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Suzuki T500 model history
1968—1975


I try to tell you the model history of the Suzuki T 500 on this page as I know it. I would be grateful of any contributions — sales brochures, magazine ads, magazine articles, pictures, specs, facts, corrections etc. Please scan the material in JPEG format (large enough that all the details are visible) and send them to me. Please tell me the source and the publication date if possible. If you send me pictures of your own bike, please follow these instructions.


Suzuki 1968More Suzuki models from 1968

Many motorcycle manufactures had tried but but no-one had succeeded in putting a civilised large capacity two stroke on the road in any large numbers until Suzuki launched the T500.

Not only did they make a big two-stroke that worked but they built one which was more reliable than many four-strokes of the time, required less maintenance and featured oil-injection direct into the crankcases along with massive and durable main roller bearings. The Cobra was also very fast for its capacity and put many contemporary 500cc and 650cc four-stroke twins to shame.

The 500/FIVE itself was a short-lived model, seemingly only seen in any number in the United States, and was quickly replaced by the Cobra. The most significant change to the original model was given little publicity at the time despite its dramatic effect. The swingarm of the 500 Suzuki was changed from 52.7 inches on the 500/FIVE to 57.3 inches on the Cobra. This is a very radical change on any bike but on the Suzuki 500 the longer wheelbase contributed to the bikes reputation for sure-footed and stable handling. For many riders it was also useful as the extra length of the machine made for a comfortable tourer with plenty of room for mounting carriers, saddlebags or panniers.
Suzuki T500 Cobra T-500 CobraT 500 I Cobra 1968
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 865 mm (34.1 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Dry Weight: 185 kg (412 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 46 hp/ 7,000 rpm, 5.5 kg-m (37.5 lb-ft)/ 6,000 rpm.

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Suzuki 1969More Suzuki models from 1969

The Cobra, being the bike that couldn't be built, was a sensation in 1968. A big two-stroke that ran faultlessly, didn't foul plugs, performed like a 650 four stroke; but was light and cheap to buy. It had strange handling, the thirst of a cane-cutter and by today's standards woeful brakes. It looked kinda dumpy too, in typical 60's Japanese style, with a velour seat, a short wheelbase and a watermelon shaped petrol tank. To many of the buying public though it was a hit, everything worked together fine. The engine and gearbox are well balanced for the road, the engine comes on strong over four thousand revs, (up to a claimed 47 bhp at 6,500), and there is no need to constantly screw open the throttle around town as there is ample low down pulling power. Not what the un-initiated would expect from a two-stroke!

So what changes had been made to the Cobra to convert it into the more appealing Titan? Some obvious changes were made to the appearance. The petrol tank was now a more pleasing shape, reminiscent of a familiar British design, as was the more conventional seat. Additionally, the front mudguard was much lighter and less valanced, the sidecover and oil tank were redesigned, the rear shocks were no longer shrouded and had exposed springs, American style cow-horn bars were introduced, new instruments and a passenger grab rail. Whilst the Cobra had the headlight cowl, instruments and rear shocks all colour co-ordinated, the Titan was very shiny with abundant chrome wherever possible.

The Titan was designed to bring the Suzuki 500 into the 70's, its styling was much flashier, leaner and more colourful. The Cobra had more in common with Suzuki's earlier mid 60's styling efforts with its bulbous, tall tank, complete with chrome side panels and knee rubbers, large sidecovers and studded seat.

Enginewise, the Titan was little changed externally; but gone for good were the Cobra's 10 finned barrels to be replaced by 11 finned barrels with altered porting and new stronger pistons with larger piston porting. Quieter running was possibly one benefit of the new pistons as the piston to cylinder liner tolerance was much closer in the new motors. One outcome of the new pistons was a spate of piston skirt failures when the standard pistons were used in a sporting mode, i.e. over-revving the motor for extended periods. This was easily solved by using the heavier, stronger GT 750 pistons whose engines had precisely the same bore and stroke dimensions as the 500.

The only other significant change to the motor was the dropping of the 34mm carburettors for 32mm Mikunis. There is no evident loss of power as a result and the intake howl is much the same; but, fuel consumption dropped markedly from 35mpg on the Cobra to around 50mpg on the Titan. Cruising at 65mph in the country it was possible to return 63mpg, which is not to bad on a loaded two stroke now is it?

Whilst the changes between the Cobra and the Titan were quite marked there was little change to the character and performance of the machine. Feel and handling had been improved by the use of a longer swingarm much earlier and the test riders of the time while unable to get overly excited about the handling commented favourably on the bikes open road stability.

This stability was enhanced by the standard fitting of a friction steering damper.

Titan Suzuki T500-2 T-500-2T 500 II Titan 1969
Overall Length: 2,172 mm (85.5 in)
Overall Width: 835 mm (32.9 in)
Overall Height: 1,125 mm (44.3 in)
Weight: 157 kg (345 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 47ps / 6,500 rpm, 5.5 kg-m/ 6,000 rpm.

