The Suzuki T500 Titan
When 2-stroke motorcycles were king
The Suzuki Titan T500.
Photo by Nick Cedar
Suzuki T500 Titan
Years produced: 1968-1976
Claimed power: 47hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (observed)
Engine type: 492cc 2-stroke air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 408lb (185kg)
Price then: $899 (1970)
Price now: $1,400-$3,000
MPG: 50mpg (observed)
From the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies, 2-stroke motorcycles ruled the roost. Kings of the strip and the street, the young men who rode them put up with whisker-wide power bands and a massive thirst for gasoline to get that heart stopping power.
There were exceptions, however, and the exceptions to the wild Sixties 2-strokes were built by Suzuki. While other manufacturers promoted 12-second drag strip times, Suzuki focused on building reliable, user-friendly motorcycles like the Suzuki T500 Titan. Other 2-strokes screamed: Suzukis were quiet, designed for people who wanted to tour or commute, not race.
Interestingly, the technology Suzuki used to excel on the street may have come from the race track. In the early Sixties, Suzuki wanted to win races, both for the marketing advantage victory brings and to score points over rival Honda. In 1961, Suzuki made contact with Ernst Degner, a top rider and engineer with the East German MZ team. East Germany was then firmly under the heel of the Soviets, and Degner, eager to direct his destiny, seized the opportunity to get out. By the fall of 1961, Degner had made it past the Iron Curtain and was working for Suzuki.
Using the knowledge he gained working at MZ with 2-stroke guru Walter Kaaden, Degner taught Suzuki how to get real power and speed from its own 2-strokes. This knowledge was more than certainly used to improve the road machines as well as to win races, as Suzuki soon became known for its reliable and powerful 2-stroke singles and twins.
Bringing out the big guns
Late 1965, saw the introduction of the Suzuki T20, also known as the Suzuki X6 Hustler. Its 2-cylinder, 247cc engine had a bore and stroke of 54mm x 54mm, a 7.3:1 compression ratio and produced a claimed 29hp @ 7,500rpm. Pump lubrication oiled the lower end, and a six-speed gearbox transferred power to the rear wheel. Press tests confirmed the twin was good for 90mph.
A year and a half later, Suzuki took another step up and introduced a 493cc twin developed from the T20, the Suzuki T500 /Five. Honda had recently introduced the 4-stroke Honda CB450 Black Bomber, upsetting the assumption within British, European and American motorcycle circles that the Japanese were not interested in building larger capacity motorcycles. The Suzuki T500 /Five was in its own way just as revolutionary: it invalidated the belief that a large capacity 2-stroke would overheat.
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