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Suzuki history
Suzuki racing models 1953—1959

Motorcycle racing has always been important for the development of motorcycles. Suzuki started racing in 1953 with its Diamond Free cyclemotor and has seen on the racing tracks and trails ever since. Early on Suzuki realized the importance of participating in races with winner machines. It gave the publicity needed to establish the name Suzuki and also gave important data needed in developing better machines for everyday use.

1959 Colleda RB racer.


The first hill-climb race on mount Fuji in Japan was arranged in July 12th of 1953, sponsored by the Mainichi Newspaper. The competition was more of a game compared to the more serious races on the mount Asama a couple of years later. According to the rules of the games, all competitors were to use street-legal domestic motorcycles that they owned and used themselves. The owners, who also had to have a driver's license needed, weren't allowed to do any significant modifications for their bike. Despite of the rules that clearly ment that the race was for private riders only, many motorcycle manufacturers sponsored ”their” riders and so did even Suzuki.

Winning the hill-climb race on mount Fuji wasn't very easy. The course was 27 km long, very crooked and the climbing angle up to 15 degrees. The difference in elevation was 1,450 meter and the surface rough. Anyhow, over 150 vehicles were announced to the competition and 99 of them were allowed to take part in the race. 78 of them reached the goal, along them Mr. Yasmashita, riding Suzuki's motorized bicycle Diamond Free.

In 1953 there were not many Suzuki models to compete with. Suzuki's first ”racer” happened to be its two horsepower Diamond Free. Yasmashita, who would also appear competing with different Suzukis in 1954 and 1955, did the company a great favor by winning the whole race. The hill-climb competition was a perfect opportunity to show that Suzuki's products were durable and powerful.

The success on the racing trails of mount Fuji gave the Diamond Free great publicity and Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company (Suzuki Jidosha Kogyo) piles of orders of the Diamond Free. Up to 6,000 units a month were made of the succesfull cyclemotor. The Diamond Free was such a great success for the loom manufacturer that the company decided to concentrate on designing and building high quality motorcycles. The name of the company was changed to Suzuki Motor Company in June 1954 and the former weaving machine builders bedan building motorcycles.

Diamond Free 1953

Engine type: Air-cooled 58 cc 2-stroke. 2 hp/ 4.000 rpm. Two speeds.

Click on the image to view it in a larger format. Click here for even larger picture.


The hill-climb races on mount Fuji were held four times from 1953 to 1956. I'm sure several Suzuki owners took part in the races but Mr. Yasmashitas great performances in 1953 and 1954 were the ones to remember. Not only they were the first competetions Suzuki took part in, they resulted also their two first wins.

In 1954 Yasmashita rode Suzuki's 90cc four-stroker Colleda CO in the hill-climb race on mount Fuji; and won the race. Suzuki showed again how durable its new motorcycle model was, and the Colleda CO became another success for Suzuki.

As the Colleda CO with it's three speeds and four horsepower engine wasn't particulary great motorcycle, the results showed rather how antique the Japanese machines were than how great the '54 Suzuki was. In Europe Moto Guzzi used wind tunnel to perfect their streamlined fairings on their racing machines and Gilera used four-cylinder DOHC engines, good for 100 mph lap times on Isle Of Man TT. Japanese designers were decades behind the Europeans back then.

Colleda COXColleda CO 1954
Engine type: 90 cc side-valve four-stroke. 4 hp.
Unhappy with the two-stoke engine of the time, Suzuki turned to four-strokes and side valves for 1954 with the 90cc CO and 123cc COX (picture). Both were true motorcycles having three speeds, telescopic front forks ang plunger rear suspension. The four-stroked models were replaced by 102cc Porter Free and 123cc ST during 1955 — both two-stokes.
Colleda news '54
The happy Fuji mountain-climbing race winner and the Colleda CO (on the right). The Diamond Free on the left. The pages are scanned from a SJK Colleda information magazine, or something like that. The cover page (only a tiny scan) here on the left.


At first, Suzuki wasn't that interested in racing.

In 1955 Suzuki participated in racing for the first time with a special built works racing machine and not with a standard model. The racing debut held place at Asama where the races were held on November 5-6th. It is said that Japanese road racing started at the 1955 Asama race.

Five riders from Suzuki participated in the 125cc class with the new Colleda SV, a racer based on the 125cc single cylinder 2-stroke Colleda ST. The Asama cource with north Karuizawa as the starting point was 19,2 km long using (uncoated) public roads around the volcanic mountain Asama. The cource was to be lapped four times. Two riders started simultaniously at 30 second intervals.

The first four places in the 125cc class were taken by Yamaha, followed by the Suzuki's team on places 5 to 7. No lap times or speed were recorded, the results showed only the finishing time differencies. We know that Suzuki's Yasmashita crossed the finish line 7'11" after the winning Yamaha followed by Hideo Suzuki 26 behind and Toshio Kamiya two seconds later. Michio Ichino finished several minutes later on the 17th place. Mitsuo Itoh was for some reason disqualified on the final lap.

Two of the riders, Michio Ichino and Mitsuo Itoh, included in the Suzuki racing team even in the Isle Of Man TT five years later.

