AMERICAN HUSTLE. Spencer Motowork’s ’66 Suzuki T20 Racer
Written by Martin Hodgson
They say you’ll always remember your first, and exactly 350 articles ago I penned my maiden article for Pipeburn about a stunning Suzuki T500 Titan. Now the builder of that machine is finally back with another wicked Suzuki two-stroke, a 1966 T20 racer. Ralph Spencer from Southfield, Michigan, USA, clearly knows the sort of bikes that get him going and he builds brilliant Suzuki smokers for both race and road. But his latest Spencer Motoworks creation is both AHRMA GP250 eligible and licensed to rip you up on the roads at the traffic light Grand Prix, fittingly he calls it ‘The Hustler’.
The 250cc Suzuki two-stroke was known as an X6 in the US market and a Super Six in the UK thanks to its generous 6 speed gearbox and also sported the companies revolutionary Posi-Force oil injection system. Immediately they were a success on the race track and they’re still setting red-hot times at the Isle of Man Classic TT. The man who can have what he wants, Jay Leno, has one and Ralph is a project engineer building full tracked combat vehicles; so you know they’re no ordinary machine!
But when this particular T20 came to Spencer Motoworks it had definitely seen better days, as Ralph explains. “I found the bike at an estate sale and bought it for $100. It had been raced as a flat-tracker and was in rough shape. Not needing another project that was in horrible condition I wasn’t interested, but the owner begged me to take it, so I did.” The goal with the build was to create a classic road racing machine to compete in the AHRMA GP250 class, while being 100% road legal, meaning functionality was the top priority.
Back at his garage Ralph got to work cleaning 40 years of dirt, mud and grime from the Suzuki and completely tearing it down. The frame and swingarm were tidied up nicely before being given a new coat of gloss black paint. Now with a foundation to work with Ralph set about turning the bike into a rolling chassis. The suspension was first on the list and British firm Hagon, with decades of R&D, provide the rear shocks. Up front the standard forks were pulled apart and thoroughly inspected before being rebuilt with new seals and the right fork oil for the job.
When you’re going racing you don’t leave the brakes to chance and the front wheel and drum brake were sent off to Vintage Brake for relining and arcing. The rear drum brake gets new shoes while the wheels have been trued before getting wrapped up in Avon vintage road race rubber. The factory bars are good for a sit up and beg Sunday ride, but to get tucked in a set of clip-ons gets the call up. While for the footpegs Ralph put his engineering cap on and turned out a pair of beautiful rearsets, something he also makes for T500’s.
Now with a rolling chassis fit for the task he could turn his attention to the heart of the little beast and build up an angry smoker. A re-sealed crankshaft slots in and the cylinders were sent to National Championship winning Scott Clough Racing for porting. To feed more fuel to the fire the standard 24mm carbs have been changed over to 28mm units from an RD350. While lighting the fire sees the old points setup tossed aside and replaced with a more powerful and reliable Newtronic electronic ignition.
“Seeing that this was to be a race bike and not a show bike, I didn’t spend so much time making things pretty like highly polishing the aluminium cases, but rather was after more functionality,” explains Ralph. But he’s still given the bike a killer paint job with his favourite orange the primary colour with a contrast silver that extends over the once chrome areas of the tank. To save weight the front fender and seat pan are swapped for fibreglass, with the same material used on the racing front cowl.
Now the Spencer Motoworks creation could finally come to life, “I finished the build mechanically and fired it up, the engine running for maybe 10 seconds until it seemed to lock up. But it wasn’t locked, it spun freely. Despite having fuel and strong spark it wouldn’t start. The culprit was no compression on the left cylinder. Upon disassembly I determined the cause, a safety wire tail had been ingested and scored and destroyed the cylinder and piston. Disgusted I pushed the bike to the back of the shop and didn’t work on it for several years,” sighs Ralph.
But not one to be defeated ‘The Hustler’ would live to fight another day with the engine once again getting a rebuild and Ralph giving the bike a fresh lick of paint. A set of bar end mirrors and cleverly placed lights take care of road duties and the number plates prepare the T20 for the starting grid. And now weighing just 118kg, with a screaming two-stroke for propulsion and a close ratio six speed box keeping the tacho in the red, you couldn’t wipe the smile off Ralph’s face even if you tried. So our only request is that we don’t have to wait so long again until another Spencer Motoworks Suzuki screamer comes a calling ‘ring a ding-ding’ back into our lives!
[ Spencer Motoworks | Photos by David Jenkins ]