Brand New Suzuki RE5 Rotary with Zero Miles

Brand new, zero mile, Suzuki RE5 rotary

Brand new, zero mile, Suzuki RE5 rotary

You certainly don't see this every day, a brand new, unrestored, all original, zero mile, 1976 Suzuki RE5 rotary engine motorcycle. Although you could theoretically buy it and ride it, at this point, it would be a shame to do so, because, as the owner suggests, keeping the bike in its current pristine condition provides a great reference for restoration of any other RE5s out there and is an historical piece in itself.

Brand new, zero mile, Suzuki RE5 rotary

Brand new, zero mile, Suzuki RE5 rotary

The RE5, the Hercules W2000 and the Norton John Player Specials were the only Wankel rotaries to be built by the factories. It was a short lived experiment as the engines never seemed to attract much of a following in the motorcycle community though Mazda was quite successful with them under the hood.

If you're a collector with a little room for something unique, here you go. Should you preserve it or ride it? Decisions, decisions.

Thanks for the tip, Jeff.

Link: Suzuki RE5 on eBay

Comments

  1. marc says

    i rode a 1975 re5 for a while, really neat bike. the sound that rotery made at full throttle was the strangest sound i ever heard out of a cycle. the carbs are complicated proggressive 2 barrel with n0 less than 5 cables to work the carb,oil pump and exhuast power valve, whew it was a bitch to tune .. but really paid off in the long run. it rode well and handle ok. it had a kicker on it , why i still dont know why? tried to kick it several times, thanks for the 12 volt helper lol wish i still had it, and the kaw h2,and the cb 400ss,and the , well we could go on and on miss them all.

  2. Scotduke says

    Interesting bike and they certainly are rare. I’ve never seen an RE5 on the road tho I have seen one in a museum – there are a few here in the UK apparently, but not many.

    Rotary bikes are few and far between tho I have seen a Hercules being ridden in Germany and quite a few Nortons here in the UK – the City of London Police had the Interpol model in the 80s but not for long. The rotary Norton didn’t sell in big numbers but I know a few people clocked some big miles on them. The early air-cooled Norton rotaries had problems but the later Commander wasn’t bad at all and is highly rated by some people.

    The other rotary bike I know of is the Dutch Van Veen and I did see one of those in a museum but they were made in small numers only I think.

    • Paul Crowe says

      I forgot about the Van Veen, it’s been mentioned here a few times in the comments, but it was evidently very low numbers. If wikipedia is correct, only 38.

      • Scotduke says

        That is a very low number indeed.

        The Norton Commander is getting rare now and appreciating in value. They are gas guzzlers and the total loss lubrication system means they’d need major re-engineering to meet current emission standards in a lot of countries I reckon. But I’ve heard of them topping 100,000 miles and if they’re maintained, they do run and run. The built-in panniers are an acquired taste but they look pretty cool.

        The RE5 is very 70s – be good if thise one goes to someone like Leno or the Barber museum – be a shame if it wasn’t used at all.

  3. Brian says

    I think this should end up in either Jay Leno’s garage or at the Barber Museum…at either place, it will be both preserved and ridden.

  4. Scotduke says

    Just looked at the photo in close-up and something struck me. Now maybe this is a US model and it’s different from a European one, but in Europe at least the RE5 had an unusual cylinder shaped set of clocks and the tail light was cylinder shaped as well. There was a piece in Classic Bike here in the UK about the RE5 some years ago and the guy who had the bike said how much work it’d been to get the right clocks and tail light. The clocks on this look like standard Suzuki units and the tail light looks similar to the one from a T500/GT500.

    • Paul Y says

      In the US the 1975 had the cylindrical instrument pod and tail light assembly, and also the turn signals were spherical. For ’76 Suzuki changed it all to standard production parts. The instrument pod had a cover that rolled out of the way when you put the key in, every one I’ve seen has been discolored and cracked from sun exposure.

      • Scotduke says

        Aha – thanks for the heads-up. I’m not sure how long the RE5 was available in Europe but I don’t think it was very long. I vaguely remember seeing one mentioned in a bike review in Motorcycle News that someone at my school had. Maybe Suzuki GB had stopped importing them before the switch to more conventional clocks.

        • Marc says

          The original launch version had lots of round themes as you mention, from the lovely & unusual clock pod with it’s opening tinted cover to the round indicators to the round tail light.

          Unfortunately the Re5 almost bust the Suzuki company, they had invested heavily in the rotary engine & sadly for them it came out right after the 1973 oil price shock and the Re5 was not that great for fuel mileage…..although owners today say a properly cleaned & set-up carb can see 40 miles per US gallon or a little more.
          But the writing was on the wall; like similarly thirsty 2 strokes they just couldn’t do much better & like 2 strokes burning oil in the process was never going to make friends with the environmental regulations coming in ever more demanding

          The 2nd version (with the GT750 clocks and standard Suzuki taillight) was an attempt to cut costs, it wasn’t so much a revision as trying to use cheaper components that were already being mass produced and not the more showey bespoke stuff it had started out with.

        • Marc says

          Heron Suzuki (as they were at the time) did offer both the 1st & 2nd version of the Re5 in the UK.

