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!


You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Evan says:

    I have bought from the seller of this bike before, he’s a local San Diego collector. I’ve seen most of his collection, it’s amazing. I bought an oil cooled 86 GSXR750 from his collection a year ago. Great guy, takes great care of his bikes, and I’m sure this one is no exception! Really cool bike, glad to have came across this.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the comments, Evan – and glad you liked the post! Chris is indeed a Calif. icon when it comes to collections!

  3. Chris says:

    Sold for $ 4650.

    The ZX 7 R listed in January had wheels painted back to solid green color and stock exhaust
    was found and installed. Bike sold for $ 4600, after Ebay auction ended a week or so, ago.

    Have another 1991 ZX 7 R on Ebay, now, and a 2007 Aprilia 550.

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks for the info, Chris. Congratulations on the sale!