Welcome to the RE-5 section of ROTARY RECYCLE USA. Looking toward the future, Suzuki was convinced that the Wankel Rotary engine was the power source for tomorrow’s motorcycle. In 1970 they obtained a Rotary license from NSU/WANKEL and placed their full engineering team on an intensive Rotary Engine Development Program. By mid 1973, they had taken their secret RX-5 (Rotary Xperimental – 500cc) project from the drawing board to a fully-operational, Rotary-powered motorcycle.
The new RX-5 prototype made its grand debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in January of 1974. From the machine’s first unveiling, the response was overwhelming. The new, revolutionary Rotary cycle completely stole the show and placed Suzuki at the forefront in Rotary motorcycle engineering and technology. Armed with a stack of outstanding press reviews and a multitude of pre-production orders, Suzuki reviewed the current overall Rotary motorcycle picture. They became aware that Yamaha had their twin rotor RZ-201 Rotary nearly ready for production, Honda had their CRX Rotary prototype going through testing, Kawasaki had their X-99 type Rotary on the drawing board, and Sachs/Hercules of Germany was in the process of constructing an assembly line for their new W-2000 Rotary machine.
In view of this and riding high on the hype of the Rotary wave, Suzuki decided to go into full production with a slightly modified and refined version of the RX-5 prototype, now called the RE-5. By June of 1974, the first RE-5s came trickling off the assembly line, due in part to a series of teething and initial supply problems. In September of 1974, the grand unveiling of the new RE-5 Rotary made its simultaneous debut in Germany, England, France, Spain, Belgium, and the United States. The US, being the largest motorcycle market in the world, had six same-day showings. ROTARY RECYCLE USA was present at the #2 Las Vegas Hilton show and recalls that Suzuki spared no expense to make it a success (starting the Friday night before the show when a special open house with food, drink, and entertainment was held in the main banquet hall for the press, dealers, and invited guests).
The next day the grand unveiling was held in the same banquet hall, which has now been transformed into an exquisite showplace for the RE-5 Rotary. Walking through the main entrance doors, one was greeted by a sea of people. Displayed immediately to the right were three elevated, slowly-revolving turntables featuring RE-5s — the first was a yellow tank model, the second was a firemist red, and the third was a firemist silver-gray “Road King Tourer” (this impressive model was equipped with full faring, bags, rack, and travel trunk). Accompanying each turning Rotary was a stunning, smiling hostess gracefully pointing to various features on the machine and a factory representative or engineer to answer any questions. (Note: The most frequently asked question was when to expect delivery… the answer, mid October.)
Now further into the show, noticeably hung directly on the back wall was a large video screen with an ongoing promotional video of the RE-5 in action (complimented below with a long table containing various foods, pastry, and refreshments). The left wall featured three different cut-a-way Rotary engines on pedestals, giving one a detailed insight into the simple mechanical works of a Wankel engine. Next came the “Photo-op” RE-5 section. Here everyone was given an opportunity to get a free 8×10 photograph of themselves standing next to a new, firemist red RE-5. And lastly, on the way out there was a long table that was loaded with free promotional items, such as brochures, flyers, specification sheets, wall posters, pens, pencils, banners, press release packets, and more.
All six shows were considered a tremendous success and were not only praised with outstanding press reviews, but a serious amount of RE-5 orders were taken. However, a glitch in the production of the RE-5 popped up soon after. Suzuki reluctantly had to announce a postponement of the mid-October delivery date until January. The extended three-and-a-half month wait did not sit very well with dealers, for this led to customer order cancellations and started the rumor mill grinding about the reliability of the Rotary. But to much dismay, Suzuki kept their word. By the middle of January 1975, the RE-5 Rotary was on the showroom floor.
A few months later a series of carburetor problems surfaced, and Suzuki issued special service bulletins to correct this through the “Quiet Recall” Program. Though the carburetor problem was simple enough to repair, word of mouth exploited the situation and blew it far out of proportion (to such an extent that 1975 RE-5 sales took a nose dive). In September the new and improved 1976 model made its debut and sales picked up somewhat; but unfortunately it was not enough. Suzuki quietly ceased production a few months later.