Additional photos of this Gamma are available here for your perusal.
Derived straight from Suzuki’s half-liter RG Gamma XR45 factory Grand Prix racer, the RG500 was a road-legal replica racer produced between 1985 and 1987. From the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘80s, Suzuki was a dominant force in premier class competition. Barry Sheene achieved back-to-back 500cc championship titles in ’76 and ’77 before the Gallina Suzuki team repeated the feat half-a-decade-later with riders Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini in ’81 and ’82. Suzuki also won seven consecutive 500cc Class Constructors’ titles around this same time.
To capitalize on the brand’s reputation for building high-performance race bikes, Suzuki decided to develop a slightly-tamed production version of its competition square-four machine. The production model’s engine was based on the XR45’s race-bred 130 hp unit.
The 498cc, rotary valve, twin-crank, two-stroke, square-four featured Mikuni 28mm flat-side carbs, an exhaust utilizing SAEC (Suzuki Automatic Exhaust Control), a six-speed cassette-style gearbox, and thermostatically controlled liquid-cooling. Elements such as the barrels and crankcases on the RG500 were virtually identical to those on the XR45, though a few changes were obviously made for the sake of the road-going model’s longevity.
The race-derived motor put down as much as 95 hp at 9,500rpm and 53ft-lbs of torque at 8,000rpm. Weighing in at just 340lbs dry, the RG offered a top speed of over 130mph and could fire off quarter-mile runs in 11-seconds flat. The Suzuki’s 16-inch front-wheel held a set of twin 260 mm discs and quad-piston calipers while the 17-inch rear hoop sported a single 210 mm disc with a dual-pot caliper.
Like the powertrain, the RG500’s frame was also borrowed straight off the race bike; a lightweight box-section aluminum alloy perimeter frame with a cast steering head that funneled air toward the carbs. Tacked onto the front was a set of 38mm forks with preload adjustment and Suzuki’s “POSI DAMP” anti-dive system, while out back the square-section double-sided alloy swing-arm was hooked up to a full-floating mono-shock.
In its first year in ’85, some 7,340 examples were produced, while another 1,412 units were built in ’86, followed by a final 532 specimens in ’87, making for a total of only 9,284 in its entire three-year run. Due to emissions regulations (among other reasons), Suzuki never officially sold the RG500 Gamma in America, though it was offered in Canada so a few grey market examples have found their way across the border. The company also produced a 59hp 400cc variant — the RG400 — for its native Japanese market, as well as limited-edition versions of the RG.
Classic Motorbikes described the Gamma’s place among its competitors by stating, “Place the RD500, NS400 and RG500 Gamma side-by-side and you would have three of the top manufacturers attempts at producing a replica of their respective GP racers, however, with all but one of those machines, all you purchased was a mere shadow of the original design. That is not to say the others were rubbish, far from it in fact, but the RG was definitely nearer the mark, and actually far closer to the race machine than you might ever imagine. The Suzuki is almost an exact replica of the race machine.”
Currently located in Marina del Rey, California, this particular 1986 RG500 (VIN: JS1HM31A4G2100661) was a Canadian market example that was eventually imported into Michigan. In the summer of 2006, it came into the possession of the current owner who has kept it in their private collection ever since. The super clean 1986 specimen is a far cry from its original factory spec, with more than $10,000 invested in the bike in aftermarket goodies, high-performance internals, and other go-fast bits. Among the extensive list of mods include modified clutch baskets with oil passages, Tommy Crawford chambers, 5 degree cut rotors, all new gears in the transmission, Tecnomagnesio Vortice wheels (3.5×17 front, 5.5×17 rear), Brembo brakes (4-piston front, 2-piston rear), stainless steel brake lines, ported and polished cylinders, Race Tech cartridge emulators (anti dive removed), Fox shock with 340# spring, braced swing arm, relocated battery box and oil tank, Drysdale billet shifter shaft support, Drysdale billet clutch cover, bored carbs (to 30.8 by Rick Lance), Lance Air Filters, Grosse Needle Valves, updated radiator from a GSX-R, carbon fork brace, carbon rearset plates, carbon tire hugger, new seat, new mirrors, bar-end weights from a Yamaha TZ, and a Rick Lance nose fairing with integrated European signal lights…it’s a long, long list of upgrades.
The original gauge cluster (kph) was replaced with a mph unit, so the indicated mileage is higher than actual mileage – we’d estimate the latter to be approximately 5,000 miles. In its current state, this example has been dyno’d at 100 hp at the crank! It also received a complete servicing at the end of 2018 from us – the work included a fork rebuilt, fluid flush (brakes/coolant/transmission, carb rebuild, new tires, and several small parts.
Despite its grey market nature, this specimen comes with a California certificate of title, which can be a real hassle to get (that is if you can even get it at all). Overall the bike is in remarkable shape both inside and out, though it does have a few minor imperfections in the form of a couple small scratches on the upper fairing and lower cowl (viewable in the photos).