Hamamatsu Heights – Part IV

Another spotless flight of steps led to 3rd and final floor of Suzuki motorcycle history. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this place, Suzuki Plaza. Everyone has their own idea of what Suzuki is, what they do and what that means to them. I wondered if the old boy who worked the front desk with limited English but a welcoming smile even knew that there were groups of like-minded folks gathered within oldskoolsuzuki.info still trying to better what Suzuki had intended (in our own special ways).

I had high hopes, of course that I would see all my favourites here. I wanted to see the clean, original version of stuff I have stashed around the workshop in various motorcycle shaped lumps. And here they were –

GSXR1100H Hamamatsu – Red and Black – Ding Dong
One of my favourite views …
We love the .info

I’m partial to a red and black slabby, I’ve had a couple although my current preference is blue, white and turboed.

Talking of which … how clean?!

Not the highest regarded of Suzuki’s machines, it’s a rare thing to see

There were some great .info displays and I got to dust off my anorak and top up my pub quiz knowledge.

The latest in early 80s motorcycle technology

It tickled me to see this lovely little RG. My first taste of something a little ‘sharper’ at 18 years old. I somehow over-baked a tight right and ended up in the long grass – could have been worse.

Now, I am being picky here about what I’m sharing. There was some other stuff up there from the ‘utility’ market – funny little motorised carts which had done great business for Suzuki. There was also some stuff about the introduction of water cooled engines in motorbikes but you’ll have to read about that elsewhere – it’s not for me.

I lapped the room. I had been here for 2 hours so grabbed a can from the vending machine and sat. Sat and looked. And looked. For me there were some obvious omissions but I was going to walk the room one more time.

Tune in for the final part coming soon!

Discuss Suzuki Plaza at Hamamatsu here. What’s your story? >>>> https://oldskoolsuzuki.info/forums/topic/12455-that-time-i-went-to-hamamatsu/

Hamamatsu III – The History Stuff

Being a good student, I already had some of the history of Hamamatsu down to an ‘elevator pitch’ but let’s see what I missed. The bikes were not going anywhere but I was still teasing myself with thoughts of what the top floor had in store for me. First I had to make my way through the manufacturing exhibition.

As you’d hope, there was some interactive stuff. Pulling levers to rotate a car door on a fully automated robot production line was a good one -great sounds. I knew from a little inside tip that there was another machine which would deliver me a Suzuki egg! (It had a car in it … booooo) You were walked through the casting process and got to see some models too.

Can ya tell what it is yet?

I’ve got a bit of a thing about casting since making my own ally ashtray in Big Pete’s GoP many moons back …

There was some stuff around the factory itself and the sheer scale of the site can be seen from the aerial photos taken through the years. (come on! get to the bikes already!)

Hamamatsu from the Air
Suzuki – Mission Statement

I moved up to the next floor and came pretty much face to face with The Man Who Started It All. Not the most recognisable face, sure but here he was. The man who had used his engineering skills and business acumen to redirect Suzuki from a failing loom making business, to an upstart car manufacturer closed down by the war as ‘non essential manufacturing’ , reinvented AGAIN as a motorcyle and small utility manufacturer, and onto the business that continues to thrive today. It was pretty emotional. Plus, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone all day and this guy was willing to listen a while.

The man of ingenuity – Michio Suzuki

And finally – here they spread in front of me, I CAN SEE THE BIKES! Be cool. Breathe.

Suzuki: In the beginning …

I’m still on early history trip now and am duly reminded that from day 1 the business purpose was to serve its customers. Right now there was a gap in the market for cheap and easy to maintain transport that everyone could use. Suzuki’s engineers calculated that 36cc gave sufficient output having been combined with a pedal drive and the Power Free E2 was born in the early 50s.

The handsome Diamond Free model

Development continued at pace in Hamamatsu. It was 1954 and the team were set up at the prestigious Mount Fuji hill climb – it was show time. Their win there in the 90cc class put them firmly on the manufacturer’s map. They were contenders.

As well as speed and power trials, Suzuki also wanted to demonstrate the reliability and tenacity of their new machines. A pair of brothers spent 2 years riding this ‘Diamond Free’ 58cc model 47000km between Bangkok and Paris. The road network was barely developed at that point and you can only imagine the challenges along the way, but the machine survives to this day, on show here in Hamamatsu.

By the early 60s. Suzuki were ready to take on the world renowned challenge, the ultimate test of rider and machine – the Isle of Man TT Race. The team ran machines from 1960 but it wasn’t until Mitsuo Itoh took the ride in the 50cc class on the RM63 that Suzuki got to lift their first TT trophy.

The TT winning Suzuki RM 63
The RM63 – small but powerful!
Suzuki for the Win! Eat My Dust.

Keep posted as I head further into the 60s, 70s and dip a toe into what Suzuki had in store for the 80s