Tagged: RE5

Sunday Night Rotary Weirdness: 1975 Suzuki Re5

1975 Suzuki Re5 R Side Front2

Like the rash of turbocharged motorcycles in the 80’s, Felix Wankel’s rotary had its brief moment in the sun as motorcycle “fad of the moment.” And Suzuki went all-in, getting famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to pen the bodywork for the hat they tossed into the three-lobed, apex-sealed ring.

1975 Suzuki Re5 R Side Front

Unfortunately, while his cutting-edge designs were generally loved in the world of automotive design, Giugiaro’s motorcycle designs were far more controversial, and the poor reception of the Re5 was blamed on his design. A much more conservative update didn’t do much for sales, so perhaps his slightly ludicrous flourishes weren’t to blame. In any event, they make this design very funky for classic enthusiasts: check out that wild, cylindrical dash [with hinged cover!], and matching taillight!

1975 Suzuki Re5 Cockpit

Made for just three years, from 1974-1977 the bike “displaced” a mere 497cc’s, although comparing the relative displacements of rotary engines and their reciprocating counterparts isn’t really useful. The bike performed well, but was far more complicated than it should have been in theory and offered no real performance advantage over more conventional motorcycles.

1975 Suzuki Re5 R Engine

From the original, very spare eBay listing: 1975 Suzuki Re5 for Sale


1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary engine  RARE not running sat since 1990 Bike looks complete  chrome is fair seat has 1 rip  I squrted gas in AC  & it popped a couple times but thats as far as i am capable of going at this time  has title & manual  what I learned is that 5000 bikes were made from 75 – 77  all at 1 production run  great start for restore project as it is so complete & origional

The simplicity of the rotary sounds like an ideal candidate for a motorcycle powerplant: fewer parts could mean lighter weight and the low vibration means you avoid problems that plagued parallel twins and necessitated work arounds like Norton’s “Isolastic” mounting system.

1975 Suzuki Re5 L Engine

Unfortunately, rotaries in practice can be complicated beasts to make work, and the Re5 actually featured a very complex cooling system that included three separate oil tanks, including a total-loss system to lubricate the apex seals of the engine’s rotor, traditionally a weak point of Wankel engines.

1975 Suzuki Re5 R Side Rear

This one “ran when parked” but looks to be very complete. Do some research to be sure parts are available for the engine, but this could be a chance to get a very weird, very rare motorcycle on the cheap.


1975 Suzuki Re5 Dash

Wankel Week Continues! 1975 Suzuki Re5 for Sale

1975 Suzuki Re5 L Side Front

Two interesting rotary-powered motorcycles in one week! Back in the early 1970’s, it seemed like everyone was researching rotary engines, the “engine of tomorrow”. And you can see the appeal: the engineering of Felix Wankel’s brainchild was elegant and very futuristic.

Made between 1974 and 1977, the Re5 was designed as a sport-touring motorcycle with very space-age styling and specifications, sort of a Bike of the Future. Suzuki chose a 497cc displacement for their machine, although the relative “displacements” of rotary engines are difficult to really compare directly with their traditional counterparts. The bike naturally had a very smooth, torquey character, and testers felt the handling was nearly up to European standards. Interestingly, the bike returned surprisingly reasonable fuel mileage, usually a rotary’s weak point.

1975 Suzuki Re5 R Side

But while the rotary engine itself is very simple in theory, the Suzuki Re5 featured a complex cooling system with three separate oil tanks for the sump, gearbox, and a total-loss tank. The engine was fitted with two oil pumps, one of which was dedicated to mixing oil from the total-loss tank into the fuel to aid in rotor-tip lubrication and was actuated by the throttle twistgrip.

1975 Suzuki Re5 Engine

The bike did not sell especially well and the striking design by Giorgetto Giugiaro was blamed: in 1976, Suzuki provided kits to dealers to convert unsold “tin-can dash” models to the more conservative design featured on second-generation models. But that dash! Why would you want to change it? Such a cool design, something straight out of a Japanese TV show like “Kamen Rider.”

