The History of the Beamish Marque

In the early 70's, the sale of Suzuki motocross machines for the UK was being handled by the Brighton-based firm of off-road machine specialists, Beamish Motors. Run by Graham Beamish, a former BSA works rider of International repute, they were sent a batch of 50 RL250 trials models at the beginning of the 1974 season, to sell through their dealership network.

Quick to realise the shortcomings of the machine in its standard form, Beamish enlisted the help of local trials ace Brian Fowler to set about modifying these machines so that they would prove more acceptable to British trials riders. The short front mudguard was lengthened and its mountings modified so that the front wheel would not clog so easily with mud and the overall gearing was lowered too. The compression ratio of the engine was lowered, and the combustion chamber reshaped, whilst the engine itself was converted to run on petrol premix and not on the CCI lubrication system fitted as standard. The flywheel magneto was increased in weight by about 1.75 pounds to provide the engine with better torque, and the carburettor was fitted with a restrictor, to reduce the choke size from 28mm to 25mm. These and other minor modifications improved the machine enormously and all 50 modified machines were sold with surprising ease.

Having observed the world-wide failure of the standard RL250 'Exacta' model, Beamish Motors made Suzuki an offer for all unsold machines, which the factory was only too pleased to accept. Even so, Beamish knew only too well that his development work would need to continue. The ease with which the first 50 machines had sold could not be allowed to sway his judgement. A new frame was needed too, since the original had a wheelbase that was too long and forks with too much trail. There was a marked tendancy for the machine to "crab" when negotiating tight turns, quite apart from the fact that the machine had an uncomfortably high centre of gravity.

By this time, Brian Fowler was working full-time for Beamish Motors and he took an RL250 to Mick Whitlock, a trials rider who was an acknowledged master builder of trials-type frames. Whitlock produced a frame made from lightweight Reynolds 531 tubing, finished in hard chrome, the bronze welding being of the very highest standard. This was called the 'whitehawk' frame. Visually, it proved to be a very attractive frame too and it says much for Whitlock's expertise that his prototype design proved exactly right after extensive testing. Within the week a deal was closed for Whitlock to supply Beamish Motors with replacement frames suitable for converting the standard RL250 models for the 1975 season.

Beamish took delivery of hundreds of the old Suzuki RL250 'Exacta' from the United States and elsewhere. The frames were scraped and the engine and running gear put into the new 'Whitehawk' frame. The "RL250 Special", as it was called, required no aftermarket extras whatsoever and Beamish sold 1200 of them, 150 of which were exported to the continent. Surprisingly, 2 were despatched to Japan!

The Suzuki factory was delighted with the success of the Beamish operation and as a mark of their approval, they gave Beamish Motors the world-wide manufacturing rights for Suzuki-powered trials machines, an unprecedented step for a Japanese manufacturer to make. They agreed to supply all of the components that Beamish Motors needed to build complete machines and also undertook to design a larger capacity engine unit (the black engine model) to Beamish requirements.

For the 1976 season, Whitlock supplied a completely redesigned frame that was both lighter and stronger, to form the basis of the Mark 2 RL250 model. British-made sidepanels, mudguards, seat and petrol tank were used for the first time and the colour scheme was changed from the original orange and silver to yellow and silver. Also of British manufacture was the top fork yoke, which provided a set-back handlebar position, and Girling gas shock absorbers. A sidecar version was made available too (the only manufacturer to produce a dedicated 'outfit'), along with a reed valve induction system as an optional extra. And so the world-wide sales success of the Beamish RL250 model continued.

The 1976 Scottish Six Days Trial marked the introduction of the "RL325" works model, two of which were ridden by Nigel Birkett and John Metcalfe. Making extensive use of magnesium and alloy castings and components, these machines were reputed to weigh only 158 lbs. Unfortunately this lightness in weight caused the machine to float over obstacles rather than to grip them, with the result that this lightweight frame of Japanese manufacture, fitted with an alloy swinging arm and unconventional rear suspension, had to be replaced by a Whitlock-produced item later in the season. The season ended on a high note, with Colin Dommett winning his first of three consecutive British Sidecar Trials Championships.

1977 saw the continuation of the development of the RL325 (black engine) model, whilst the production RL250 gained a British-made computer-designed exhaust system, revised cylinder porting and alterations to the gearbox. For the season, the colour scheme was changed to black and red (Heron Suzuki colours).

(Image from the Whithawk factory - full production of the new Black Engine model frame).

A production version of the RL325 was announced at the 1978 Earls Court Motor Cycle Show in London and with the blessing of the factory, was named the Beamish Suzuki RL325. Fitted with reed valve induction, the engine was mounted in a new Whitlock-designed frame, fitted with an aluminium crankcase shield. Air assisted forks were used and all of the plastic components were made by Beamish themselves, in their new factory premises in Portslade, Brighton.

The RL250 model was continued, now with air forks and a new yellow and black livery . The last of the sliver engine Beamish Suzuki models in 1978 was the RL250a which was in red and black livery.

A new RL250 made its debut at the 1979 Earls Court Show, based on the already successful RL325 model and having a similar engine and frame layout. And so the development progamme continued into the eighties, with the promise of even more advanced designs to meet the ever changing requirements of the world's trials riders.

Production of the Beamish Suzuki ended in 1981.

Thanks to Pete De Sarro for the content of this page.