Hercules W-2000: The First Rotary-Powered Motorcycle
The Hercules W-2000, the first rotary-powered motorcycle, was developed in the late 1960s based on the Wankel rotary
1976 Hercules W-2000
Photo by Ken Richardson
Engine: 294cc air-cooled single rotor Sachs Wankel, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 32hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 90mph
Weight (dry): 381 lb (173kg)
Price then/now: $1,900/$4,000-$7,500
When Ron Schavrien got into motorcycling, he approached it from a different perspective than most people. He wasn’t a piston-crazed high school student, studying the latest motorcycle magazines to scope out the rides, and he didn’t hang around the bikes in the parking lot at lunch time.
Oddly, it wasn’t until he became an emergency medical technician that he even thought to swing a leg over a motorcycle. “As a paramedic, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to ride a bike,” Ron explains. “It just didn’t make any sense. If a dog ran out in front of you, you’d go down. In 1980, I bought a bike of my own to find out what the attraction was.”
Hook, line and sinker, Ron bit hard, and quickly grasped the attraction of two-wheeled power. He kept his first bike, a 1974 Yamaha TX500, just a few short months before buying a friend’s Honda CX500 because it had saddlebags. Ron did some touring, and the CX kept him occupied until he discovered the Gold Wing. He joined a local Gold Wing group, and soon some of his fellow riders were choosing second motorcycles.
Many were gravitating toward Harley-Davidson Fat Boys, but Ron thought those were common bikes — why not look for something unusual? This was around the time Ron and some motorcycling friends traveled to Europe, in September 2001, just after the airports reopened following 9/11. They rented motorcycles, and rode from Switzerland to Italy to attend the Milan Motorcycle Show.
Running into the rotary: the Hercules W-2000
During that trip Ron also visited the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where he saw a Hercules W-2000 rotary-powered motorcycle. It was love at first sight. “The Hercules was so different from anything I’d ever seen before,” Ron says. “If I was going to get a second bike, I wanted something different.”
Back home, Ron tried to find information about the Hercules rotary, hoping to find one for sale. He came up empty-handed. Instead, he bought a 1981 Honda CBX, but he didn’t stop there and added a Honda CX500 Turbo to his stable. On a CX500 Internet forum, a post about a Suzuki RE-5 piqued his interest — he hadn’t realized the Japanese maker had made a rotary-powered motorcycle. His fascination with rotary power still intact, Ron began researching the RE-5, and eventually bought a 1975 model simply because of its unusual engine.
That’s when he met Jess Stockwell, a rotary enthusiast and protégé of the late Sam Costanzo, who was considered THE authority on rotary motorcycles. A former Sachs employee, Sam sold and serviced Hercules W-2000s when they were new through Rotary Recycle U.S.A. in Ohio, staying in business for 40 years before selling the shop to Jess in 2009. In August 2008, Ron visited Jess in Tullahoma, Tenn., with his RE-5, and the pair tuned Ron’s Suzuki. While visiting Jess, Ron was allowed to ride a 1976 Hercules W-2000 that once belonged to Sam.
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