A very rare square-four.

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CONTENTS - WORDS: JEFF WARE PHO­TOS: HEATHER WARE

Dave Thommo, the owner of this RG500, is one of those guys that is to­tally pedan­tic about his bikes – and picky – and among his im­mac­u­late col­lec­tion of RGVS, GSX-RS and RGS is this very rare RG500WW or, Wal­ter Wolf. The Suzuki RG500 is al­ready one of the most col­lectable bikes in the world but the Wal­ter Wolf special, in par­tic­u­lar this Ja­panese spec model, takes it up a notch. There were 99 WW specials built for Canada, a hand­ful built for Europe in­clud­ing a sil­ver one for the Sin­ga­pore mar­ket and very few, very special lim­ited edi­tion ex­am­ples were made for the Ja­panese mar­ket to com­mem­o­rate leg­endary Grand Prix racer, 1979 750cc and 1982 500cc All-ja­pan Cham­pion Masaru Mizu­tani, who raced a Wal­ter Wolf-spon­sored RG500. The bike dif­fers from the other WW specials in that it has Wal­ter Wolf in­stru­ments, key, red wheels and dif­fer­ent seat ma­te­rial. They also had dif­fer­ent Wal­ter Wolf graph­ics and paint­work. Over­all, this is a very rare mo­tor­cy­cle… Dave’s ex­am­ple is im­mac­u­late with only 8000 miles on it and has a set of Jim Lo­mas pipes. It has re­cently been re-jet­ted and tuned and is reg­is­tered and rid­den most week­ends by Dave, as long as it is not rain­ing, of course! First in­tro­duced in 1985, the RG500 took per­for­mance street­bikes to an all time high that is still not ex­ceeded to­day re­ally, in com­par­i­son to what other mod­els are on the mar­ket. When the RG500 hit the streets it was lighter, faster and bet­ter han­dling than any­thing seen be­fore. The square-four twin crank ro­tary valve two-stroke was a true GP replica based on the bike that Barry Sheene won world ti­tles on and that Masaru Mizu­tani won on in 1982, hence this replica. With huge brakes, fan­tas­tic sus­pen­sion for its day and a light­weight al­loy frame the RG was head and shoul­ders above the bulky RZ500 Yamaha (RD500 to you Poms!) Think of it: 340lb (155kg) and 95hp were un­heard-of fig­ures. Pro­duc­tion ceased in 1987 so the rare 500 was only avail­able for two years and so is a true col­lectable these days. I ner­vously climb aboard the im­mac­u­late RG500 at owner Dave’s place. It’s sunny but

a storm is build­ing and that’s mak­ing me a tad ner­vous. I know I have about two hours to test ride the bike, try and get a feel for it and shoot it. Heather sets off in the car to the photo lo­ca­tion. I sit into the bike – it feels so nar­row and low com­pared to a modern ma­chine. The screen is tall but the tanks and bars are tiny. I turn the ig­ni­tion key on and thumb for the starter but­ton. Oops! I then turn the fuel tap on and kick the kick­starter with one sharp kick. The bike fires up and cack­les into a crisp idle, in­stantly send­ing shiv­ers up my spine… I pull in the light clutch and se­lect first. In a blur of howl­ing pipes and blue smoke I slip the clutch off up the road with 5000rpm di­alled up. It’s a noise that sounds cool enough to make me feel 17 again. I short shift and run through the gears, the bike ac­tu­ally hum­ming along re­ally smoothly at the 4000 to 5000rpm mark with just enough torque on a lean throt­tle to keep mo­men­tum up. At 40mph in fourth gear the RG is a dream. Above 5000rpm, how­ever, there’s noth­ing go­ing on! I start work­ing the gear­box as I get up into the hills and be­gin to ex­plore the top-end pull of the bike, the skinny cross-ply tyres and the 1980s brakes and sus­pen­sion. As I exit a sec­ond gear turn, up­hill, I open it up and the scream­ing square four is in its el­e­ment – howl­ing from 7500rpm to 11,500rpm where the power fi­nally tails off. I glance at the speedo: 100mph (al­legedly). Holy crap! The next 10 miles of twisties are a blur of green rush­ing by as I pass bush­land like I’m sit­ting on the back of a su­per­charged chain­saw, and I’m blown away by the power of the front brakes. They lack feel ini­tially but they do stop the bike well. The bike steers ul­tra-fast and bites too – I ac­cel­er­ate too hard over a se­ries of bumps and the RG tries to tank-slap me into the weeds. Phew! The bike is so, so light. It ac­cel­er­ates just as quickly as any modern bike I’ve rid­den and with bet­ter rub­ber and mod­ernised sus­pen­sion, this thing would kick ass! We man­age to com­plete the pho­to­shoot with me al­most flip­ping the bike when it sav­agely came on the power in first gear and caught me out.

With adren­a­line pump­ing through my body I calm down and short-shift back to Dave’s place – via the main shopping street. That bike cack­ling along turned more heads than any­thing I’ve been on. So what does Dave say? “It’s my dream bike. I had an im­mac­u­late RG250W when I was a young bloke ter­ror­is­ing the streets with Jeff on his 1987 TZR250 but I al­ways wanted an RG500 and he al­ways wanted an RZ500. I’ve beat him to it though with the Wolf! I couldn’t be­lieve my luck when I saw it at the shop. I had to have it. It’s so fast, a real thrill and feels even quicker than my new GSX-R1000. That power­band is ad­dic­tive!” What a buzz. Long live the 1980s, I say! What a time that must have been for sports­bike rid­ers. I loved the RG500 so much, I went out and bought one. It’s cur­rently un­der a cover in my front garage, dis­creetly placed among the press bikes so the wife doesn’t no­tice it. I have a plan. Stay tuned!

A classy arse-end!

ABOVE LEFT: Clas­sic clocks have aged well.

ABOVE: Hav­ing one of these puts £1000s onto the price of the stan­dard RG500.

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