Anyone Fancy a Bargain Suzuki RG500 'Jigsaw'?

This classic 1980s GP replica ‘project’ among star lots at Bonhams Stafford sale

Suzuki RG500 project

How about this for the ultimate motorcycle buff’s project bike? It’s a dismantled but virtually complete example of Suzuki’s now hugely coveted RG500 GP replica, is up for auction at this weekend’s big Bonham’s Spring Sale at the Stafford Show and, if the estimate is anything to go by, could be yours for a song!

The RG500 was launched in 1985 and is widely considered to be the best of the short-lived 1980s 500GP replicas, which was kicked off by Yamaha’s RD500LC before being joined by Honda’s NS400 triple, the road-going, two-stroke replicas of the racing Yamaha YZR500 and Honda NS500 as made famous by Eddie Lawson and Freddie Spencer respectively.

But although the Yamaha caused a sensation for being the first to arrive, it was also considered, at 84bhp, a little underwhelming and civilised while the smaller capacity, three-cylinder Honda, with just 72bhp, was even less potent.

But the Suzuki, although then inspired by the track RG500 which by the mid-1980s was almost obsolete, with its stepped square-four engine layout, 90 screaming bhp, GP bike mimicking good looks and light weight, was actually the screaming banshee of a bike all three had promised to be.

Unfortunately, however, by 1987 it was all too late. The RD500LC was overshadowed by Yamaha’s far more practical and affordable FZ750; Honda’s new CBR600F ushered in a new era of supersports 600 dominance and the RG was rendered irrelevant by Suzuki’s own first GSX-R750F, which had also come out in 1985.

As a result, all three were quickly dropped by their respective manufacturers; used values plummeted and, impossible as it seems to say today, between around 1990 and the early 2000s, all three were virtually worthless. I remember seeing an RD500LC advertised for as little as £3000 as late as 2004. I also had the ignominy to briefly own an RD500 one summer in the late 1980s before having to sell it for a song in the autumn. For the scandalously low price of £1900…

Not any more. By the mid-Noughties, partly on the back of the growing classic status of Yamaha’s 1980 RD350LC, all three GP replicas ‘stock’ grew as appreciation increased for both their ‘ultimate two-stroke’ status and exquisite style and technology. While in the 2010s their values have skyrocketed. Today you’ll be lucky to get a decent example of the cheapest of the three – the NS400 – for under £8000. The RD500 is rarely priced under £18k while Suzuki’s RG has been seen as high as £20k+.

Except here. The example being sold this weekend by Bonhams at Stafford is a 1986 bike on a C-plate in the most desirable blue and white colours and has a guide price of just £5,000 - £7,000.

According to Bonhams, it was purchased by the late owner in 1990 then sometime later dry stored until the owner started a rebuild at the beginning of 2023 with the engine removed and taken to world-renowned two-stroke expert, Stan Stephens for a complete rebuild. The invoice for the work by Stan is on file and the rebuilt engine is ready to be refitted into the chassis. 

What’s more, even though a fault was discovered in the bike’s swinging arm (a known fault) a good replacement was sourced. In other words, it’s all there, ready to be rebuilt with no engine or other concerns.

For many, bike restoration projects simply don’t get any better– or potentially lucrative. Although we suspect the hammer price may end up being significantly higher than the £5-7000 expected. Still, it’s nice to dream. If interested, check it out on the Bonhams site.

And, if not, check it out anyway to have a gander at the other 499 lots on offer ranging from trophies, memorabilia and spares, to other project rebuilds including a 1956 MV Agusta (estimated at £375 to £575), 1976 Yamaha TZ350D (£3,500 - £5,500) and 1950 Vincent Comet (£7,000 - £10,000), complete bikes including half a dozen Manx Nortons, a brace of BSA Gold Stars and the usual plethora of Vincents and Broughs, and even a genuine ex-Barry Sheene 1974 TR750!