1970 Suzuki T125 II Stinger
Claimed power: 15hp @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 70-75mph (observed)
Engine: 124cc air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 43mm x 43mm bore and stroke, 7.3:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 227lb (103 kg)
Fuel capacity: 2.1gal (8ltr)
Price then/now: $474/$500-$4,000
Discovered amongst hundreds of other bikes in the huge swap meet at Vintage Motorcycle Days, this rare little Suzuki Stinger stung both the buyer and the seller.
Suzuki collector Chip Miller and friend Mike Crane spotted the Stinger in the swap meet area, with a Sharpie-marker sign on the seat that read “For Sale — $600.” After talking to the owners, they learned the little Suzuki refused to run.
The conversation went something like this.
Chip: “Did you time it?”
Chip: “Did you clean the carbs?”
Prods at the left-side kickstarter produced only an occasional backfire.
Mike: “Did you try switching the spark plug caps around?”
Sellers: “Huh? Nope.”
With the caps switched, the little Stinger lit right up in a haze of 2-stroke exhaust.
“Instantly, the sign on the seat was changed to $800,” Chip laughs, adding, “but, we got a beer out of them for getting it to run, and I eventually paid $750 for it.”
Chip’s been collecting Suzuki motorcycles since 1982. He’s passionate about them simply because in college a pal had a 1972 GT750J, which Chip got to ride on occasion. “I’d sold my 1971 Honda CB750 to go to school,” Chip says. “And the Suzuki was just such a different motorcycle. It impressed me, and I said ‘One day I’m going to get one.’” Chip currently has several 2-stroke Suzukis from the early 1970s, including examples of GT380s, GT550s and GT750s.
He’d been hunting for a Suzuki T125 Stinger for some time before discovering the 1970 model for sale at Mid-Ohio. Chip wasn’t waxing nostalgic, as he doesn’t recall even seeing a Stinger on the road when they were new. “But as a Suzuki collector, I had to have one,” Chip says.
Suzuki introduced the T125 Stinger to North America and Europe in 1969, and the model lasted just three years, with production ending in 1971.
In Japan, the home market version was called the T125 Wolf, while in Australia and France the bike was called the Flying Leopard. To further confuse the name issue, a T90 Wolf was available in other markets, but apparently not the U.S. The 90cc Wolf and 125cc Stinger were visually almost identical, each with Suzuki’s triangulated frame, long fuel tank and “Grand Prix”-style seat. Both had forward-canted parallel twin engines and upswept exhausts; the Wolf simply had a smaller bore.
Suzuki Stinger style
The distinctive dual exhaust, something Suzuki called a “power pipe,” sets the overall tone of the Stinger: racy. And while we can’t claim it as absolute fact, it seems pretty clear Suzuki was aiming to capture the young and growing boy-racer market with the strikingly styled Stinger. Bright paint colors also helped set the Stinger apart from other motorcycles, and over its three-year run the Stinger was sprayed with at least three different hues including Roman Red, Candy Yellow and Pop Green, our feature bike’s color.
When first introduced, the Stinger’s exhaust ends were finished in black, but later models featured a chrome tip. Capable of making 15.1 horsepower at 8,500rpm, the 2-stroke twin featured a built-up crankshaft supported on four sets of ball bearings, with connecting rod big ends and wrist pins riding on needle bearings. Oil is carried in a small tank underneath the saddle and is fed to the engine through a rotary pump, while fuel and air mix in twin downdraft Mikuni MD-18 carburetors before entering the cast iron cylinders via rotary port induction. Confusingly, some sources (both American and European) indicate the Stinger uses twin Amal carburetors. Chip says it’s his understanding that Mikuni paid a royalty to Amal for the rights to build an Amal-designed carburetor.
The constant mesh transmission has five gears to help keep the machine on the boil. Oddly, though, the Stinger featured a handlebar that would look more at home on a dirt bike than a small street bike. Thirty inches wide with a 4.5-inch rise, it is braced with a crossbar like an enduro machine.
