Home » The Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype Was A Furious Little Sports Car With A Legendary Heart

The Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype Was A Furious Little Sports Car With A Legendary Heart

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype Topshot 2
ADVERTISEMENT

The year 2002 was the end of an era for Japanese performance cars. The Nissan Skyline GT-R was dying, the Toyota Supra was living on borrowed time, and the frantic Honda Integra Type R had lost its double-wishbone front suspension. As for Suzuki, it was never in the same high-end performance car market as Toyota and Nissan, but it did make just one tiny coupe powered by the 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine from the legendary Hayabusa motorcycle. Consider this the uber-Cappuccino that never happened. Actually, the Hayabusa Sport Prototype is less like cappuccino and more like original-formula Four Loko — an absolute frenzy in one convenient package.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

We’re all familiar with the Suzuki Hayabusa, right? The almost mythically heroic ultra-fast bike known for smashing records and turning inexperienced T-shirt-wearing Floridians into calamari. It’s a Vincent Black Shadow without the ultraviolence and malevolence toward its rider, a straight-line sledgehammer that just so happened to actually stop, turn, and do both reliably. To some, it’s still the last word in really fast bikes. However, Suzuki didn’t just put the Hayabusa’s stout four-cylinder engine in bikes — it also popped the motor in the Formula Suzuki Hayabusa. Bike-engined race cars? Sign me up.

Formula Suzuki Hayabusa 1

Around the turn of the millennium, Suzuki had a whole single-seater racing series in Japan and at the top of the ladder sat a variant with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine lifted wholesale from Suzuki’s bonkers hyperbike. Think of it a bit like Formula SAE on steroids; tiny single-seat nutjob race cars for very reasonable one-make racing. Sure, it may have produced peak power at a screaming 9,800 rpm, but it was also very light, rolled on tiny 15-inch or 13-inch tires, and used all manner of components from other Suzuki products. The dampers were from the Katana motorcycle, the brakes, knuckles, and hubs came from kei cars, the clutch master cylinder was from a Grand Vitara, and the air cleaner was from an Esteem. As a result, this open-wheel racer seems surprisingly cheap to run and easy to source parts for.

ADVERTISEMENT

Formula Suzuki Hayabusa 2

It turns out, Formula Suzuki Hayabusa was such a success that an idea formed: What if Suzuki used the same formula to make a road car? Suzuki Sport quickly got to work exploring that lightbulb moment, and this prototype was the result.

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype 1

Peak power from the legendary motorcycle engine amounted to 175 horsepower at 9,800 rpm — stratospheric revs, but not massive output for a car. However, the Hayabusa Sport Prototype’s killer app was lightness, as it weighed in at just 1,212 pounds. That’s effectively half of what a current Mazda MX-5 RF weighs, and with just six fewer horsepower. Oh, and it got a six-speed bike-style sequential gearbox for ripping off shifts as quickly as you could rinse $20 at a carnival. Sounds rapid, yeah?

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype 2

ADVERTISEMENT

On the face of things, the Hayabusa Sport Prototype looks like a tiny Panoz, a vertical-lamped yellow shoe with ostentatious grille mesh and billionaire doors. Oh, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. At 149.2 inches long, 43.3 inches tall, and riding on an 86.6-inch wheelbase, the Hayabusa Sport Prototype was only about the size of a Lotus Elise. That sounds like a miracle when you realize that the federalized Series 2 Elise used aluminum-intensive construction and still weighed 763 pounds more than the Hayabusa Sport Prototype, but that’s what bike components and a steel-nerved devotion to lightweighting can do.

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype 3

Mind you, the swoopy coachwork wasn’t just for show. Suzuki refined the shape in scale model wind tunnel testing to achieve a drag coefficient of 0.29. While far from a miraculous number, it’s respectable for the era, especially considering the car’s lift coefficient of -0.23. Oh, and the whole body is made of carbon fiber, so it probably weighs as much as a small badger.

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype 4

Any other cool specs to note? Why, yes. The Hayabusa Sport Concept used a steel spaceframe with aluminum firewalls and reinforcement panels, suspension consisted of double wishbones at all four corners, and weight distribution was a tidy 50:50. The screaming four-cylinder engine actually sat aft of the front axle, making this thing front-mid-engined, and the exhaust system was routed under the passenger sill for enhanced cross-car weight distribution. The whole package was just so gloriously optimized for old-school front-engined rear-wheel-drive performance that it genuinely felt like Suzuki designed this thing more for the track than for rush-hour traffic.

