The Corpus Christi Old Car Museum Auction

Lot 105
1974 Suzuki RE-5 Motorcycle

Selling on Saturday

1974 Suzuki RE-5 Motorcycle


• Technology pioneer with Wankel rotary engine
• Short production run; exceedingly rare today
• Interesting “garage find” example

497 cc liquid-cooled, single-rotor Wankel engine, 61.9 HP at 6,500 RPM, five-speed gearbox, chain drive, hydraulic fork front suspension, rear coil-over shock absorbers, hydraulic brakes with twin floating-caliper discs front and drum rear; wheelbase: 1,500 mm (59”)

Developed by Dr. Felix Wankel, the rotary-type internal-combustion engine bearing his name was widely heralded during the 1960s and 1970s as a possible alternative to piston-type engines. Elegantly simple, the Wankel rotary offered high output from a far smaller engine displacement and lower weight. Motorcycle manufacturers were intrigued for obvious reasons, with the Hercules/DKW W2000 the first rotary-powered production motorcycle; however, soft sales limited production to just the 1974 model year. Other manufacturers offered rotary-powered models, including DKW, Norton and Van Veen.

At the time, all four major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers either planned, or built prototypes, of rotary-powered motorcycles. Yamaha exhibited the twin-rotor RZ-201 at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1972, and both Honda and Kawasaki tested prototypes. Suzuki was most committed to development of a Wankel model, with years of research and development work leading to technical licensing of the concept from NSU in 1970. Suzuki’s Wankel research yielded 20 new patents covering machining processes and material plating techniques. Two years of prototype testing culminated in the launch of the RE-5 in 1974, with NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell enlisted to introduce and endorse the new bike.

A technical tour de force, the complex RE-5 included liquid- and oil-cooling for the engine, double-skinned exhaust pipes, CDI ignition and a complex engine-lubrication system including two separate oil pumps, with five control cables actuated by the throttle twist grip. Noted stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the RE-5, including the cylindrical instrument cluster, taillight, and spherical signal lights. Two RE-5 models were produced, including the “M’ of 1975 and the ‘A’ for 1976 with less-radical styling. Generally smooth, the RE-5 engine produced outstanding torque and good fuel economy. Options included a full touring kit including a large full fairing incorporating lockable compartments and a windscreen, twin saddlebags and a large cargo rack mounting a lockable storage box. Some 6,000 RE-5s were produced from 1974 through 1977, but surviving examples are quite rare today.

Equipped with the optional fairing, this 1974 Suzuki RE-5 was last Texas road-registered in 1987. Earlier in its lifetime, it was used for commuting to and from the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. A very interesting “garage find” example, this RE-5 shows under 30,000 indicated miles of use and, as offered, it appears to require extensive cleaning, detailing, and servicing prior to any contemplated road use after many years of storage indoors. Nonetheless, it is an example of advanced technology brought to production reality by Suzuki.

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