(Not for reprint - for viewing purposes only)
~ Frank Scurria ~
Below are some pictures of Frank Scurria who raced for DUCATI in the 50s and 60s.
Updated racing bio & other interesting factoids at bottom
Click on thumbnails for larger images
Have you seen this bike?
|The front down tube had been moved forward approximately 5/8 inch at the engine, which meant that the standard front engine plates wouldn't fit. The front down tube was braced at the steering head with a tube instead of the conventional metal gusset. The last time I saw the bike was in 1963 and I think it was converted into a scrambler/desert racer and may still look like that.||
Have you seen this bike?
The second bike I'd like to find
is a 350 Mach 1S. The engine number is, 350 SC1. It was a bit
unusual in that it had an Amal GP carb, a 230mm Oldani front brake, and a Manx
seat instead of the usual Ducati stuff. The last time I saw this bike
was in California, in 1967.
The following is Frank Scurria's bio, in his own words which he wrote for me to post here.
Here is the bio you asked for. It covers 1958 to 1974. I hope it’s what you wanted.
Well, where do I start? I guess back in 1958. That’s when I got interested in motorcycle road racing. My first job after graduating from high school was working for Mustang Motor Corp, in Glendale, California, assembling and testing Mustang motorcycles.
Back in the old days, there were no racing schools. You bought, begged or borrowed what you needed and entered races---sink or swim. I was very fortunate in that I lived in Southern California, the hotbed of the American Federation of Motorcyclist. They used European rules. Nothing was banned. You could run anything as long as it was safe. There were Manx Nortons, AJS 7Rs, ex-works lightweights and odd machines that nobody in America had ever seen before. I bought a Ducati 200 Super Sport, from Bob Blair (owner of ZDS Motors, Ducati distributor for the 11 western states), leathers, helmet, etc., and a single rail trailer with a fits-all trailer hitch. I didn’t have a car, just the bike that I rode to work and raced on weekends. I would ask my friends if they would like to go to the motorcycle races. When I got an affirmative answer, I would put my hitch on their car (in those days, cars had real bumpers) hook my trailer to their car and we’d be off to the races.
My first race was at Willow Springs, in February of ‘59, where I finished second in the 250 race. I was lucky there was a second race. With 40-psi tire pressure, it was a very “loose” race. I took advice from someone who didn’t know any more than I did, although there is the chance he meant 20 psi in each tire, for a total of 40 psi. Oh well. As the year went on, I got some good results, generally finishing in the top four. I made every race I could. I think I only missed one; the result of a broken leg from a road accident.
At that time there was no such thing as a Ducati workshop manual. Bob gave me a parts book with exploded views of the engine and that’s what I used as a guide the first time I took a Ducati engine apart. It was quite a learning experience. I still have that parts book. I also attended a dealer school where the instructor was the famous Franco Farne. He used my engine to demonstrate how to hop up a Ducati for racing.
Near the end of the year, Bob got a 175 Formula 3 engine from Berliner. He grafted it into a standard frame and asked if I would like to ride it. Wanna guess what my answer was? In my first race on this bike I finish second to John McLaughlin on a Parilla Gran Sport and equaled the 175 lap record. That was the start of my sponsored connection with Berliner/ZDS that lasted for years.
1960 proved to be a good year, except for the start of the season. I was sent on my first trip to Daytona, where I crashed after hitting the motorcycle of a rider that had fallen in front of me. Other than my pride, and losing a lot of skin, I wasn’t hurt, but the bike was a total loss. I felt terrible about destroying Bob’s bike. I was trying to explain about what had happened and Bob just said, “Don’t worry about it. If you never fall off, you’re not going fast enough. As long as you’re ok we can always get another bike.” By the time I returned to California, Bob had acquired a new, complete, 175 Formula 3. It was the most beautiful thing. Fast, nimble, with great brakes. Good enough for me to win some races and the AFM 175 Championship.
