Frank Perris’suzuki TR250
The small bike was run on a knife edge of reliability. Get it right and it sang – as Frank Perris proved. But, boy, is this motorcycle a labour of love.
Long-time friend of CR, Peter Parnham, has overseen a return to former glory for this particularly lovely 250. It’s worth a close-up look at this exquisite piece of machinery.
“Always be aware, Peter – there’s an awful lot of backlash in the slotted drive of those Kokusan Denki magnetos. Start with the piston at top dead centre and wind back so that the points just close at 3.1mm btdc.” With those emphatic words of warning from Manx Grand Prix winner Frank Whiteway ringing in my ears, I realised one of the possible reasons for the reliability problems which initially befell the new Suzuki TR250S when first imported... “You’ll either get the timing right at the first attempt or the 99th” was experienced Suzuki rider Les Trotter’s warning and, boy, was he right. In May 1967, Suzuki GB brought into the country three of the new Suzuki TR250 production race machines. They were quickly entered for the June TT races, giving little time for the fullest race preparation which would obviously have been carried out, but perhaps, just as importantly, little time to overcome the inevitable Gremlins. The TR250S were pure race machines and were based on the Super Six (or X6) six-speed road machines. Despite their obvious potential, they were not the hoped-for immediate success. All three had reliability problems and their riders, Chris Vincent, Rex Butcher and Barry Smith, suffered retirements.
One of the three (number 022) was subsequently sold to the famous Eddie Crooks’ Suzuki dealership. There, Eddie and his rider Frank Whiteway prepared the machine for the Manx Grand Prix later in the year. Using all the information learned in those early months, gradually and steadily both reliability and speed were obtained. Frank consequently finished second – a good start to the whole project. A batch of seven new TR250S were obtained by the dealership in 1968 and six were quickly sold to eager customers, the remaining new one (number 013) being kept alongside the last year’s bike and prepared for Frank to ride in the 1968 Manx Grand Prix. During practice, Frank rode both bikes and made the brave decision that the older bike was the faster and the new one was consequently not raced. The decision proved to be the correct one, as Frank won the race – sometimes boldness of thought pays off. Now, this newer machine was again fully race-prepared by Frank Whiteway for a star name’s return to racing. Ex-suzuki works rider Frank Perris was going to make a comeback. He had retired in 1967 after a five-year contract with the Suzuki works team, having gained 40 Grand Prix top six finishes, 21 podium positions and wins in the Japanese, German and Czech Grands Prix. Subsequently he had emigrated to South Africa to start a property company in partnership with a certain Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood. The new company was called Perwood Homes Ltd and built luxury homes (including their own houses). With Perwood Homes’ ongoing success seemingly assured, Frank Perris decided to return to the Grand Prix scene in 1969 by racing the now very quick and reliable Crooks Suzuki TR250 (number 013). Here I think the 1969 history and achievements should be in the late Frank Perris’ own words, written in 2004, as a testament to the great man and to the superb little bike… “Please find below the race history of the Suzuki TR250 (Eng.no.013) that I had the pleasure of riding during the first part of the 1969 racing season.
Cesenatico: 3rd place after a good race with Bergamonti. Imola: 4th place after a hectic race between Bergamonti and Grassetti. Nurburgring Long Circuit: 2nd place. Led the race until the last lap when the expansion box split which enabled Rosner on the MZ to pass me to win. Austrian GP: 2nd place. Once again led the race until the last lap when the exhaust box split once more. Ralph Bryans on the Honda got by me to win. (NB the welded repairs can still be seen on the exhaust) German GP: 4th. Very enjoyable race between the Yamahas of Kent Andersson, Lothar John and Karl Huber. French GP. Le Mans: 6th Hard race behind Herrero, Gould, Kent Andersson, Szabo’s MZ and Bergamonti. TT IOM: My swan song on the TR250. It was a fantastic partnership on my mini ‘come-back’ to finish 2nd behind Carruthers’ Benelli and ahead of Herrero on the Ossa.it was a very satisfactory part season for me on Eddie Crooks’ Suzuki TR250, engine number 013. A fantastic achievement for this over the counter racer.”
Because of sudden, unexpected and very pressing business commitments, Perris had to return to South Africa after the postTT International race at Mallory Park. He post-scripted his words with the following poignant sentence: “By the way – when I
...THE TOP SPEED OF FRANK PERRIS’ SUZUKI ON THE SULBY STRAIGHT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE 129MPH...
returned to South Africa after the TT, little 013 and myself were in 3rd position in the world championships.” The crowning achievement was, without doubt, the TT’S 2nd place. It was behind the works four-cylinder Benelli of Kel Carruthers and in front of the works Ossa of Santiago Herrero. Bringing up the rest of the top six were Mick Chatterton (Yamaha); Frank Whiteway (on yet another Crooks Suzuki) and Derek Chatterton (Yamaha). Of interest to the press was the fact that the top speed of Frank Perris’ Suzuki on the Sulby Straight was an impressive 129mph. After Perris’ return to South Africa, 013 was returned to the Crooks Suzuki emporium and was used by them during the rest of the year. Les Trotter finished 18th in the Manx Grand Prix (eventually after several leaderboard positions, going on to win the 1976 Senior
Manx Grand Prix on a 500cc Crooks Suzuki). But the continually developed Yamahas were soon the machines to have. Eventually, 013 was displayed at various venues, including the 1995 TT Races before the TT Riders’ Association Parade Lap. It then passed into the hands of Ferry Brouwer and was paraded by Frank Perris for one season in Ferry’s Centennial Classic Demo Team. Indeed, in his book “That Boy”, there is a picture of Ferry (cigarette in mouth), fully concentrating on getting the timing of 013 correct, echoing Frank Whiteway’s words. Subsequently it then became the property of Phil Morris and has been on display at his Oswestry Road Racing Museum. Phil decided to sell it and I bought the machine from him with the intention of displaying and parading it, either with me riding or another rider who could show it care and understanding. A look inside the engine has proved that the internals are in excellent condition and it would be a shame for others not to see it run. My only reservation with that idea is that to fit silencers for the dreaded noise test would seem a sacrilege. As far as noise is concerned: “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” should be the order of the day with little 013. No silencers, but as always, I am open to persuasion.
The author with the 250.