This is a ‘works’ 1976 Suzuki RG500 square four two-stroke, code name XR14 – the actual bike that won Barry Sheene the first of his two premier-class world titles. Since then, however, it has been on display – and nothing harms a performance machine of any kind worse than standing still.
In this case, the Suzuki was left standing for at least a decade with coolant in the radiator, which not only caused severe corrosion of the magnesium crankcases, but also got into the gearbox when the water-pump seal failed from exposure to the UV wavelengths in sunlight and formed a thick, gooey emulsion with the gearbox oil.
In this video, the first of a two-part series from Suzuki GB, you’ll meet Martyn Ogborne, who was Sheene’s technician during his world championship years, and who remembers this bike well.
Now retired, Ogborne has been asked by Suzuki to restore the bike to as-new running condition so that it can be ridden in historic parades and demonstration laps in honour of its original owner, who still enjoys cult status in Britain and Australia.