The title is perhaps a little misleading, but here we have a custom-built 125cc Suzuki trials machine which has been made in Japan, re-engineered in Canada, by a Scotsman.
The machine is the proud possession of exiled Scottish superenthusiast, Stuart J. McLuckie who lives in Thunder Bay in the province of Ontario, Canada and it is probably better described as the Mark 2 version of a machine he built and developed in the early 1970s when riding trials in his native Scotland as a member of the Edinburgh based Melville Motor Club.
Born in 1951, Stuart studied on day release at the old Napier Technical College in Edinburgh and took up employment at St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society in the city. In fact the same company that gave Sean Connery of James Bond fame a job as a milk delivery boy!
Stuart worked as a mechanic on the company vehicles based at their Fountainbridge headquarters. At the time he lived in the Comiston district of Edinburgh and took up trials riding in 1968 riding a Greeves at the annual Edinburgh St. George Evening news Trial, progressing to a Cotton. He shared transport to events with Douglas Bald and on occassion, Ernie Page. He rode the first of his Scottish Six Days Trials in 1970 on a 247cc Montesa.
Stuart met his wife to be, Wendy Kingon-Rouse at the RAC/ACU Motorcycle training scheme at Edinburgh’s Gorgie Market, the scene of many SSDT first day starts. Wendy was a keen motorcyclist and was learning to ride on an Excelsior scooter, then progressed to a brand new 125 Suzuki, supplied by Graeme P. Chatham’s Abbeyhill dealership. Stuart also took up riding motocross in 1970 on a 250cc CZ.
The outgoing, effervescent McLuckie was also one of a gaggle of trials, speedway and motocross riders who took part in Scotland’s Ice Racing venture in 1972. Using modified 175cc Greeves/Puch Pathfinder trials machines, sourced from dealers in Scotland, they raced indoors at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Ice Stadium and at Aviemore. Wendy and Stuart eventually married and emigrated to Canada in 1974.
Around 1971, Stuart had struck up a friendship with Edinburgh dealer, Graeme P. Chatham, who was the main promoter of the Ice Racing venture along with Trevor Hay. It was from this friendship that spawned the special Chatham Suzuki trials machine, developed from the 1972 TS125 Trail model.
Stuart McLuckie: “We took a brand new TS125 from Graeme’s showroom in Abbeyhill, it was registered YWS11K and loaded it onto my Mini pickup and I set about stripping it all down at home. The bits I didn’t need were returned to Chathams and sold off as spares or used in their workshops to repair damaged machines.”
The TS125 was powered by a 123cc five speed motor which pushed out a creditable 9.7 BHP at 6,400 RPM.
Handily, the TS125 came with 21 inch front and 18 inch wheels which was ideal for trials use, but the little Suzuki had steel rims as standard, so an Akront flanged rim was fitted which took a 4.00 section trials tyre on the rear and an unflanged mudshifter style Akront with a 2.75 section up front. The original metal side panel ‘125’ badge was retained fitted to hand made alloy side panels and the original TS125 fuel tank was gifted a couple of sculpted indents at the nose to allow for tighter full lock turns.
McLuckie: “I admired what Peter Gaunt had achieved with his first Suzuki based on the 120cc Trail Cat, then another later version using the TS125 and I wanted one just like it, the TS125 was easily sourced and I got to work making a trials bike out of it.
The idea also came from a Suzuki (JOV198E) that Trevor Hay had from 1968 until 1971 which came from Suzuki GB and had been an ISDT bike converted at Chathams for one-day trials use.” Trevor handled Chatham’s advertising, so that was the original Chatham connection I suppose.”
McLuckie rode the Chatham Suzuki, called the ‘TC125’ in all the Scottish national events including the Loch Lomond Two Day trial. He made improvements constantly and the bike created much attention at the time and useful publicity for the Chatham dealership.
Time goes by and Stuart makes his living as a skilled machinist in Canada, but retained his love of all things motorcycling and embarked on various projects, building trials specials to amuse himself over the years. But there was a hankering to recreate the little Suzuki he enjoyed riding in his twenties in Scotland. Over the years, he kept a vast photographic collection of his engineering exploits and is always happy to show them to those that have an interest in trials machines.
The original Chatham Suzuki has long since disappeared having been sold into private hands in the mid 1970s.
How the ‘Mark 2’ Chatham Suzuki was created:
Having retired from the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company working as a machinist for thirty-seven years, the winters can be long at Thunder Bay and Stuart McLuckie gets restless if he hasn’t got a project to keep him busy.
So, to keep him out of mischief, in 2019, a worn out 1973 Suzuki TM125 motocross machine was sourced as the supply of TS125 model was, by now, virtually non-existent in Canada. This was to be married with a 1976 TC125 motor which was pretty much worn out. The TC motor had a four speed high/low gearbox.
McLuckie: “The frame has been modified front and rear, steeper fork angle, and the rear subframe this all new. The wheels and hubs are original, rebuilt with stainless spokes and a lot of polishing. The forks are original but need some work on them, a wee bit on the stiff side. I hope that Peter Gaunt is up there smiling as he was the original inspiration?”
Stuart sourced the opaque white plastic mudguards from the UK through InMotion in Egham, Surrey as they looked better than other plastic guards on the market. The original Chatham Suzuki sported the popular VF (Vaccum Formers) black plastic guards of the period, now unobtainable.
Finished in a lovely metallic blue, as a nod to the Mark 1 Suzuki of the 1970s, Stuart has adorned it with tasteful decals which reflect the Scottish/Canadian connection and his trademark ‘Up Yer Kilt’ decal is on the front number plate.
A small decal on the tank spine, proclaiming ‘Made in Japan, Re-engineered in Canada’ is typical of the fun-loving Scotsman who is known for his quick witted, highly amusing comments.
Without a doubt, the Chatham Suzuki Mark 2 is a stunning little trials machine and if it performs as good as it looks them Stuart J. McLuckie’s time has not been wasted. No doubt this will not be the last of his winter projects, because you can’t keep a good Scot down!
UP YER KILT!