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Suzuki RE5 Rotary 1974—1976

Some facts and pictures Suzuki's rotary (Wankel)-engined bike.

RE5 RE-5 Rotary Wankel Suzuki

Suzuki presented its first, and only, rotary engine powered motorcycle at the Tokyo Show in late 1973. The RE5, as the model was called, was Suzuki's technical flagship at the time and a fine motorcycle. The engine, originated from NSU in Germany, was smooth, quiet, powerful and had hardly any vibrations, thanks to its construction with no parts moving back-and-forth like the usual Otto engine.

The rotary, or Wankel, engine has a number of benefits over standard engines including a lack of camshafts, intake and exhaust valves, and a reduced number of moving parts. Many manufacturers experimented with the engine type and some prototypes were presented in the early 70's but Suzuki was the only motorcycle manufacturer that used the rotary engine on a mass produced bike.

Suzuki presented the engine sometimes as 1000cc, because some regulatory bodies de-rate the engine by doubling the chamber capacity. The actual cylinder capacity was 497 cc.

The design of the RE5 was not as revolutionary as its engine. The instrument panel and tail light were contained in cylindrical shapes to play on the rotary theme, otherwise the bike looked a lot like the company's two-stroke flagship GT750. Also included was a special heat shield since the rotary engine design tended to make exhaust pipes hot enough to burn riders' legs.

What happened? The customers did find the RE5 interesting, but not many but not many of them actually bought the model. Perhaps it was the new technology that scared off the customs, perhaps it was the heavy fuel consumption that made it. However, Suzuki had invested enormous sums of money to the project and had built an entire new assembly line for the rotary engines but the machines wouldn't sell.

The cylindrical instrument panel and tail light were replaced by standard type items in 1976, in order to make the bike look more ”normal” but it didn't help much. The model, and the whole rotary engine project, was buried in 1977.
 

Here's a .WAV sample of the RE5 Rotary engine, sent by Magnus Hallme, Sweden.




Suzuki 1974More Suzuki models from 1974
1974 Suzuki year code: L
 
Colors available: Blue, Orange/Red, Silver.
 
RE5 RE-5 Rotary Wankel '77 -77RE5 Rotary 1974
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.

Suzuki 1975More Suzuki models from 1975
1975 Suzuki year code: M
 
Colors available: Red, Black, Blue
 
RE5 Rotary 1975
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Dry Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format. Here's even larger image.
RE5 Rotary 1975
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Dry Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.




Suzuki 1976More Suzuki models from 1976
1976 Suzuki year code: A

Apparently Suzuki thought that the ”Star Trek” design or the meters and rear light was a bit too much for the customers, as they were replaced for the 1976 year's model for normal round meters that looked like they had been nicked from the GT750.

But it wasn't the meters that scared the customers off. The 1976-year's model sold even worse than the 1975. On the important West German market, only 65 RE5 were sold in 1975 but the 1976 was even worse year - only one RE5 was sold!

Colors available: Black, Blue.
 
RE5 RE-5 Rotary Wankel '76 -76RE5 Rotary 1976
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Dry Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.
RE5 Rotary 1976
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Dry Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.







Suzuki 1977More Suzuki models from 1977
1977 Suzuki year code: B

The production of the RE5 ceased after 1976. There were unsold bikes in many countries and they were often sold as 1977 year's models. The RE5 picture below is a good example of such a bike. It has got the 1974-1975 cylinder formed meter bridge indicating that it was manufactured before 1976. The fairing is mounted by ther current owner.

A story tells that Suzuki Motor Company was so disappointed and angry because the RE5 flopped that they took all the remaining parts and bikes from the factory and dumped it all into the Japanese sea. I don't believe it's true but I can imagine the disappointment in Hamahatsu when they had to stop the production and take their losses. The adventure with the rotary engine cost Suzuki Motor Company millions of dollars.
 

Original wheelsRE5 Rotary (1977)
Overall Length: 2 210 mm (87.0 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (43.3 in)
Overall Height: 1 170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1 500 mm (59.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 170 mm (6.7 in)
Dry Weight: 229 kg (507 lbs)
Engine type: 497 cc NSU water-cooled two-barrel Wankel rotary. 62 hp/ 16.500 rpm, 54.9 lb-ft/ 13.500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.

Here's more pictures of this RE5.




RE5 Rotary 1974-1976 Specifications

Engine type: NSU Wankel-type rotary engine, single rotor, water-cooled housing and oil cooled rotor
Displacement: 497 cc
Power: 62 bhp at 6,500 rpm (48 bhp net at 6500 rpm)
Torque: 55 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm (45 lb-ft at 3500 net)
Compression ratio: 9.4 :1
Carburetor: Two-barrel, down-draft, 18-32mm automotive-style carb. Mikuni, 18-32 HHD
Lubrication: Dual oil system to lubricate the engine seals
Ignition: Dual ignition system
Starter system: Electric and kick
Transmission: 5-speed, constant mesh
Suspension: Front fork Telescopic, oil-dampened
Suspension: Rear swing arm Oil-dampened, 5-way Adjustable
Ground clearance: 6.7 inches
Front brake: Hydraulic caliper dual disc
Rear brake: Internal expanding
Front tire: 3.25H19-4PR
Rear tire: 4.OOH]8-4PR
Fuel tank capacity: 4.5 gal
Fuel consumption: 31-33 mpg
Length: 87.4 inches
Width: 34.3 inches
Height: 46.1 inches
Wheelbase: 59.1 inches
Weight: 507 lb dry, 552 lb fueled oiled and watered
Fuel tank capacity: 4.5 gallons US (3.7 gallon Imperial)
Fuel consumption: 31-33 mpg ("your mileage my vary")
Top speed: 176 km/h (110 mph)
Quarter mile: 13.9 sec, 93 mph
Colors: Firemist Blue, Firemist Orange




More: Suzuki RE5 Rotary

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