1975 Suzuki Re5 Dash

From the original eBay listing: 1975 Suzuki Re5 for Sale

This machine is a decent original example of an M model Re5. It will need a complete service as it has been stored, properly for a number of years. I would consider this bike a solid 7 on a scale of 1-10.

A compression test has been performed and the engine is within acceptable standards per the factory.

Most importantly, It has all of the difficult M specific parts. The parts themselves are very hard to find in any useable condition, and therefore quite expensive. For example, used turn signals are 150.00 each from Rotary Recycle. An instrument cluster is 700-1000.00 The headlamp unit is 500.00. You get the idea…

A complete service includes, but is not limited to servicing front hydraulic brake system. Performing a tune up, timing, oil change, battery etc. Replacing tires that may be dry rotted or past safe service life.

This bike is complete and very original. It will make someone a nice rider or display piece.

The video in this clip below is a bit jerky, but it should give you a great idea of the unusual, fizzy sound the bike makes. And watching the tach, it’s pretty clear the rotary doesn’t mind having its neck wrung.

Suzuki Re5 ride video.

In spite of all the financial and manufacturing muscle put behind the development of rotary-powered motorcycles, it’s pretty clear that the layout was more of a novelty than a real advantage: the simplicity of the engine itself gets lost in the complexity of the carburetor, oiling, and cooling systems required.

1975 Suzuki Re5 L Side

Even though the Re5 was a more successful motorcycle than the Hercules featured earlier this week and had the manufacturing power of Suzuki behind it, it was still basically a footnote, with only about 6,000 built.

Bidding is just north of $4,000 as I post this. The chief selling point of these, aside from that gloriously wild dash, is the novelty of that engine. But really, what other reasons would you need?


1975 Suzuki Re5 Dash Front


1975 Suzuki RE5

For Sale: 1975 Suzuki RE5

The 1970s was a decade of experimentation for many motorcycle companies. Honda moved the needle from two strokes to very complicated four cylinder four strokes, Ducati continued to evolve the Desmo valve actuation concept, Yamaha continued to beat the two stroke drum, and Suzuki wavered between two strokes and four, and went so far as to introduce a rotary as well. Of all of the novel bikes created in the 1970s, this one is perhaps the most novel; a Wankel-engined motorcycle for the masses.

Suzuki engineers stuffed a single rotor engine with a swept displacement of 500cc into a motorcycle chassis and sold it for a pittance compared to any other rotary of the day (Van Veen and Norton were the two other rotaries offered, and they were frightfully expensive). Still, the RE5 was more expensive than more “normal” counterparts, and failed to sell in large numbers. A 3 year model run saw relatively few changes (more on that later), and relatively few sales.

While Suzuki was able to succesfully mate the Wankel to a sporty motorcycle, they could not eliminate some of the inherent downsides of the rotary motor. First off, the Wankel is heavy, and the resultant 500cc bike outweighed any middle-weight and probably most liter bikes of the day. Part of this weight is due to the need for cooling. Check out the size of the radiator; rotaries run very hot and need robust cooling systems. Secondly, the fuel consumption of the Wankel is legendary – as America endured the oil embargo and rising gas prices, this became a concern. Combine high weight and high fuel consumption with relatively modest performance (the rotary is very smooth at high RPM but is not known for torque) along with a high sticker price and you have the makings for a classic showroom queen.

From the seller:
This is a good example of a very rare motorcycle. It is amazing how much power the Wankel rotary engine produces with just 500cc’s. I have ridden this bike around town a few times. It really runs great and man does it turn some heads. The bike is in such good running and riding condition you could ride it anywhere. It would make someone a good every day rider or you could just show it. You probably will be the only one in your town to own one. Bid with confidence, this is a very good and very rare motorcycle.

From a collector perspective, these are relatively rare motorcycles. They are not seen every day, either on the street or in auctions. Therefore, the desireability is pretty decent. These are complex motorcycles, and therefore the buyer would be cautioned to purchase the very best available if riding the bike is in the cards. Most two and four stroke mechanics are not totally familiar with the operation of the Wankel powerplant, which makes restoration a little more difficult, although by no means impossible.