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Suzuki 1970More Suzuki models from 1970

Model changes were pretty limited for the Titan for a number of years. Changes were basically limited to paintjobs and minor ancillaries for four years. The T500-II of 1969/70 came in Candy Gold with a Suzuki "S" badge on the tank, the T500-III of late 1970 was similar except for the tank luggage rack fitted as standard.
T 500 3 T500 III T 500-IIIT 500 III Titan 1970
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 865 mm (34.1 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Weight: 190 kg (418 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc parallel twin 2-stroke. 47 hp (34.3 kW)/ 7.000 rpm, 5.5 kg-m/ 6,000 rpm. 110-120 mph.

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Suzuki T-500 III Titan T500-3T 500 III Titan 1970
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 865 mm (34.1 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Weight: 190 kg (418 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc parallel twin 2-stroke. 47 hp (34.3 kW)/ 7.000 rpm, 5.5 kg-m/ 6,000 rpm. 110-120 mph.

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Suzuki 1971More Suzuki models from 1971
1971 Suzuki year code: R
1971 saw the T500R arrive in memorable Candy Lavender (purple to you and me) and White and with a new metal "Suzuki" tank badge which would remain standard fitment until 1975.
Suzuki T500R T-500R T-500 RT 500 R 1971
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 880 mm (34.7 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Wheelbase: 1,455 mm (57.3 in)
Weight: 190 kg (418 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc parallel twin 2-stroke. 47 hp (34.3 kW)/ 7.000 rpm, 5.7 kg-m/ 6,000 rpm. 110-120 mph.

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Suzuki 1972More Suzuki models from 1972
1972 Suzuki year code: J
In 1972 the T500J was gaudier than ever with large chrome plastic sidecover ornaments. This model was probably the most attractive of all with Candy Vedoro Green or Pearl Orange petrol tanks. A noticeable change for this year was the adoption of a larger tail-light lens which would remain standard on the GT range as well.
Suzuki T500L T-500 LT 500 J 1972
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 870 mm (34.3 in)
Overall Height: 1,125 mm (44.3 in)
Wheelbase: 1,435 mm (56.5 in)
Weight: 187 kg (412 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 47 hp/ 7,000 rpm, 5.3 kg-m/ 6,000 rpm.

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Suzuki 1973More Suzuki models from 1973
1973 Suzuki year code: K
The new models T500K & L were designed to accommodate 1400cc of gearbox oil, some 200cc more than the earlier models. This modification ensured that high speed running would not lead to oil starvation of the 5th, 4th and 3rd speed gear clusters. The bane of T500's until now, the inadequate gearbox oil supply could, over time, lead to pitting of the gears and their eventual destruction as the case hardening deteriorated. It is easy to tell if the gearbox on an early model is on the way out, when riding the bike the gearbox will make as much noise as a steam driven freight train pulling up hill. Perusal of any T500 enthusiast's garage will unearth a comprehensive supply of stuffed 4th and 5th gear clusters!

Suzuki also modified the lower crankcase half of the motor to resolve a long-standing design weakness.

Perhaps in a bid to make their GT range of triples more attractive, the Suzuki factory de-tuned the T500. In Australia the maximum power of the T500 was as low as 44 horsepower for the 1973-year's K model. The subtle changes to the inlet port and the carburettors had robbed the T500 of almost 3hp and returned the fuel economy to near Cobra standards.

The cynical marketing exercise of de-tuning the Suzuki T500 to make the GT range more attractive did not work. The GT380 and 550 triples were overweight, peaky and unattractive. The T500 had a loyal following and still sold steadily if unremarkably.
T500K T-500 Suzuki T-500KT 500 K 1973
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 880 mm (34.7 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Weight: 187 kg (412 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 45 hp/ 6,000 rpm, 5.4 kg-m/ 5,500 rpm.

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Suzuki 1974More Suzuki models from 1974
1974 Suzuki year code: L
Other than the gearbox, there was no real change for the better in 1973 through to 76. In 1976 we saw the Suzuki factory finally make some significant changes for the better, well overdue and as usual with Suzuki, some bad always accompanies the good.
Suzuki T-500 L T500L T-500LT 500 L 1974
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 880 mm (34.7 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Weight: 187 kg (412 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 45 hp/ 6,000 rpm, 5.4 kg-m/ 5,500 rpm.

Click on the image for larger format.


Suzuki 1975More Suzuki models from 1975
1975 Suzuki year code: M
1975 was the last model year for the Suzuki T500. It was replaced by the GT500, at a glance the same bike with just a letter G added to the model name. But the GT500 was an advance on the Titan featuring a bigger tank, electronic ignition and a front disk brake.
Suzi T500M road bike T-500MT 500 M 1975
Overall Length: 2,195 mm (86.4 in)
Overall Width: 880 mm (34.7 in)
Overall Height: 1,105 mm (43.5 in)
Weight: 187 kg (412 lbs)
Engine type: Air-cooled 492 cc inline-2, 2-stroke. 44 hp/ 6,000 rpm, 5.4 kg-m/ 5,500 rpm.

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Updated: September 6, 2006

More: Suzuki GT500 model history

More: Suzuki T models


More: All Suzuki models


Sources: Suzuki Motor Company, The Classic Suzuki Two-Strokes Website etc.


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