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Europe got the benefit of Suzuki's two-
stroke expertise In a succession of air-cooled
twins, the six-speed 250 cc Super Six being
the most memorable, but the arrival In 1968 of
the first of a series of 500 cc twins which w.-e
good looking, robust and versatile marked the
start of mainstream success.
So confident were Suzuki of their
two-stroke expertise that they even applied It
to the burgeoning Superbike sector. The
GT750 water-cooled triple arrived in 1972. It
was big, fast and comfortable although the
handling and stopping power did draw some
comment. Whatever U'Ie drawbacks of the road
bike, the engine was1mmensely successful in
Superblke and Formula 750 racing. The
roadst8' has Its devotees, ttIOugh, and is now a
sought-after bike on the classic Japanese
scene. Do not refer to it as the Water Buffalo in
such company. Joking aside, the later
disc-braked VelSlons were quite civllised, but
the audacious idea of using a big two-stroke
motor In what was essentially a touring bike
was a surprising success until the fuel crisis of
the mld-'70s effectively kHled off big str0ker8.
The same could be said of Suzuki's only
real lemon, the RE5. This Is still the only mass-
produced bike to use the rotary (or Wankel)
engine but never sold well. Fuel consumption
in the mid-teens allied to frightening
complexity and excess weight meant the RE5
was a non-starter in the sales race.
Development of the
Four-stroke range
hen Suzuki got round to building a
four-stroke they did a V8fY good job
of It. The GS fours w.-e built in 550,
650, 750, 850 1000 and 1100 cc sizes in
sports, custom, roadster and even shaft-
driven touring forms over many years. The
The GS4OO was the first in a line of four-stroke twins
RE5 of 1985
GS1000 was in on the
of Superbike
racing in the early 1970s and the GS850
shaft-driven tourer was around nearly 15
years later. The fours spawned a line of 400,
425. 450 and 500 cc GS twins that were
essentially the middle half of the four with all
their reliability. If there was ever a criticism of
the GS models it was that with
of the GS1000S of 1980, colloquially known
as the ice-cream van, the range was visually
they nearly made the same mistake when
they launched the four-valve-head GSX750 In
1979. Fortunately, the original twin-shock
version was soon replaced by the 'E'-model
with Full-Floater rear suspension and a full set
of all the gadgets the Japanese industry was
then keen on and has since forgotten about,
like 16-inch front wheels and anti-dive ~s.
The air-cooled GSX was like the GS built in
550, 750 and 1100 cc versions with a variety
of half, full and touring fairings, but the GSX
that Is best remembered is the Katana that
first appeared In 1981. The power was
provided by an 1 000 or 11 00 cc GSX motor,
but wrapped
it was the most
outrageous styling package to come out of
Japan. Designed by Hans Muth of Target
DesIgn, the Katana looked like nothing seen
before or since. At the time there was as
much anti feeling as praise, but now it Is
rightly regarded as a classic, a true milestone
in motorcycle design. The factory have even
started making 250 and 400 cc fours for the
home market with the same styling as the
1981 bike.
Just to remind us that they'd still been
building two-strokes for the likes of Barry
Sheene, In 1986 Suzuki marketed a road-
going version of their RG500 square-four
racer which had put an end to the era of the
four-stroke in 500 GPs when it appeared in
1974. In 1976 Suzuki not only won their first
500 title with Sheene, they sold RG5OOs over
the counter and won every GP with them -
with the exoeption of the Isle of Man TT which
the works rkJers boycotted. Ten years on, the
RGSOO Gamma gave road riders the nearest
experience they'd ever get to riding a GP bike.


   Also See for Suzuki GS500E TWIN

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