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Suzuki RE5

Quick profile – Suzuki RE5 rotary

(October 14, 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Suzuki's RE5 rotary series has seen some serious price growth in the last couple of years, particularly if it's a prime example. Back in 2018 we saw good ones changing hands internationally for around Au$9000 (US$6500, GB£5000), however in the last year that number has been closer to Au$15,000 (US$11,000, GB£8000).

Suzuki RE5

This remarkable second-model Suzuki RE5, with just 2 miles on the odo, was up for auction at Bring a Trailer and was an interesting test of the market. It went for Au$20,100 (US$14,250, GB£11,000).

suzuki re5

It's the 'MkII' or A model, with the conventional instrument cluster (above), and is therefore a little less desirable than the first with its distinctive cylindrical binnacle (below).

suzuki re5

Suzuki's impressive effort was first shown at the 1973 Tokyo Motor Show and was in the market for the 1974 model year. The first variant (below), with the distinctive instruments that were mirrorerd by the cylindrical tail-light, lasted two years.

Suzuki RE5

Concerned about sluggish sales, the company went for more conventional styling in the second model, sold 1976-77 (below).

Suzuki RE5

The 230kg bike ran a 497cc twin-rotor Wankel engine, based on an NSU design, with liquid cooling, and claiming a more than adequate but not compelling 62 horsepower (46kW) at a heady 16,200rpm. Max torque of 74Nm chimed in at 13,500.

Suzuki GT750

Funnily enough, potentially one of the RE5's biggest competitors was another Suzuki – the liquid-cooled GT750 two-stroke triple of the 1970s (above), that claimed 70 horses for a similar size and weight. (See the Classic Two Wheels GT750 road test from 1972.)

Suzuki RE5

As anyone who has ridden a rotary motorcycle can tell you, it can feel a little like a cross between a two- and four-stroke, while offering uncannily smooth performance.

The former owners we've corresponded with mostly express genuine affection for them and a few did big miles with no dramas.

Despite Suzuki's best efforts, it seemed the market really wasn't ready for a rotary and never really has been. Certainly not in the sorts of volumes that would make them commercially viable.

Suzuki RE5

They've taken a while to get real traction in the classic market, though some collectors started putting them away more than 20 years ago. Prices have fluctuated from year to year, while the long-term trend has been up.

Parts supply, except for generic items, has largely dried up, so it is important to get something complete. There have been people prepared to rebuild the engines, and generally they're folk who have experience with Mazda rotaries.

DKW rotary

Suzuki is not alone in having a crack at road-going rotary motorcycles. DKW had a go about the same time as Suzuki with the Hercules W-2000 (above), and Norton tried with three road models from the late 1980s. That effort culminated in the F1 (below), which would be top of the desirability list of you were a collector of Wankels. Norton also raced a rotary into the 1990s.

Norton F1 rotary

Suzuki RE5

Resources

See SuzukiCycles.org for a detailed model breakdown.

See the resources page at re5-rotary.com, which includes some incredible documentation, including owners manuals and service info.

Suzuki RE5 engine

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