The motorcycle division of Suzuki was born in June 1952 thanks to a … bike. The first two-wheeler of the Hamamatsu brand was called Power Free and it was a motorized bike with a 36 cc single-cylinder engine. These days the Japanese company is celebrating its 70th birthday in the motorcycle sector, remembering that model.
At the end of the Second World War Suzuki felt a slowdown in the textile sector, where it all started, and began to consider entering other product sectors. During this period, a strong need for mobility emerged from the Japanese population; and in fact, in the area of Hamamatsu alone, thirty different manufacturers of motor bicycles emerged. The director at the time, Shinzo Suzuki, tired of pedaling home – often upwind – from fishing sessions, decided the right thing to do was to ride that growing sector.
In the second half of 1951 Shinzo pushed to introduce a system capable of uncouple the motor from the pedals so as to allow you to use the bike in a normal way with the engine off, and to use the same chain to apply the thrust of the engine to the wheel. Yoshichika Maruyama, an engine enthusiast who had already worked on four-wheeled projects, was in charge of the project. Already in January 1952 the tests of the first prototype began, baptized Atom and equipped with a 30 cc engine. Its power, equal to only 0.2 HP, immediately appeared too limited and on March 3 a second prototype was put on the road, this time powered by the definitive engine, a 36 cc unit with a maximum power of one horse at 4,000 turns. Testing the motorized bike were Shinzo Suzuki and company founder Michio.
On the basis of their indications, all the necessary changes were made for the definition of the production model, which took place on 12 April. To start production, Suzuki decided to rely on various external suppliers, choosing to deal only with the engine internally. The Power Free therefore sported the double crown mechanism that allowed it to move indifferently like a bicycle or a motor vehicle.. The mechanics were patented, also coupled to a two-speed transmission system equipped with a multi-plate clutch in an oil bath.
At that point ‘marketing’ came into play: a group of ten Power Free, with the presence of Shinzo Suzuki and Yoshichica Maruyama participated, on May 1st, in the parade of the Hamamatsu Festival, attracting the curiosity of the public. A month later, on June 5, the Power Free was exhibited and for the first time put on sale by reservation in a stand in front of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Hamamatsu. The interest raised was high, but the career of the motor bike turned out to be rather short. With the entry into force of an updated Highway Code, in August 1952, there was a push towards the design of larger, more performing engines and more in line with the demands of the public.
The Power Free remained in production for some time, but left the role of flagship of the brand to the Diamond Free 60 cc of 1953, whose sales initially amounted to around 4,000 units per month and then reached 6,000 thanks to the echo of the his triumph in the first uphill race held on Mount Fuji, also in 1953. Suzuki then made the leap in quality thanks to international racing: in 1962 he won the 50cc world championship with Ernst Degner.
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