Tagged: Van Veen

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!