          Unfortunately, with the exception of the characteristics – and some might also say novelty – of the rotary engine itself, their own 75 – 77 Suzi GT750 offered everything (and more) than the Re5 could and at a significantly lower retail price.
          The GS750 would go on to do similar in 78 (with 4 stroke sophistication etc as it was then seen) as they tried to get rid of the last Re5′s.

          I wonder whatever happened to the unsold ones, crusher or warehouse somewhere?

  5. says

    In addition to the best known wankels mentioned above, other factories also built a good number of protypes. Unlikely players in this admittably limited field were MZ of East Germany (two prototypes; one aircooled and one watercooled) and Dnepr of Ukraine (several bikes, air- as well as watercooled versions too; http://www.autosoviet.altervista.org/VNIImotopromMT-919741m.jpg and http://www.autosoviet.altervista.org/motoprom.jpg). The Motoprom used an engine similar in appearance to the aircooled Nortons (http://www.autosoviet.altervista.org/VNIImotopromRD-66019852m.jpg).

    One can hardly imagine how many rotary projects could be found on the drawing boards of the world’s motorcycle manufacturers.

  6. Medicated Steve says

    DONT TOUCH IT! I bet a modern rotary with fuel injection ans engine management would work quite well.

  7. GenWaylaid says

    Let me suggest a third option to the “preserve it or ride it” dilemma: scan it.

    “Jay Leno’s Garage” did an interesting article recently about re-creating some parts for one of Jay’s steam cars using a 3D printer and a NextEngine 3D scanner. For $3000 the scanner saves you a lot of tedious CAD work. It does have the obvious limitation that it can’t scan internal cavities, but it can stitch together every aspect of a part’s external geometry and even map color photos onto the surface.

    In theory one could disassemble a bike, scan every part, and reassemble it in a CAD program. Modifying the design (like turning a single into a twin, for instance) would be possible with common CAD skills. Then replica parts or mold patterns could be printed in any scale desired. The selection of 3D printer materials is still limited, but anything plastic and anything that can be investment cast are fair game.

    Of course, you might not want to disassemble a factory-fresh bike like this one. Better a relatively low-miles, accident-free bike that is still dimensionally accurate. A few missing or damaged parts would be tolerable if they can be mirrored from existing bits. If you’re already doing a full tear-down restoration on a rare bike, the cost and time of the 3D scanning just might pay for itself after a couple worn parts with impossible-to-find replacements.

    There’s one big potential stumbling block, though. If you scan all the parts of a Suzuki, do you own the rights to the files, or does Suzuki? In the U.S. at least, 3D scanning and the restoration/re-manufacturing possibilities it creates could become illegal.

    • Eddy Current says

      Or you could do the 3D scanning with just a camera and a website, Adobe has a service which does this better but here is one choice I’ve used in the past.

      http://my3dscanner.com/

      Here’s an image of a 3D model I created of a small ivory statuette of the Sphinx I own, the digital noise background was used to help the software properly locate all the points on the images.

      http://i40.tinypic.com/5wkqrs.jpg

      And here is one of the actual images I used to create the 3D model.

      http://i43.tinypic.com/2sb7vpg.jpg

      And here is an image of my digitizing setup, the two flashes bounce off the ceiling for as even illumination as possible and you rotate the entire stage area between shots.

      http://i41.tinypic.com/2s7cpec.jpg

      • GenWaylaid says

        Very neat, Eddy Current. The parallax method of generating 3D information from regular camera images is remarkably powerful as long as the object being scanned has enough visual surface texture (which you can add artificially with markers or stickers if necessary).

        The NextEngine scanner is just an example of LIDAR direct ranging finally becoming affordable. It may not be too long before you can scavenge LIDAR units off of late-model cars to build scanning set-ups for large objects on the cheap.

  8. James says

    Not riding such a beautiful machine created by it’s engineers to be free and enjoyed is a shame.. Start her up and put her on the road…..

  9. Bigshankhank says

    A few years back I was at a local dealer for a new model unveiling (unveilment?) and the owner of the shop had an unrestored 75 RE5 with less than 10 miles on it. He knew it would end up being unique enough to buy and shuffle away for the future. Somewhere out there are a bunch of D16RRs just waiting for their investment potential to be realized in the same way…

  10. Medicated Steve says

    That’s just it. Its a time game. That’s why I’m torn between selling my Buell Xb. Although I only ride it about 20 miles a year, one day my son might enjoy this piece of history. Or maybe it will become profitable to sell it in 30 years. I bet somewhere there is a place with a bunch of old motorcycles with little to no mileage on them, and no its not heaven. Its probably a warehouse in the middle of nowhere that is owned by an estate just waiting to get found.

  11. MARK 5 says

    All good points for an interesting motor.With today’s technology it could be made better.Fuel injection and turbo charger would be great on a modern frame.

  12. says

    Strange stuff those Wankels. Highly sought after or just a hype? Over here in the small town ‘Dieren ‘in the Netherlands there is an army surplus motorstore that has some ex Police Norton Wankels for sale, For years now. I regularly informed rotarians about their existence, but they are still there. And might remain so, Since Gert Kranenburg, founder, owner director of the one man shop Gekra Motors mentions’ “Why should I advertise them? They eat no bread and nice to see.. Gerrit has a lot of British background, but te core business of his one man emopire is re-selling ex army- and police MZ’s to German and Cuban (!) two stroke nostaligiafreaks. Nice!