for one of those too. Either way, you will have a machine that not only draws attention but is a blast to ride and a guaranteed shortcut to winning races. Contact Walsh Race Craft at (386) 364-4942, or see their complete product line at www.walshrc.com.

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CONTACT LIST
Walsh Racecraft………….(386)-364-4942……………………..www.walshracecraft.com
GBC…………………………………………………………………………www.gbcmotorsports.com
FMF……………………………..(310) 631-4363………………………………www.fmfracing.com
Spark’s Racing…………….(661) 872-4343…………………………www.sparksracing.com
Pro Armor……………………(888) 312.7667………………………………www.proarmor.com
Duncan Racing……………(619) 258-6306………………………www.duncanracing.com
Fastway……………………….(866) 466-4762………………………..www.promotobillet.com
Fox Shox………………………(800) FoxShox………………………………….www.ridefox.com
DWT Wheels………………..(800) RacerIm……………………………..www.dwtracing.com
Hinson………………………….(909) 946-2942………………………..www.hinsonracing.com
Works Connection……….(530) 642-9488…………………..www.worksconnection.com
Streamline…………………..(909) 987-4213………………….www.streamlinebrakes.com
Vortex…………………………..(800) 440-3559…………………………www.vortexracing.com
Quadtech…………………….(951) 487-6333………………………..www.quadtech-atv.com
Fasst Co……………………….(877) 306-1801…………………………………..www.fasstco.com

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