KIDNEY, ANYONE?: Never-titled Suzuki RE5 rotary motorcycle

Given the strengths of the rotary engine, you would imagine that they would be a natural fit for motorcycles. Small displacement, high power and high revving, these are all prerequisites for a motorcycle engine. Surprisingly only a handful of motorcycle manufacturers brought one to market. Sure, in the mid-1970s all of the major Japanese brands had prototypes for a rotary motorcycle but of those brands, it was only Suzuki who pulled the trigger in 1975 when they made the Suzuki RE5 that you see before you. 

This particular RE5 has never been titled and only reads 3,079 miles on the odometer. I would venture to say that this could be the last “new” Suzuki RE5 left on Earth. The seller says it was used as a dealership demo bike to show off Vetter Fairings when it was new, hence that awesome era-correct sissy bar on the back. The bike was then put into storage prior to the current owner purchasing it.

According to the owner, it ran a year ago but will need a service before starting it again, in addition to addressing the seized front brake cable. Luckily this bike comes with a sizable stash of NOS parts so getting it back on the road won’t be too hard it looks like.

It’s strange to see the rotary triangle logo without a Mazda name on it. The engine was actually fairly well received in the era and does make a respectable amount of power, making over 100 horsepower per liter, at 62hp out of it’s 497cc engine. For the era that was quite a bit of power. By comparison, a ’76 Honda CB750A made 67 horsepower.

Minus some minor wear to the stickers and badging, the bike looks to be in fantastic condition. I love how over-the-top the flake is on the paint. It’s not ostentatious fishing boat level, but it’s still a markedly 70s-looking paint job.

One of the most iconic features of the design of this bike is its “tin can” instrument cluster. This design is also referenced with the design of the tail light as well. The RE5 was one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s many contributions to the automobile and motorcycle landscape and, as goes with most of Giugiaro’s work, is very polarizing.

One of the other interesting design features of the RE5 is the cooling ports on the exhaust. As rotary engine exhausts get significantly hotter than traditional engines, Suzuki wanted to protect their riders from burning themselves. Suzuki added the cooling ports seen above in addition to the finned exhaust manifold, double walled tailpipes and a number of other features.

Suzuki was really serious about their engineering of the exhaust between trying to keep the noise down with the rotary engine and from burning their riders alive, Anakin Skywalker style. It was also one of the loudest motorcycles made in Japan during the era, so Suzuki had to be very careful to keep the sound down without killing power.

The Suzuki RE5 is a pretty rare bird by any standards and fell into obscurity for quite some time. In more recent years they’ve been getting some traction in the collector market mostly due to the novelty of a rotary powered motorcycle. It doesn’t fail to turn heads at vintage bike shows either. If you’re a rotary fan and want to complete your collection by adding this bike to it for $6,500, check out post on Craigslist Indianapolis.

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14 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE?: Never-titled Suzuki RE5 rotary motorcycle

  1. Cesariojpn says:

    So, how does one title a bike with no title?

  2. Paul says:

    Personally, I would be particularly worried about the condition of the radiator, water pump and internal corrosion. I would imagine a tear-down would be in order. And parts may be another story.
    Nice bike though. Never had one but Water Buffalos were around when I was young.

  3. Joe Hornberger says:

    This, in the back of a Mazda REPU; would totally kill it in car shows and/or motorcycle shows!

    • Christopher Huffine says:

      There is a fellow near Nashville, TN, who is a member of the RE5 forum (as am I) who carries his RE5 in a REPU.. This RE5 is identical to my 9600 mile example. Still currently under restoration, some parts are extremely difficult to find. Unfortunately, there are no internal engine parts available, so if you are of a mind to find and purchase one, make sure it runs! Suzuki’s policy was complete replacement of the rotary proper, if there were issues, so only being produced for two years, no internal parts were made available.

      • Anthony Stephenson says:

        you selling you low mile example?

        • Christopher Huffine says:

          Nope, it’s a permanent part of my collection, which so far, consists of a ’74 Toyota Hi Lux pickup, a ’91 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, and a ’94 Suzuki Swift 3 door hatch.

  4. Mar Newton-John says:

    I remember seeing one in Imperial Beach, CA way back in 1975, when I rode my bike to Ream Field NAS. I recognized it immediately, and thought how cool it was, as it was about the only motorcycle with liquid cooling.

  5. Mar Newton-John says:

    I wonder how many tries it took to kick start it?

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