TT-winning motorcycle roars back to life after repairs

February 16, 2023

One of the most iconic machines in the history of motorcycling has roared back to life as preparations for the opening of a new TT Gallery gather pace at the Manx Museum. 

The Suzuki RG500 was ridden to victory by Mike Hailwood in the 1979 Senior TT.  In preparation for display in the Manx Museum’s TT gallery, legendary mechanic Anthony ‘Slick’ Bass has breathed life into this race-bred two-stroke. Slick has worked with some of the best in his time, including Joey Dunlop, Carl Fogarty and Steve Hislop. More than just a mechanic, this race engineer also today helps tune and power racers to victory.

Bass worked on the bike for around four weeks, finding the engine in the RG just as Mike Hailwood had left it. Slick said: “We discovered the engine to be in near to original condition, which was an absolutely extraordinary find. Remarkably, coolant liquid had corroded a small hole in the water-pump housing, with the liquid draining away, meaning that magnesium and aluminium components had not corroded over time. The machine had effectively been dry since around 1980. The coating of oil remaining inside the engine had preserved the machine in amazing condition.”

The work uncovered fascinating details never before revealed, such as the factory-stamped engine, the modified frame, the prototype brakes and thumb choke, and unbranded prototype tyres which had been slashed as they came off the track. 

Christopher Weeks, Conservator for Manx National Heritage said: “After rebuild, we had the thrill of actually hearing Hailwood’s Suzuki run once again for the very first time since 1979. Marvellous!”

Hailwood was already a living legend when he returned to the Island in 1978 after an 11 year absence, single-handedly re-invigorating the event. In 1979 he returned for his farewell TT. Only Suzuki had the confidence to supply a machine for him to ride, the RG500 on which Hailwood scored his 14th and final TT win. The RG500 will go on display in the new TT Gallery at the Manx Museum, paired with the original leathers and helmet worn by Mike Hailwood in one of the most famous races of all time, the 1979 Senior TT. 

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