Changes over the model years are very few. This is one of the earlier bikes, as seen by the pod-theme in the instrument cluster and tail light section. The last year bikes have conventional instrumentation and lights, as Suzuki attempted to boost sales by making the bikes appear a little bit more main stream. Unfortunately that failed, and the RE5 is now a collectable piece of history.

This bike looks to be in good condition, and is practically begging for a new home. Bidding interest has been very high, and the current bid sits at $4,000 – that is very low money for a very rare bike! For more information and your chance to bid on this rare wonder, click the link and jump over to the auction. Good luck, and tell ’em you found it on CSBFS!


What come around goes around: 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary

For Sale: 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary

The Suzuki RE5 is one of the iconic collector bikes of all time. One of only a handful of rotary powered bikes ever produced (reference Norton from England and Van Veen from Holland for the other two), the RE5 came at a time where the motorcycle world was slowly changing. Surviving against the onslaught of British bikes of the early 70’s, and with the European marques coming on strong (BMW, Moto Guzzi and Ducati), Suzuki took a gamble on a brave new technology: the Wankel engine. Instead of utilizing pistons and cylinders, the Wankel engine uses a triangular-shaped rotor that spins within a concentric housing. Made famous in later years by the Mazda RX-7, the Wankel engine was well-know to be very smooth at high RPMs.

Check out the Suzuki logo on the lower right of the above photo – the logo is a perfect representation of a rotor (in the center) and housing. The motor itself, while relatively compact for such cutting edge technology, was also pretty heavy. As a result, the RE5 was not a particularly light motorcycle and suffered greatly when compared to competitive sporting machinery from other manufacturers.

From the seller:
1975 Suzuki RE 5 Rotary Engine Motorcycle.

Looks good, strong runner. Tank and sidecovers are good quality re-paint. Have another tank and sidecovers that are original paint that look pretty good with some minor scratches. Tires near new tread depth. Has been run up Palomar Mountain, a worthy 7 mile steep climb from 2,200 to 5,500 feet altitude, with 230 Lb rider. Cali title in hand. Reg Expired 2007, but is on PNO , so no penalties.

So what happened to the RE5? Many think that it was an idea too far ahead of its time. When it was introduced in 1974, the RE5 was very odd looking with the round instrument cluster and matching taillight. It was not particularly fast for its size (the swept engine displacement was a mere 500cc), it was heavy (560+ pounds) and because of the technology it was also expensive when compared to contemporary machines. Suzuki changed the styling in 1976 in a last-ditch attempt to make the bike more mainstream, but it was a little bit too little and way too late; the RE5 died after only 3 model years were completed.

In addition to the weight, a rotary has a few additional drawbacks. Firstly, they generate a substantial amount of heat – hence the very large radiator dominating the frontal view. They exhaust is also extremely hot, necessitating heavy exhaust pipes complete with a fresh-air cooling system. Finally, there is the oil consumption issue to deal with. Because rotor tips were harder to seal than pistons, compression was never very high on these motors – but oil consumption was. Many a RE5 fell to neglect, and it is best to run away from any RE5 basket case given the cost of replacement (if replacement parts can be found at all).

Today’s listing is in pretty good condition, and the seller has included a video. Note that the bike runs well, idles without stalling, and does not exhibit any significant smoke out the exhaust (worn rotor tips will make the bike smoke like a two stroke):

So what price for such bravado and rarity? Well, the lucky fact is that despite low production numbers and unique parking lot appeal the RE5 is not an expensive motorcycle. Unlike the aforementioned Norton or Van Veen – both with price tags in excess of $100,000 – the Suzuki RE5 is downright modest. Prime examples go for well below $10k, and clean, rideable bikes can be had for approximately $4,500 .

This bike is available now, and the bidding is only at $2,125 with reserve not yet met. You have to hand it to the seller (a well known California-based collector) to start the auction out with a $500 strike price, and I would expect that current bidding is getting close to the reserve price.

To check out the auction, see the pictures, and bid on this great piece of Suzuki history, click on the link and . Tell them you saw it on CSBFS!