Barn Bike: 1968 Bridgestone 350 GTR

As one of the most unusual Japanese manufacturers of motorcycles, Bridgestone made some great and interesting bikes. How a tire company got into the motorcycle business is also interesting and it’s even more interesting why they got out of the motorcycle business. The seller has this “barn find” 1968 Bridgestone 350 GTR listed here on eBay in Blissfield, Michigan, there is no reserve, and the current bid price is $1,050.

Bridgestone motorcycles have always reminded me of Yamahas. That sharp, half-chrome gas tank looks like more than a few Yamaha models, and I always thought it was strange that there wasn’t a badge on the gas tank. The company made its first tire in early 1930 and went on to purchase Firestone Tire and Rubber in 1988. The combined companies are still going strong but I bet that some readers may not know that they made motorcycles?

The company had a division that produced powered bicycles which evolved into making mopeds and eventually motorcycles, starting in 1952. They were not cheap either in quality or price, being well-known for their engineering and quality construction. Priced near the Triumph Bonneville, most buyers just couldn’t see the value of buying a Bridgestone over a Triumph which is a shame. The company was starting to take heat from other motorcycle manufacturers who were buying their tires, so in 1970 – with a few sales in 1971 – they exited the motorcycle business.

The seller says that this 350 GTR is basically a barn find, having not been on the road in a while. I would think by looking at the photos, it’s been quite a while since this one has been licensed and used. There is no title, but it’s possible to get one in most states. The seller nails the description saying that it’s “weathered and tired” but is a good basis for a restoration. Hagerty is at $1,300 for a #4 fair condition bike which this one isn’t, all the way to $5,800 for a #1 Concours example. That’s very cheap entry for so much motorcycle goodness.

The engine is a 345-cc two-stroke air-cooled twin which had 40-hp. The seller added information to the bottom of the eBay link saying that the engine is not seized, so that’s great news. This is basically the last model that Bridgestone made and it looks like a nice project. Have any of you owned a Bridgestone motorcycle?

Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    Now this one is a trip down Memory Lane. I didn’t own one but I knew a guy who did. Real fast out of the crate but it showed its flaws almost immediately. IMHO, it was one of the poorest constructed bikes I ever came across. The cylinders weren’t sleeved but rather had chromed bores. The local Suzuki dealer sold these for a short time and a couple of them came right back in with the chrome cracked and the pistons catching the edge and instantly turning the insides into another jagged piece of modern sculpture. Other than that they went like Jack, the Bear—until—.

    Nonetheless this one could be a neat bike to get running and throw your leg over to have another joy ride. But I don’t have any idea where to start looking for parts. But you never know…

    Like 5
  2. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    I had completely forgotten that Bridgestone even made motorcycles.

    Like 1
  3. Howard A Member

    Now I ask you, who else would feature a “BS” motorcycle? I seem to remember, the smaller bikes had the “BS” badge, I’m surprised too, this doesn’t have one. You know, I remember quite a few Bridgestones, and never made the connection, they were part of the tire company. Unless you grew up in that time, a 350 was a mighty big bike. For many, it was the next bike after the Briggs mini-bike, or Honda 50. To slightly disagree with the author, these were cheap, like $695 new, when I’d have to think a “Limey” would be twice that, even though, the Brit was twice the bike, didn’t matter, even the paperboy could have one. As stated, they had a whopping 39 hp, and in a bike that weighed 350 pounds, it certainly got your blood pumping. Not Kaw triple pumping, but these could beat just about any bike, to a point, and if nothing else, leave them in a cloud of smoke.
    While they may have been superior to most bikes, they were a hassle. Fouled plugs, adding oil, and smelling like it, I think BS saw the handwriting, and decided not to go the 4 cylinder, 4 cycle route, and probably made more on their tires, which I consider the best, for a semi, anyway, than the motorcycle biz ever would. Again, cool find, SG!

    Like 4
  4. Harvey Member

    One of the first bikes to have a six speed transmission.I read somewhere that Bridgestone was a major tire supplier to Honda and was not able to meet demand.Mr.Honda suggested that if Bridgestone wanted to supply tires to Honda that they should choose tires or motorcycles:-)

    Like 4
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I always thought that Suzuki was the first to feature a six-speed in its regular production bikes. My brother got an X-6 Hustler in ‘66 and it was quite a mover.

      Like 6
      • Derek

        My GT250 had 6 gears. I remember this because I was losing ground to my mate on his 400/4 until I remembered….

        Duh. Eejit!

        (400/4 w/ Piper 4-into-1 exhaust, GT250 with single skin race Allspeeds and bellmouths)

        Like 5
    • Stu Member

      A Bridgestone owner once told me a similar story about motorcycle manufacturers telling Bridgestone something like ‘you can compete with us or you can sell us tires—but you can’t do both.’ I guess they made their choice.

      Like 2
  5. NW Iowa Cycle Salvage

    Harvey is correct. 6 speeds, a dry race type clutch and 19″ wheels front and rear. geomechs is correct that Suzuki had the first 6 speed. The X6 became the T250 and then the GT250, all with 6 speeds, 1966-77 in the US market.

