We love a good Suzuki RG500 here at Rescogs. But we have to admit to being double-chuffed to stumble over this particular RG500 Gamma on our travels.
The reason is that it belongs to former Suzuki GP legend Kevin Schwantz. I’d imagine you’re now picturing a Pepsi or Lucky Strike Suzuki wearing the number ’34′ either crossing the finishing line first or launching itself into the gravel. His win or crash approach inspired a legion of fans, including one Valentino Rossi, but unusually for a less cautious rider, he was also able winning a World Championship in 1993.
Mr Schwantz bought the Suzuki RG500 this summer, but before it is crated and shipped to the U.S, he wanted someone to give it a once over. So he got one of his former GP mechanics involved. Paul Boulton spannered for Kevin back in his early days with Suzuki and helped the American in his first full year on the now-legendary Pepsi Suzuki RGV500. Paul also worked on the carbon-fibre square four machine that’s often forgotten by both fans and even Kevin himself, so we’ll be following that up in a future story.
This particular Suzuki RG500 was discovered in mainland Europe, and other than the pipes, it’s pretty much stock. Although, Paul Boulton does suspect an engine change may have been done in the past. The brakes on the Suzuki were totally shot, so Paul sourced and fitted some new EBC items – it seems Suzuki have run out of new stock!. And while the RG500 was up on the bench, PB also set about the calipers, rebuilding all three and giving the forks a birthday.
The lucky Suzuki RG500 Gamma will be reassembled, polished, and then crated up for a cushy life with Kevin Schwantz. I still associate his early days with the Trans-Atlantic meets which saw him ride the rims off a Suzuki GSX-R750 Slabside. I’ve no idea if he’s got one of those too, but if not, I’m sure we could help him find one!
The Suzuki RG500:
The Suzuki RG500 Gamma was built between 1985-1987, inspired by the 1984 Suzuki RG500 Gamma GP machine. The two stroke, rotary valve square four engine claimed 93.7bhp at 9,500rpm. It was liquid-cooled, with an aluminium frame and swing arm. The RG500 road bike also featured an anti-dive system for the front suspension.
Production numbers roughly total 9284 for the Suzuki RG500, and 6213 for the similar RG400 produced for Asian markets.
- RG500: 1985: 7340, 1986: 1412, 1987: 532. Total 9284.
- RG400: 1985: 5002, 1986: 863, 1987: 348. Total 6213.
Schwantz was born in Houston, Texas, on June 19, 1964, to motorcycle shop-owning parents. After learning to ride at the age of four, he began a competitive career in trials, before switching to motocross as a teenager. A serious crash in 1983 saw him move to road racing.
In 1985, Schwantz began racing for the Yoshimura Suzuki Superbike Team in AMA Superbikes, but it was in 1987 his fierce battles began with Wayne Rainey, which continued even when they were supposedly team-mates against the British in the 1987 Trans-Atlantic Match Races.
After riding as a wildcard in 1986 and 1987, he signed for Suzuki’s 500cc Grand Prix team in 1988 and immediately won the opening round at Suzuka. In addition to his rivalry with Wayne Rainey, he was also now up against Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson and Randy Mamola amongst others.
Partly attributed to the deficiencies of the Suzuki GP machine, and partly due to his determination to win, Schwantz was famous for his do-or-die approach, which led to quotes such as ‘Wait till you see God, then brake’, following his 1991 last lap past at the Hockenheimring.
Schwantz won the 1993 title, but crashes in 1994 and a conversation in 1995 with Wayne Rainey, who had been left paralyzed after a 1993 crash, saw him retire from Grand Prix with 25 total wins, making him the second most successful American GP racer behind Eddie Lawson, and one place ahead of Rainey.
Since then he’s raced in NASCAR, run a track school, and not only been inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and recognised as an official Grand Prix ‘Legend’ by the FIM, but the number 34 was also retired as a tribute to his popularity.
And this year, at the age of 49, he took a podium at the Suzuki 8 Hour race with Team Kagayama, with team-mates Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga. Now that’s cool.