Best bets on tomorrow's classics
Originally marketed as the Cobra, the first T500s garnered more fame for their extreme thirst for fuel thank for their obvious merits: clean lines, good handling and, unlike most two-strokes, a smooth (at least at low rpms) low-revving engine.
Years produced: 1968-1975
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 46hp @ 6,000rpm (1975)
Top speed: 105mph
Engine type: 492cc, air-cooled two stroke parallel twin
Weight (dry): 187kg (412lb)
Price then: N/A
Price now: $500-$1,750
Cobras are quick, venomous snakes, renowned for striking fast and for striking fear in the heart of anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. In Greek mythology, the Titans were the children of Uranus and Gaea, supreme rulers of the universe until Zeus came along and took over.
We’re not quite sure what Suzuki was reaching for when they pulled the Cobra and, subsequently, Titan names into their lineup, but if they were aiming for a lethal strike at the competition or market supremacy, they fell short of the mark.
Largely overlooked today, the T500 was a unique proposition when Suzuki rolled it out to an increasingly power-hungry market in 1968. Granted, 46hp wasn’t exactly mind-bending, but as the largest production two-stroke twin since pre-war England’s water-cooled Scott, the T500 defied conventional wisdom by pursuing a different direction in motorcycle development.
In 1968, everyone knew the only good parallel twins came out of England. And four-stroke engines powered all of these. Two-strokes, the conventional thinking went, were noisy, smelly and high-strung.
With its big-bore T500, Suzuki meant to change all that.
Originally marketed as the Cobra, the first T500s garnered more fame for their extreme thirst for fuel than for their obvious merits: clean lines, good handling and, unlike most two-strokes, a smooth (at least at low rpms) low-revving engine.
At 412lb (187kg) they weren’t exactly light, but considering that a comparably sized Triumph Tiger weighed a few pounds more but put out a few horses less, they were a tempting option to the British mounts.
Early Japanese bikes were — and are — often faulted for their mediocre handling, but from the beginning the T500 drew praise for its good road manners, and was a winner on the track as well as the street. A T500 won the 500cc class at the Isle of Man in 1970 and 1972.
Even so, as much as the T500 was admired for its low-rpm pull, testers panned the engine’s performance at high revs. As one tester noted: “To use the 500 to full rpm is an unrewarding experience, as one’s foot can be firmly but steadily shaken off the footrest.”
The T500’s front brake, a twin-leading shoe affair, also drew criticism, prompting one tester to quip, “It is difficult to be enthusiastic about it, as it simply works.”
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