Being the first race for the Suzuki one could say that result was good. The best of the Hondas came into 9th place, beaten by a Lilac. The Lilac factory didn't survive to the next century and was no longer a threat to Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda on the race tracks. For obvious reasons, the fourth of the giants of today, Kawasaki, couldn't participate on the Osama races in 1955. Kawasaki started manufacturing complete motorcycles in the 1960's.

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that Honda participated in all of the classes and won the 500cc and 350cc classes. In the 250cc class Honda came to second place and was again to see beaten by Lilac.

Colleda SV '55 -55Colleda SV 1955
Engine type: Air-cooled 123.18cc single cylinder piston valve 2-stroke. 10.0 ps/ 9.000 rpm.
Bore x stroke: 52 x 58 mm
Compression ratio: 9.5 :1
Clutch: Wet multiple plate
Transmission: 4 speed
Front tyre size: 2.50-19
Rear tyre size: 2.50-19

The 1955 Asama races, the official pamphlet & Suzuki Colleda SV in action


For some reason Suzuki didn't take part at the second Asama race that was held on October 19th and 20th 1957. Honda repeated its success from 1955 in the 350cc class but the 125cc and 250cc classes were won by Yamaha. The 500cc class winner was Harmony. The course was, as earlier, uncoated, but for the cource was now dedicated for racing and testing and the race was not held on public roads. The first race track in Japan, so to say.


Suzuki started preparing for the 1959 Asama race already in 1958. The engine destined to the new Colleda racer was a 125cc single two-stroke with an internal code V2X.

The first testings of the new machine were made on location at the mount Asama late in 1958. The results showed that the racer was fast but not yet a winner. The best lap time for the new works Suzuki was 6 minutes and 38 seconds. The winner Yamaha's best lap time in 1957 on the 9,351 km long track was 6 minutes and 18 seconds.

The testing on actual location showed also that there was a durability problem. Being a air-cooled two-stroke there was always a danger of overheating and racing on high-altitude didn't reduce the problem. The first problem that occurred was failing crankshaft bearings.

The testing of the Colleda V2X, that later became the Colleda RB racer of 1959. At the first picture you can clearly see how the standard Colleda emblem on the fuel tank.

The 1959 Asama race, pictures from the team testing the bikes


The 1959 Asama Volcanic Race was held in 22nd and 23rd August. Suzuki's race team arrived on the mountain already in the May to start testing their new works racer called Colleda RA, developed during the winter.

The whole team, including the riders Mitsuo Itoh, O. Itoh, Michio Ichino and Toshio Matsumoto and an eleven man crew lived on a hotel in north Karuizawa close to the Asama race track for three months testing and preparing the bikes. A repair shed had been built next to the hotel, the same repair shed was by the way moved to the Suzuki head quarters in Hamamatsu after the race where it was used as a part warehouse for the racing section for many years.

Suzuki used two engines in 1959, both based on the 1958 experimental engine V2X. The main difference between the RA and RB engines were the primary reduction. The RA engine was running in the opposite direction and a helical gear primary drive was needed to reverse the revolution before the final drive (chain). After careful testing and comparing the RA and RB engines on the bench, the Suzuki engineers finally decided that the RB engine was to be used at the actual race in late August.

After many problems with the reliability of the engine and trips between the head quarters in Hamamatsu, problems with failing bearings, melting or cracking pistons and braking piston rings the team finally was pleased with its racer. The Suzuki team also experienced problems like volcanic eruptions and typhoons during their stay by the Asama circuit. It naturally slowed down the testing, but slowly but surely the Colleda racer was getting faster and more reliable, beating Honda's competition machines in practices a month and a half before the actual race. The Suzuki team knew that Honda used the same type of machines in their Asama racers they had used in their European racing debut in the Isle Of Man TT.

Suzuki team was fit for fight and believed it could win when the races began. But the results were terrible. Despite of the time and effort spent in preparing for the race, only one of the five Colledas finished the 131 km race. Michio Ichino was the only Colleda rider to hold all the 14 laps. The other four, Mitsuo Itoh, O. Itoh, Toshikichi Masuda and Toshio Matsumoto had to retire because of different technical problems.

Honda took the first four places in the 125cc class, but the records show that it was Suzuki's M. Ichino who had the fastest lap time of them all, 5 minutes and 50 seconds. If they only could make the machines to hold all the way...

Colleda RA '59 -59Colleda RA 1959
Engine type: Air-cooled 125.61cc single cylinder piston-valve 2-stroke. 10 hp/ 9.000 rpm.
Bore x stroke: 56 x 51mm
Compression ratio: 10 :1
Maximum speed: 120 kph
Transmission: 4 speeds
Clutch: Wet multiple plate
Front tyre size: 2.75-18
Rear tyre size: 2.75-18

No larger image available.

Colleda RB '59 -59Colleda RB 1959
Engine type: Air-cooled 125.61cc single cylinder piston-valve 2-stroke. 10 hp/ 9.000 rpm.
Bore x stroke: 56 x 51mm
Compression ratio: 10 :1
Maximum speed: 120 kph
Transmission: 4 speeds
Clutch: Wet multiple plate
Front tyre size: 2.75-18
Rear tyre size: 2.75-18

See even the RB picture on the top of this page.

More: Suzuki racing models 1960-1967

More: All Suzuki models

Sources: Good Old Days, Suzuki Motor Company, The Encyclopedia Of Motorcycles, The History Of Japanese Motorcycles etc.

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