Suzuki RE 5 Rotary

Jess Stockwell’s Restoration of a 1976 Suzuki RE5A

Return to the RE5 mailing list homepage [Jess has done us all a service, not only for bringing this beautiful RE5 back to life, but by documenting his work along the way. These photos give an amazing look at the inside of an RE5, and provide guidance and inspiration for all of us who follow in the same footsteps. ]

I have always been fascinated by Rotary engines. As a young man I built and raced many Mazda Rx-7’s. I am often confused by others lack of understanding of the beautiful simplicity of Rotary engines.

I was too young in addition to being too broke to buy an Re5 when they were first released.

About eight years ago, I was perusing the classifieds when I saw an ad for two that “needed work”. I told my wife that we might be having a couple of “new arrivals”. My wife, a goddess by the way, is always excited about the junk I drag home and is sometimes even more excited about it than I am.

I went to look at the bikes and while they were fairly complete, they would require a full restoration. I hoped to make one good bike using parts from both, so I made a deal, and I drug them home. After about a year of messing about with them, I had acquired two more rotary junkers and still had not any real progress.

Time passed and my wife and I decided to move about thirteen hundred miles distant. So in an effort to pair down moving expenses (I had nine bikes at the time) I sold the whole mess to a guy from Texas who wanted the motors for a rotary project that I was never quite sure I understood.

When we got settled in our new home and town, I had some space and decided I needed another Re5. One morning I got up and announced that I needed to go to Ohio to pick up the Re5 I had purchased in the wee hours of the A.M. on E-bay. My wife gave me kiss, packed me lunch, and told me to have fun.

I told you she is a goddess.

I brought it home and set to work. It was a very complete bike that to this day I hate to touch since I sorted it out. I call it my “Rat bike” and as of yet it has never, ever, failed to start or leave me stranded anywhere, despite all of the neglect it faced in its life prior to coming to live with me.

Last year I happened across a set of three Re5 motorcycles that were for sale. According to the owner, one was a “runner” and the other two were purchased for the express purpose of becoming spares. The owner was moving and could not take all the bikes as moving them would cost more than they were worth.

I went to look at them and found that the “runner” was pretty rough and could be called a “runner” by only the most euphemistic. He needed to get rid of the whole mess and so we came to a deal.

At the time, I knew a young guy who was looking for a budget Re5 and thought the “runner” would be perfect for him. I was only really interested in the parts bikes for myself as spares. Spares are always welcome, especially when the spares are for a bike that only had about seven thousand units produced.

When I carted all the bikes home (I use the term bikes VERY loosely), the first thing out of my wife’s mouth was “I hope you didn’t pay anything for that junk. The guy should have paid you to haul it off” This was the first time she had ever said anything but “Cool!” or something to that effect…so I knew this stuff was really ugly. I assured her that I had just brought it home for spares.

I spent the next three days in my shop disassembling the bikes and loading the parts into plastic storage bins. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the parts bikes before I began to strip them.

I spent about 8 hours making the word “runner” apply to the third bike and then called the guy I knew and told him to come get it. He was ecstatic.

Suzuki RE 5 Rotary

In November 2003, I was out in my shed looking at the tubs of parts when I decided it was time to build an Re5 from the ground up. I intended to take reams of photos of the process to document the rebirth but found at times I was so involved in the work that I forgot.

My thanks to my friend Sam Costanzo, without him all Re5s would have died quietly many years ago.

Questions, comments and even flames (only if you can spell and use proper grammar) are always appreciated.


Jess Stockwell [click on images to view full-size versions]

Frame, swingarm and front forks. [just look at those front forks, and fender! and spokes! I’m scared already!]

Suzuki RE 5 Rotary
Suzuki RE 5 Rotary
Suzuki RE 5 Rotary
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