“The Dragon on an RG500 is the closest you can get heaven…”
Introduced in 1985, the Suzuki RG500 Gamma was one of the most faithful two-stroke street-legal replica racers ever produced. It was derived directly from Suzuki’s RG Gamma XR45 factory 500cc Grand Prix racer — a two-stroke, square-four beast whose forebears won back-to-back championships beneath Barry Sheene in 1976-77 and Marco Lucchinelli / Franco Uncini in 1981-82.
With the brand winning a string of consecutive 500cc Class Constructors’ titles, Suzuki knew it was time to create a street-legal version of the GP racer — not unlike Honda’s NS400 triple and Yamaha’s RZ500 V-4. It would be no mere styling exercise, but a slightly-tamed production racer with lights. In fact, Suzuki themselves made quite the bold statement at the bike’s unveiling:
“No one has ever built a road machine so close in technical basis to a current GP winner. Quite frankly we do not expect that anyone else ever will.” -Suzuki
Like the GP version, the road-going RG would feature a 498cc rotary valve, twin-crank, two-stroke square-four with SAEC (Suzuki Automatic Exhaust Control) and thermostatically controlled liquid-cooling.
“The Suzuki is almost an exact replica of the race machine, its roots can be traced directly to the 1983 factory XR45 and the crankcases, barrels and general engine layout are virtually identical to the bikes ridden by Sheene, Mamola, Crosby and the rest of the factory boys.” –Classic Motorbikes
The RG500 boasted more than 100 hp at the crank and weighed 20 pounds less than Honda’s NS400R in factory trim — making for impressive performance numbers straight off the showroom floor:
“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.” –Iconic Motorbikes
What’s more, the bike could easily tuned for more power, with owners claiming 120+ hp with simple modifications. Unfortunately, we never received this GP-bred machine here in the States…at least officially:
“Eventually a few did slip over the border from our northern friends, and somehow managed to get license plates.” –Rider
One of those is the 1985 RG500 you see here. It’s owned by our new friend Ian Kuschatka, who grew up racing two-stroke motocrossers:
“I think most motorcycle guys love a two-stroke, but I feel especially drawn to them after spending my youth racing MX.”
Ian had always wanted to own an RG500, and after three years of trying, he finally convinced his friend and fellow Gamma owner Toby to sell him a spare RG500. He then got to work in his 24×12 backyard shed, building up the beast.
“It was always my dream to own an RG500 and when I got the chance I didn’t hesitate! I rebuilt the entire motor, had the heads welded and remachined for new squish, the works!”
Toomey Racing handled the porting, and other highlights include Wolf pipes, Lance gamma filters, Cogent rear shock, Marvic magnesium wheels, and GSX-R forks and brakes. As you can see, Ian makes sure the RG gets ridden as it should, making regular trips to the legendary Tail of the Dragon and other twisties.
“The Dragon on an RG500 is the closest you can get heaven.“
Ian says the bike is surprisingly docile at low rpm, but the bike becomes a real animal on song:
“The real fun begins after 7k when the powervalves close and it turns into a rip-snorting beast. The revs build powerfully as the front wheel gets light and you hear the song of four cylinders ripping in unison — it’s unlike any other experience. The RG pulls till 11k and will absolutely fly in a straight line, but it’s right at home in the twisty stuff — just have respect when you open the throttle!”
Below, we talk to Ian for the full story on this rare, roadgoing RG500.
Suzuki RG500 Restomod: In the Builder’s Words…
My name is Ian Kuschatka and I have been into motorcycles my whole life. I grew up racing motocross and got my first street bike when I was 20. This whole bike was built in my shed (24×12) in my backyard.
The bike is a 1985 RG500 gamma, my dream bike. I think most motorcycle guys love a two-stroke, but I feel especially drawn to them after spending my youth racing MX. The entire engine was rebuilt, new bores and pistons with porting by Toomey Racing. Wolf pipes and Lance Gamma filters. It have billet rotary valve covers with carbon valves (a necessary upgrade as the old plastic coating on OEM covers deteriorated).
The bodywork is repop but very nice. Marvic mag wheels, GSX-R front forks and brakes.
Riding this bike is incredible — it is surprisingly tame and civil below 7k rpm. It is torquey enough to cruise along in most gears. The real fun begins after 7k when the powervalves close and it turns into a rip-snorting beast. The revs build powerfully as the front wheel gets light and you hear the song of four cylinders ripping in unison — it’s unlike any other experience. The RG pulls till 11k and will absolutely fly in a straight line, but it’s right at home in the twisty stuff — just have respect when you open the throttle!
Thanks to Ed Toomey Racing, he can be found on Facebook and he rebuilt the cranks and did the boring and porting, proper stuff. A huge thanks to Toby, the man who sold me this bike as a project. He has a beautiful Lucky Strike Gamma. When I actually saw a Gamma for the first time it was his, we became friends and he told me he had a spare! I tried for three years to get him to sell it to me before he eventually did!
Nice bike,I’d love to hear it run
Thanks so much for sharing your story about your beautiful Gamma 500. UT is incredible. I especially love ha ING pics of the motor disassembled. I always wondered how the two cranks were laid out and timed. Very interesting how the cylinders catty-corner from each other are timed to fire simultaneously. In the last motor pic, what are the black boxes with two cables? Are those power valves? And what are the two blue shop towels in the back of the cylinders stuck into? Did the RG500 have both piston port as well as rotary valve induction? Thank you
Awesome bike. I also raced MX when I was younger, and when I got into street bikes in more recent years fell in love with 2 stroke street bikes as well partially due to that dirt bike connection – the RG500 is the top of the heap…the fact that you did so much of the work makes it even more deserved….I have 3 air cooled 2 stroke street bikes done running / riding, 1 water cooled, and of course want to add an RG at some point….enjoy yours!!
Nice article. I own a 1986 RG500 Walter Wolf. It is the last WW Rick Lance resto/ moded before his passing. It is a hoot to ride and probably one of the craziest OEM paint schemes there is.
Keep it twisted !