ADVERTISEMENT

Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype 5

Sadly, after its debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the Suzuki Hayabusa Sport Prototype was never developed further, but it makes you wonder “What if?” What if Suzuki managed to out-Lotus Lotus with an incredibly light two-seat sports car with potentially supercar-humbling performance? It may have gone down as one of the greatest JDM performance cars of all time, but it could’ve also ended up as obscure fancy, much like the TommyKaira ZZ. Either way, it’s sad to know that this brief moment of lunacy was never actually unleashed on the public.

(Photo credits: Suzuki)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

ADVERTISEMENT

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
17 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott
Scott
8 months ago

Is it OK to say that it’s adorable? Maybe a bit mean potentially, but definitely cute. Like an attractive and usually well-meaning but perhaps bipolar friend?

One of these and a late-model Suzuki Swift would make a fine two-car garage IMO. One for fun, and the other for practicality (but still sorta fun too).

I miss having Suzuki in the US. Not to be mean, but unless they decide to bring a small, cheap, hybrid and/or electric pickup to the US in an effort to revitalize their brand, I’d gladly trade Mitsubishi for Suzuki.

This is Doug DeMuro’s review of a Mexican market 2019 Suzuki Swift Booster Jet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmghN0DbYys …after watching it (a few times) all I could think about was how much I wanted to figure out a reasonable way to buy/drive one in LA.

Myk El
Myk El
10 months ago

Now there’s a car I wouldn’t want to own, but definitely would want to drive.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
10 months ago

Beautiful, acid yellow unobtanium. Somewhere in the multiverse, there’s a better earth, with less dickheads, and you can buy these at the Suzuki dealership.

Spoons Are Not Forks
Spoons Are Not Forks
10 months ago

Since it was supposed to be a road going car, I wonder what they did for reverse? I might be mistaken, but it looks like the transmission on the forumula car is stock ‘busa.

Subarado
Subarado
10 months ago

Neutral and push?

Spoons Are Not Forks
Spoons Are Not Forks
10 months ago

just read it has two starters, “The car has two starter motors: one, the normal Hayabusa starter for starting the engine; the second, a starter mounted backwards directly to the flywheel which acted as a reverse gear.” (Formula Hayabusa (armyofdarkness.com))

Larry B
Larry B
10 months ago

I’m probably way wrong about this. Nevertheless, back when I had an Elise (I am obligated by Autopian by laws to state that selling it was the dumbest thing I ever did), I would attend Lotus gatherings in the mid Atlantic. I am pretty sure I saw a highly modified Lotus 7 with a Hayabusa engine. If it wasn’t a Hayabusa it was some other motorcycle engine with 4 cylinders. But, it made so much sense to all the Lotus guys.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

Width wasn’t mentioned. It’s possible that this could have had significantly less frontal area than an Elise. It’s Cd value was 0.29, vs the 0.36 of the Elise, and it lost 700 lbs vs the Elise.

How did I not know this existed?

I would not be surprised if it was capable of reaching 170 mph with its drag, assuming a frontal area 15% less than that of the Elise. Probably also capable of more than 35 mpg driven normally, and that ‘Busa engine is no paragon of thermal efficiency in normal use.

And it actually looks sexy as all hell. It’s as if a Corvette C5 and a Toyota 2000GT had a runt of a love child.

What a totally batshit crazy car. I love it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Toecutter
Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Ok. I got a chance to look up the width. It is roughly the same width as the Elise. So no massive frontal area reduction. The drag reduction is still significant. I’d suspect the 173 horsepower this car has is enough to take it to about 155 mph.

Bobfish
Bobfish
10 months ago

*sigh* I once “sat” “in” a Lotus Elise at an international race. They would have to build this around me, and I would consider it. What a rocket.

R Rr
R Rr
10 months ago

I’m certain they could actually successfully sell this today as an Ariel Atom with a roof.
I have some doubts it could be easily made street legal, but as a track car it would definitely be glorious.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
10 months ago

Do we know where that one concept is now? I would be interested to know it’s history after the show.

Black Peter
Black Peter
10 months ago

The dampers were from the Katana motorcycle
Umm, I won’t pretend to have an encyclopedic knowledge of JDM Katanas, but I am fairly encyclopedic on US models; the Katanas had either regular rear shocks with preload and some damping adjustment or remote oil reservoir ones with a hose connecting it to the shock. The dampers in the picture look much more like GSX-R units of the era with the piggyback oil reservoirs. Like I retrofitted to my 1995 Katana.

Paul B
Paul B
10 months ago

Don’t forget that Suzuki Sport was a Monster Tajima project.

Phuzz
Phuzz
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

Oh that makes a lot of sense.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

Gotta love zippy little cars, except it’s too easy to get ‘em stuck in TRX or Raptor tire treads.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
10 months ago

I’ll take one with ear protection please

17
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x