Suzuki enjoyed great mileage out of their first GP 500 machine. The XR14, and its production version the RG500, lived on for some time, its square-four engine layout proving to be competitive well into the 80s. Suzuki had officially withdrawn its factory team in 1983 and with that move so ended the development of the early 70s design. Yamaha revealed its first V-four, the OW61 in 1983, Honda quickly followed suit while Suzuki, effectively unable to develop a new machine, stayed faithful to the square concept, albeit joining the reed valve ranks in 1985 with the XR70.
Personally, I have always harboured a soft spot for those high bar monster muscle bikes that the yanks seem to have so much fun racing on throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Unlike the UK on the other side of the pond “proper” fully faired race machines regularly did battle with high bar naked monsters.
Honda finally found themselves perched right on the top of the biking world after desperate attempts to capture the 500cc crown during the latter stages of the 70s. The bike that gave them this authority was an unlikely race machine, surrounded as it was by totally complex, lunatic and rev happy, powerhouse machines.
Kawasaki’s two-stroke Superbike, known in the factory as the 602, came out of the period immediately following the furore created by Yamaha TZ750. Shortly after the introduction of the big Yam, in the October of 1974, the homologation rules were changed meaning manufacturers only had to produce 25 machines thus making machines not based upon road based engines more feasible.
Most things in racing are born out of necessity and none more so than this particular motorcycle. Way back in the late 70’s racing was hot and competitive. Young lads were hurling stock RD’s around the UK race tracks with gay abandon (trust me it did not mean the same then) and there was very little preventing the top club and national racers from entering the GP circus within a couple of seasons.
The owner of this superb machine is Zach Law, a quantity surveyor. Zach is based in London for his working week, before returning to the serenity of Bewdley, near Kidderminster in the West Midlands, for the weekends. Once home he now has the enviable task of lavishing care and love upon this beautiful machine.
With the late 70s came the resurgence of big capacity four-stroke racing after a mixed few years. F750 began earlier in that decade as road machines grew in size and gave a platform for the Triumph and BSA triples to compete against the Nortons, Harleys and Ducatis on the racetracks of the world.
You cannot have visited a major bike show in the UK over the last few years without seeing Pete Tantrum and his RG500. The bike is beautifully painted in the same DAF trucks livery as the one that Barry Sheene last rode with, the bike looks stunning and stands out from the crowd wherever it may be parked.
It began life as a red and black RG and from the moment Pete acquired the bike the end result was clear in his mind, if not quite every one else’s. When ever he mentioned a Barry Sheene replica most people immediately thought of the red and yellow Heron machine upon which Barry romped to his two world titles in 1976 and 77 but not Pete, for him the tribute to this great man would take the form of the final year that Sheene rode in GP’s.
Every now and then a machine comes along that grabs the racing world by the scruff of its neck, and opens up a whole new range of possibilities for the private racer. Inconceivable in modern times, during the 70s, it was entirely possible to afford and buy a competitive machine from your local dealer and, with a little preparation, be the owner of a machine capable of winning a club race or grand prix alike.
It would be difficult to write a technical article on any of the Yamaha twin cylinder production racers without mentioning their road going cousins. In more recent time, the link may have been more for homologation purposes but initially it…