Suzuki’s humble beginnings in safe hands
Anyone with a keen eye on trophy winners from the many classics will be familiar with the name Heidi Cockerton. 38-year-old Heidi has scooped many a prize in recent years with her stunning restorations of the smaller capacity Suzuki models, and a visit to her base, just south of Cambridge reveals her secret.
Like most winning combinations there is a great support team in the form of Heidi’s partner of 20 years, Andy Baldwin, a production manager making precision optical components, and his father, an experienced metal worker and life long biker, Alan; the trio share all of the tasks involved in bringing, sometimes worse than, basket cases back to life. A great example of this work is the 1959 Suzuki Colleda, one of only a handful thought to be in existence in the world. The trio really do have the combined abilities to restore anything and the early Suzuki is testament to that as when it arrive in the UK from China five years ago, it had spent many years laying submerged in a pond, and then was badly damaged in transit, bending the forks and even one of the gear box main shafts. The corrosion was so bad that few, if any ever imagined it would ever run again, but it does thanks to much hard work and more than a little help from SEP in Kegworth, (www.sep-kegworth.co.uk) they returned what looked like an unusable, rusty mess, into a working crankshaft.
The restoration bug started in 1991 when a 1975 T500 was purchased for a rally trip rather than use the newer machinery that the pair had at their disposal. Following that journey, the decision was then made to restore the Suzuki twin to its former glory, a year on and lots of new parts, and hard work, and it was entered into the judging process at the BMF “The judges took no notice of our pride and joy” Andy recalled “We knew little about restoration and, although we were happy with the results, it didn’t meet the stringent criteria that the judges were working to, I vowed to return and win a trophy so set about doing just that.” And win is exactly what Andy and Heidi did, in fact many times since that date their work has graced the top spot in some of the biggest classic shows in the UK. “The hobby started for real with a TS125 Suzuki ” Heidi added “And then a Kawasaki S3 triple was taken on, the owner had lost the crank so we took it on and then another, a H1 joined the ranks, but it was the Roy Bacon Suzuki Two Strokes book that set the ball rolling with the current collection.”
Andy explained, “Once we started with the smaller bikes, and started showing them, we were getting offered all sorts and eventually we would like the complete collection. The main problem being the scarcity of early Suzuki’s in the UK as they were not that common, of course parts are always a problem but we can restore most things now. The TS won Best Classic bike at the 97 BMF and after that result Don Leeson invited us to the Stafford show, and we won best Japanese bike, which was a complete surprise as the bike fell over in the van on the way, and the mirror had to be glued back on. We became more involved with the VJMC (www.vjmc.com), and many of the members have come to the rescue offering hard to find parts, and in turn we helped Don with his Manx GP race efforts. Unfortunately Don was killed in 2005 while competing at the Manx, and since then Heidi and I have remained involved with the event, helping out several riders albeit on more modern machinery, we built the Yamaha R6 Peoples bike that was ridden by Stephen Thompson (www.thepeoplesbike.com) and for the 2010 TT we helped Steve Mercer.”
“For next year, we are planning to build a replica of the 1970 Production TT winning T500 that was ridden by Frank Whiteway, that bike will make a good partner for the T20 racer we currently have in the line up. We have the correct fairings and all the parts needed to make the job look spot on, and hopefully Frank will take the bike around the Island for a parade lap.”
The collection also extends to all manner of memorabilia including piles of parts books, sales brochures, original tins of cooling liquid, two-stroke oil and brake fluid, some dating back to 1963 and mostly found in old Suzuki dealers. When asked what was next Andy said “For the immediate future we have a few bikes lined up to add to the collection, we have recently been offered a rare electric start M15, it does need collecting from the IOM, so that will be taking its place in the line up soon, along with a B100P that is currently undergoing work.”
One thing for certain by the time the public get to see them and their stable mates, you can bet they will be better than when new.
Suzuki Collection Gallery
[dmalbum path=”/wp-content/uploads/dm-albums/Suzuki Collection/”/]