According to a 1969 brochure, the Suzuki Stinger was equipped with Suzuki’s new “Tri-form” frame to give the Stinger a smooth ride with confident handling. The new design had the engine slung under what was basically a triangulated space frame, with a gusseted head tube at the front. Although the Stinger didn’t inspire the sort of press coverage witnessed by bigger, more powerful machines like Suzuki’s own T500 Titan, the Stinger was given a go in the September 1969 edition of Cycle magazine, and the road test editor liked what he found. “The Stinger is a quick, agile motorcycle. You can fling it around the corners with confidence. There is nothing to scrape when you lean it way over,” Cycle wrote.
The March 1971 edition of U.K. magazine Motorcyclist Illustrated ran a more comprehensive review, and their tester was even more enthusiastic about the Stinger’s ride. “To change line required nothing more than a thought and the Stinger responded instantly and exactly. Small section tires, low weight, light steering and a responsive engine combined to return an agility as yet not experienced on any motorcycle, whether roadster or racer,” their tester wrote.
The bike wears 18-inch spoked wheels front and rear, with a 2.5-inch tire in the front and a 2.75-inch at the rear. Cycle’s road test editor felt the single-leading-shoe brakes were adequate for the task of slowing the Stinger, whether riding solo or two-up. According to Motorcyclist Illustrated, the Stinger’s binders were straight from one of the company’s offroad parts bins.
Chip’s 1970 Pop Green Suzuki Stinger was wearing its age when he bought it. The story he was told by the Mid-Ohio vendor, and one he has no way of verifying, is that the Stinger was owned by a woman who lived on a large country estate, and she used the Suzuki every day to ride down the long driveway to pick up mail.
When he bought it, the odometer showed just 3,200 miles. “It was a low-mileage original, and a great candidate for restoration,” Chip says. With the Stinger back in his shop Chip performed a crankcase pressure test, which it passed admirably. “The crank seals were good, and it seemed to run fine,” he adds. He had the outer engine covers powder-coated to match the original color, and he pulled the top end and installed new piston rings but left the pistons alone; the original pistons just looked too good to change.
The rest of the Stinger was disassembled to perform a complete restoration. Stripped of its factory finish, the Tri-form frame was treated to black powder coat. Those distinctive exhaust pipes were blasted and treated to a high-temperature ceramic coating, and the rear baffles and heat shields were chromed. Other rechromed parts include the handlebar, fenders and taillight bracket. The wheels were disassembled and the hubs were powder-coated a stock Suzuki gray before being laced back into brand new rims capped off with new tires.
Tattered and torn, the Stinger’s seat was recovered in new vinyl that Chip sourced from Paul Miller, the Suzuki parts specialist. Paul also supplied several NOS (new-old-stock) parts, including switchgear, a speedometer and tachometer, a headlight bulb, and a wiring harness for the 6 volt system. Chip says the majority of rubber components found on the Stinger are not difficult to source, with the exception of the airbox boot that splits into two as it feeds both carburetors. Stock Suzuki hardware was zinc-plated while a friend repainted the Pop Green gas tank. Decals from Reproduction Decals helped give the Stinger the finishing touch.
Motorcyclist Illustrated said it had a hard time getting its Stinger’s engine to wind up above 8,000rpm, but that hasn’t been Chip’s experience. “The Stinger revs out at about 9,500rpm, and it’s a really nice bike to ride,” Chip says. “It’s as smooth as glass, and you don’t feel any buzzing. At around 40mph it’s not as anxious to get up to 60 as it was to get to 40, however.”
Returning to the scene
After completing the restoration, Chip took the Suzuki Stinger back to Mid-Ohio where he used the machine to commute between his hotel and the swap meet, and he added a few hundred miles riding it at Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) and Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC) events. The first year he showed it at the AMCA Viking Chapter national meet, the Stinger was judged a Junior First, and then, a year later, a Senior First with 99.5 points.
Chip really, really liked the Stinger, but so did someone else. Mike Ellis came to an open house Chip held for the Minnesota VJMC, and he gave Chip a price that he couldn’t refuse. The Pop Green Stinger is now in Mike’s collection, but Chip couldn’t go long without having another.
He’s since picked up a red Stinger to restore and ride. In Chip’s case, once stung, the Stinger’s barb has proven difficult to remove, and he’s not the least bit shy. MC