    Back to Bridgestone, I’ve owned every model except the factory ‘SR’ race bikes. Why I collected 135 bikes is beyond me as they weren’t as popular as the other Japanese brands and thus sold much fewer bikes. There is a small following in the US and new, old stock parts can be found at CPC in Janesville, WI as well as a few individuals.
    I had bought so many parts from CPC that they made me a dealer. They’d give me a shopping cart and let me loose in their warehouse. That’s where I discovered their stash of Zundapp 125 mostly engine parts and I bought all of it as well as some Rupp parts and a few Penton NOS gas tanks. My buddy bought all 3,000 of their 3.50 x 8 Speedway tires made in India. I bought a dozen tires from him before his storage barn burned to the ground taking the tires and 3 dozen old cycles, ugh.

    At one time I owned 32 GTR’s and GTO’s. I built a crate and shipped two to Ohio. I had an original red GTR in nearly show condition that I rode to car shows and showed. I’d get a trophy every time but a first only once. Seems folks in these parts prefer Harley’s.

    About 15 years ago I sold everything lock, stock and barrel to a guy in WI except I kept the literature and parts books. The show condition GTR I sold to a dentist in Maryland. He kept bugging me and I kept saying not for sale. Still, he bugged me, so I put what I believed to be top dollar on it, $2500. He said, “SOLD!” Damn, I thought but oh well, money talks. He even sent a truck to get it.

    The WI guy even bought my collection of 1960’s Yamaha twins, 9 bikes. Shoulda kept ’em but slowly rebuilding that collection now.

    Like 10
  6. mrgreenjeans

    My first was a 175 Scrambler, a ’68 model year in a chrome and maroon candy paint. It was a year old with about 1200 miles and I paid $375.00 for it. The seat was a black vinyl with an exploded surface texture similar to the modern day Alcantara in a Porsche or Audi.

    I own several more low mileage BS machines: a ’66 – 100 road bike and a ’70 – 350 GTO in gold and black. Now THAT one really scoots !

    Like 3
  7. mrobin

    Bridgestone also made bicycles, made some really nice ones in the 90’s.

    Like 3
  8. tony t

    The early ’70s DT1 “GYT” MX cylinders were also chrome-plated … pealed off as noted. “LA Sleeve” could provide a replacement steel sleeve. Not an easy swap!

    Like 2
  9. Tman

    They were very quick bikes. The Kawasaki 350 also had about 40 hp. I owned Yamaha YR2 350. CYCLE world magazine teseted a YR1 that went 0-50 in 3.5 seconds. All were 650 and a few 750 killers in a stoplight to stoplight race. I could beat the Honda 350 which actually a 325cc engine. But a GTR could beat my Yamaha.

    Like 3
  10. Dick R

    In the late 60s, I had the predecessor of this model – the Bridgestone 175cc “Dual Twin”. There was no mention in the write-up of the main differentiating feature of the 350 and the 175 – the rotary valve 2-stroke engine. The carburetors were not located at the rear of the cylinder as is normal in a 2-stroke. They were at the ends of the crankshaft on each side facing left and right. Reason for this is that the induction timing was controlled by disks spinning at each end of the crankshaft. Part of the disk was open to allow the fuel-air mixture from the carb to enter the crankcase. On most 2-stroke engines, the induction timing is set by the bottom of the piston skirt symmetrically opening and closing a port from the carburetor to the crankcase. The benefit of a disk valve for a 2-stroke is that the intake timing could be non-symmetric and thereby produce more power and more useable torque. The dual-cylinder 175cc that I had, produced 20 hp and pretty good low-end torque for such a small high-output 2-stroke. Honda 160s and Bultaco 185s were no match. I didn’t mess with 250s much. In addition to the power, I found the motorcycle to be well-made and reliable. Absolutely no problem with the chromed-bore aluminum cylinders – a very advanced feature at the time. I’ll also note that Bridgestone made a 90cc single with a rotary valve 2-stroke engine.

    Like 6
    • PeterfromOz

      Down here in Australia they offered a 100cc as well although it wasn’t a 90 with a 100 engine. It was a different model. My brother bought one new and rode it for quite a few years.

      Like 1
  11. WILLIAM CALHOUN

    Rare that I ever have a comment but this brought back great memories of my Bridgestone 165 Dual-sport. Flip a lever and it went from being a traditional 1 down the rest up to a four-speed rotary shift. Truly a unique feature I’ve never seen on another brand. It was my first small bike and I had purchased to have transportation while customizing and painting my panhead Harley. Made all my Harley friends mad at me but as they say “two-wheels moves the soul”, I needed my wind therapy and didn’t want to rush the HD project.

    Like 4
  12. Dick R

    Good point about the rotary shifting. I had forgotten about that- probably because I just left it in 5-speed all the time. Just a couple of minor detail corrections – it was a 175cc, not 165cc and it was called “Dual-Twin”, not “Dual Sport”. Minor points both and insignificant compared to your mention of the shifting.

    Another item – I have a Cycle World annual compilation issue of all the road tests from 1966 (I think). The cover picture is none other than a close-up of the Bridgestone 175 engine.

    Like 2
  13. Toypartman

    I had a 175 that my Uncle had given me because it didn’t run and it was just taking up room in his garage. He winked at my Dad and I heard him say that should keep me busy for awhile. I had it running by the next weekend. It was a quick little bike, I read were it set a speed record in the mid-sixties for its CC class. I don’t doubt it. Btw, never underestimate a bored 13 year old.

    Like 4
  14. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update, this one sold for $1,691.

    Like 1

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