Monday, August 14, 2006

Remembering Rotary: Suzuki RE-5

In 1975, the rotary-engined Suzuki RE-5 was the bee's knees... :-) Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5
In September 1974, Suzuki issued a press release about the RE-5, which said that ‘The Suzuki RE-5 rotary-engined touring motorcycle is the ultimate achievement in motorcycle design, engineering and workmanship. The RE-5 is powered by a unique liquid-cooled NSU-Wankel type 497cc Suzuki rotary engine specially designed and improved for motorcycle application by Suzuki Motor Company Ltd.’

Ah, well. That 499cc NSU-Wankel made a claimed 62 horsepower and was solid mounted on a weedy double downtube frame. Suzuki claimed that rubber bushings weren’t required for the RE-5 to deliver virtually vibration free performance. This was a rotary-engined motorcycle after all!

The mid-1970s was a time when everyone wanted a rotary engine in their lineup. Yamaha was working on the twin rotor RZ-201, Honda were testing a CRX rotary prototype, Kawasaki were working on the X-99 rotary, and even Sachs/Hercules of Germany were readying the W-2000 rotary machine. Wow! Norton, of course, went on to actually build and race their rotary-powered F1, a very few of which were also sold to the public.

Anyway, coming back to the RE-5, the bike had a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes at the front. Suzuki offered a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty on all internal engine and transmission components on this bike. The RE-5 was launched simultaneously in Germany, England, France, Spain, Belgium, and the United States. Suzuki started selling the bike by January 1975, but there were problems with fueling and other engine components and the company ceased production of this bike towards the end of 1976. And with it ended yet another chapter in the saga of rotary-engined motorcycles…

The RE-5 was heavy and unreliable, and Suzuki stopped production of this bike in late 1976
A pic of the RE-5 out in the open somewhere. Proof that people actually bought and rode this thing! :-)
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