HomeColumnsTom McCarthyRick Stetson's Masterpiece: Going Home

Rick Stetson’s Masterpiece: Going Home

Stetson's Masterpiece: Going Home

Rick Stetson’s Masterpiece: Going Home

Story and Photos by Tom McCarthy

There are few things more satisfying to a motorcycle builder than seeing one of your creations put on display in a museum for all the world to see. There’s an element of pride in every drag bike build, to be sure. But few builds have the history of Rick Stetson’s famous “Suzy.” He created his 1981 Suzuki GS1100 with his hands in his shop, Harry’s Machined Parts, aka HMP.

The iconic black and red Suzuki was the National Motorcycle Racing Association’s (NMRA’s) #1 plate holder in Pro Comp for the 1981, 82, and 83 seasons of competition. In fact, the bike was undefeated during the 1982 season, when Rick and Suzy raced all 6 NMRA national events. The bike is now headed for its new home in the New England Racing Museum in Loudon, NH.

Ricks Stetson’s Masterpiece - Motorcyle Drag Bike Going Home
Rick Stetson and his dominating Pro Comp class Suzuki “Suzy” stands proudly by her side. Built by his hands at his shop Harry’s Machined Parts in 1980, for a decade, they were a force to be reckoned with in motorcycle drag racing. Tom McCarthy Photography

Suzy’s glorious years as a race bike began with its purchase off the showroom floor in Boston. The bike was then transported straight up to New England Dragway, where Rick had been a regular motorcycle drag racer for nearly a decade before that fall of 1980. In showroom trim, the bike had a best of 11.37@120mph as a bone stock bike. Rick and his racing buddies put 50 miles on the bike at the track to see what it could handle. Then he took it entirely apart and hot-rodded the bike, converting it into a Pro Comp 8-second monster with a 9″ wide read tire.

In 1981, Rick raced all five national events to win his first #1 plate in national competition in a professional class. He and Suzy then went undefeated in competition in 1982 during all six NMRA national events. In 1983, they again won the #1 plate with the NMRA sanction. In Pro Comp competition trim, the bike had a best of 8.36@158 in 1983.

Ricks Stetson’s Masterpiece - Motorcyle Drag Bike Going Home
Stetson has performed a burnout on Suzy hundreds of times on this bike. In March of 2024, He will deliver Suzy to the New England Racing Museum for permanent display. May 4th, 2024 it will be running during the first annual Cackle Fest, at the museum. Tom McCarthy Photography

During the 1983 season, the National Motorcycle Racing Association was an official branch of NHRA drag racing; at select national events, the NHRA invited a few of the NMRA professional classes to race during a handful of NHRA’s premier events. These were actual point class competitions for the NMRA racers, with the NMRA and NHRA events interwoven. During the 1983 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Rick and Suzy won their first NHRA “Wally” in Pro Comp.

When the NMRA ceased operations at the end of the 1984 season, Rick upgraded Suzy to Pro Stock Motorcycle trim. In 1986, together, they won the NHRA Gator Nationals in Pro Stock bike, with Rick defeating Pizza John Mafaro during the finals of the event.

In 1987, Suzy and Rick won their last NHRA national event together in grand style. They defeated Dave Schultz for the win during the NHRA Cajun Nationals. `1989 was their last season in NHRA racing together after ten years on track.

Ricks Stetson’s Masterpiece - Motorcyle Drag Bike Going Home
Rick Stetson, built, tuned and rode his Pro Comp bike to three consecutive #1 plates during 1981-82-83 seasons with the NMRA. In 2015, he is seen here at New England Dragway still wearing his original leathers, piloting the motorcycle he designed and built, many decades earlier. Tom McCarthy Photography

When asked how often the bike set and re-set the NMRA National Pro Comp record for the class, Rick could only grin with satisfaction and say “I really don’t remember. We broke that record so many times that I didn’t keep track season after season.” They just kept going quicker and faster, year after year, as evidenced by their wins and #1 plates.

Given the motorcycle’s storied history and Stetson’s induction into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame on June 26, 2016, the New England Racing Museum recently became aware of Rick’s desire to showcase Suzy within their exhibits. Consequently, the partnership between the museum and Rick was an obvious and fitting match-up for both parties.

Mable Doyle, who sits on the museum’s board, presented the idea to the museum’s board, which unanimously voted in the bike for a display on the first voting go-round. “This is our first drag bike, and we are thrilled to have Rick’s motorcycle added to our displays. It’s a beautiful and historic drag bike and a New England original.”

Ricks Stetson’s Masterpiece - Motorcyle Drag Bike Going Home
During Top Bike competition in 2016, Rick Stetson get’s out on New England Dragway T/B champion, Ed Hughes. They are as close as friends, as they competitors; always side-by-side, pushing each other to improve, sharp as a straight-razor. Tom McCarthy Photography

The bike will enter the museum for permanent display in March 2024 and will be placed in the drag racing segment next to Jungle Jim Leiberman’s AA/Funny Car. As of this writing, the exact date of its delivery is in flux, but its inclusion in the museum is assured.

The New England Racing Museum has over 10,000 square feet of floor space and displays vehicles from all New England racing disciplines, from short track to NASCAR and even soapbox derby. New England Speed is well represented here. It is a very high honor for Stetson’s bike to be included next to Jungle Jim’s Funny Car.

Jungle Jim Funny Car

On Saturday, May 4, 2024, the New England Racing Museum will be hosting its first “Cackle” event. With Rick at the controls, Suzy will fire up again to honor the bike and thrill the onlookers, who would do well to have earplugs in!

The New England Racing Museum is located on the grounds of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, on Rt 106, in Loudon, NH. Admission for the general public is $10, with children under age 12 admitted free. A great selection of books on New England racing and racing in general, as well as souvenirs and other merchandise, is available on site.

For a closer review of the museum’s exhibits, please visit their website at  www.nemsmuseum.com

Tom McCarthy Until Next time…

– Tom McCarthy

About New England Racing Museum

Our mission is to discover, preserve and educate the public on the history of New England motorized racing, including the people who do it or have done it. Our museum was built and shall operate as a place for the public to visit and come to appreciate our sport’s past and to learn about its present and future. We encourage preservation of the historically significant racing artifacts including vehicles, literature and photography.

The New England Racing Museum is located at 922 NH Rt 106 N., Loudon, NH on the grounds of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We are open Saturdays and Sundays during the summer and every Saturday during the winter. Normal business hours are 10am-4pm. We have extended days and hours during NHMS race weekends. Children under 12 are admitted free and general admission is just $10.

The museum is 10,000 square feet with race cars and motorcycles from all disciplines, all with a New England background, on display. This museum is all about New England motorsports. Race win, championship trophies and driver helmets are on display. When you visit the museum, you’ll see stunning photography and unique New England racing artifacts. There’s even a wonderful Soap Box Derby display, slot car track and iRacing Simulator.

The Racing History Preservation Group, the Museum’s owner, is a 501-c-3 non-profit so donations are likely to result in tax deductions for the donor. The museum is governed by an unpaid board and operated largely by dedicated volunteers. www.nemsmuseum.com

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