A Brief History of Suzuki Motorcycles
In the early 1900s, the silk industry in Japan was thriving. In 1909, Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Company to build industrial looms. The company was based in Hamamatsu.
It was quite some time before Suzuki moved into the automotive market. The company had experimented with several small cars before World War II. However, because civilian vehicles were declared as non essential, these never went into production.
After the war, Suzuki manufactured clip-on motors for bicycles.
In 1953, Suzuki introduced the Diamond Free which featured a two speed transmission and double sprocket wheel mechanism.
Then in 1955, the Colleda COX made its debut. This was a 125cc overhead valve single cylinder four stroke with a three speed transmission.
In 1961, whilst racing for the East German MZ team in the Swedish Grand Prix, Ernst Degner defected to the west. He took MZ’s expansion chamber technology, designed by Walter Kaaden, to Suzuki. This technology was developed further by Suzuki to win the 50cc World Championship from 1962 through to 1967.
In 1963, U.S. Suzuki Motor Corp. opened in Los Angeles, California. A couple of years later, the T20 was introduced. Also known as the Super 6, X-6 and Hustler, this street-going twin cylinder two stroke was one of the fastest bikes in its class. The ‘6’ in its name referred to its six-speed gearbox.
In 1968, the air-cooled parallel-twin two-stroke T500 ‘Titan’ was introduced.
In 1970, Joel Robert won the 250cc World Motocross Championship for Suzuki.
1971 saw the introduction of the three cylinder two stroke liquid cooled GT750. In the USA, the GT750 was nicknamed the Water Buffalo and in the UK they were called Kettles. The smaller air-cooled triples, the GT380 and GT550, were also introduced.
At the same time the GT750 was in development, Suzuki had signed a licensing deal with NSU to develop a motorcycle with a Wankel (rotary) engine. In 1974, the RE5 was the first Japanese motorcycle with a rotary engine. It was expensive to develop but unfortunately was not a commercial success, and after two years, the project was abandoned.
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