The history of Suzuki motorcycles as we know it.


Suzuki founder Mr Michio Suzuki was born in 1887 in Hamamatsu and Suzuki is still located there. In 1909 Michio set up in business building silk-weaving loms. It wasn't until 1937 that Suzuki crated a prototype engine and entered an agreement of manufacture Austin 7 cars under license. However, the country was on war footing and Suzuki was obliged to commit to ordnance production instead when the war was over. Suzuki began making looms again,  but a shortage of silk led to the company's manufacture of farm machinery and heaters. At this time, in his 60's Mr Suzuki was well aware of the advantages of powered transport and desided to produce a motorised bicycle. Building of the prototype started in November 1951. It was powered by a 36cc 2-stroke engine, which could be clipped on to the frame of any bicycle, nestling above the bottom bracket in the base of the frame diamond. In June 1952 the first Suzuki was sold. It was known as the "Power Free". It was followed by the 60cc "Diamond Free" in March -53, which won the Mount Fuji hill climb the same year in it's own class. Unveiling of the Suzuki's first road bike "Colleda" was in May 1954. Colleda succeeded Diamond Free's succes in the Mount Fuji hill climb. 90cc Colleda beat all of it's 85 rivals. Colleda got a 125cc engine in 1955. In 1957 Suzuki opened a new factory. With it's new factory, Suzuki's production capacity came closer to Honda's production volumes.

In the year 1960 Suzuki entered the Isle of Man TT races. Racing didn`t bring in money, however, so along with other Japanese makes, Suzuki build small commuter bikes. Typical were the K- and M-series two-stroke singles of the early 1960s, which were made in huge numbers. The K10 and K11 accounted for more than 500,000 units. One of the attractions of these machines was their oil-injection system. Suzukis had separate oil tanks that supplied lubricant via CCI ( Controlled Crankshaft Injection ) system according to engine revs and throttle opening. Other model from the early 1960s included the Twinace and the 246cc T10, an evolution of the twin-cylinder Colleda TT from 1956, with a pressed-steel frame and relatively bland styling. the 1963 T10 was equipped with an elecric starter and flashing indicators, reinforcing the Japanese commitment to user-friendly machines.

Suzuki`s road bike range had been essentialy unsporting until 1966, when it released its first true sport machine, the T20 super six, Known as the X6 in the USA. It was powered by an all-new 247cc two-stroke twin fitted in a tubular steel frame, with alloy barrels and 24mm carburettors, from Eastwood and driving through a six-speed gearbox. The super six developed 29 bhp and was capable of 145 kph, setting new standarts for the 250cc category. It did wonders for Suzuki`s image on the export market. Suzuki brought out the T200 and 177kph T500 Cobra a year later. The T500 remaind in production as the GT500 until 1977, by which time it came with a front disc brake and electric ignition. In 1972 the popular 500 twin was joined by a couple of two-stroke triples, the six-speed GT380 and GT550, together with the GT125 and GT185 twins, featurin " Ram Air " cylinder cowling. The GT550 lasted until 1977 and the GT380 just two years more.

In 1976 Suzuki came out with the 68bhp GS750, which was a big air-cooled four-cylinder twin-cam machine, in a similar mound to products from Honda and Kawasaki, but somewhat quicker. It had a stiffer frame than the Honda and handled better. In 1977 Suzuki capitalised on the success of the GS750 with the 997cc GS1000, the companys biggest bike so far, developing 87bhp, it could hit 217kph, with adjustable suspension and handling to match.

The GS sportsters were dropped in 1981 in favor of the four-valve GSX series. The GSX series that epitomised Suzuki`s sports bikes was launched in 1980 with the 100bhp GSX1100 and 750 models. They were fitted with the new four-valveTSCC ( Twin Swirl Combustion Chamber ) cylinder head. Folowing year Suzuki introduced the Katana, fitted with low bars and small cockpit fairing, and available with a number of diffirent four-cylinder 16 valve engines ranging from 250 to 1100cc.

Race replicas are nothing new, with Grand Prix copies going back to the earliest days of motorcycling. In the mid 1980s, however, Suzuki unveiled its road-going GSX-R series, which was very close to the works endurance racers of the early 1980s. Suzuki had already established a commendable racing record with the square-four RG500 in Grand Prix racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Barry Sheene, Keith Heuwen, Greame Grosby and Franco Uncini, and later Kevin Schwantz with the V4 RGV500. Suzuki`s victory in the world endurance championship in 1983 prefaced the launch of the GSX-R in september 1984, now build around an aluminium beam frame, the GSX-R`s lightweight four-cylinder 1100cc engine was part air-cooled, part oil-cooled.

In 1985 Suzuki released the mother of all Race replicas, the ever-so-famous GSX-R750. Ever since Suzuki has ruled the street going superbike market.



The Encyclopedia of Motorcycles, Roger Hicks, Silverdale Books 2001
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles, Kevin Ash, Quantum Books 2000

To be continued...