1961 was also a good year. I built an exceptional bike for that year. It was known around the shop as the “square 250”. Alan D’Alo, master machinist and maker of ARD magnetos, stroked a 200 Ducati crankshaft to 68mm for his desert racer and made one for me too. I built a 68mm x 68mm, 250cc Ducati engine. It ran so well I was protested at one race. There was quite a crowd as the officials measured the engine---of course they found it legal. This was also the year of the “350 experiment”. The officials wouldn’t let me run my 250 in the 350 races because they said the class was for 251cc to 350cc. So I ran one 350 race, at Santa Barbara, California with a 69mm piston in this bike, making it 254cc. This was a “one off” race because the cylinder and piston were borrowed from a ZDS scrambler dirt bike. After the 250 race, I pulled into the pits and changed the piston and cylinder while a friend stalled the start of the 350 race. I got to the starting line just in time, and the engine was still warm from the 250 race. I beat all the 350s, except one, and finished 2nd just a few feet behind an AJS 7R. That got me thinking of building another 254cc bike for the 350 races, but that didn’t happen. I won some races and the AFM 250 Championship, but there was gloom on the horizon for the Ducatisti. It was during this year that the famous Parilla tuner, Orin Hall, showed up on the scene with the machine known as the “Gadget”, the world’s fastest Parilla and the scourge of all Ducatis. Near the end of the year, Orin got this machine so fast, and so reliable, that none of us could touch it. A few years later, I would have the opportunity to race this bike for Orin and find out just how good it really was. 1961 was also the year of the introduction of the Diana. This was a great step forward with the new over-square 250 engine and we thought we might be able to build a Ducati using this engine to beat the “Gadget”. But we didn’t have to build one---Berliner sent a new bike for me to race; a Formula 3, 250.
For 1962 I raced the 250 Formula 3 for Berliner/ZDS. I was quick enough for a couple of wins and a number of second place finishes and second in the 250 Championship, but the “Gadget” dominated and won the Championship. I took a lot of heat because the Ducati people didn’t believe there was a Parilla that could go that fast. I suggested they send one of their works bikes and their best rider to California and find out for themselves. They never did, but they would find out a couple of years later when Orin took the “Gadget” to Daytona. 1962 was also the start of my most ambitious Ducati project---the first 350 Ducati. 350s at that time were 500 size motorcycles with smaller capacity engines (Norton Manx, AJS 7R, BSA Gold Star). My idea was to go in a different direction and make a 250 size motorcycle with a 350cc engine. I went to see Alan D’Alo again, and asked if he would stroke a Diana crank to 76mm. He did. Borgo made the 76mm piston. The head on this machine was also the first to have the altered intake port angles that really made a big difference in performance. This machine was the most extensively modified Ducati I ever built and was ready for the start of the 1963 season.
The first race of the ‘63 season (Daytona FIM race) started out with good news and bad news. The good news was that I raced a works Tohatsu 50cc bike in the first International race for this size machine. I was running third behind two works Hondas and fell trying to keep up. I got up and managed to finish fifth, which I thought was pretty good considering that I didn’t care much for bikes that small. I was offered a ride by the factory to race works 50s and 125s in Japan. Unfortunately, the factory went belly up and I still have never been to Japan. The bad news was in the 250 race. I was riding the Formula 3 Ducati. At the end of the infield straight, just a heartbeat away from the braking point, the engine seized and shot me over the high side. The first step was about twenty yards long and I spent the next couple of weeks on crutches. That was also the end of the F3 250. The engine went back to Berliner, to be sent back to the factory for new cases and never returned. I ran the 350 for the rest of the season. After initial teething problems, it turned out to be the fastest Ducati I ever raced. I won two races, the first being at Willow Springs on June 9th ‘63. As near as I have been able to determine, this was the first time a 350 Ducati won a race anywhere in the world. I finished in the top two or three places in most of the other 350 races, and finished third in the 350 Championship. By the end of the season, it was as quick as any 350, and quick enough to beat most of the 500s, except the very well ridden ones by such riders as, Tony Murphy, Buddy Parriott, Don Vesco, etc. At the request of Dr. Montano, then the managing director at Ducati, I sent drawings and specs of my 350 to the Ducati factory. Ducati came out with a production version of this machine in 1965, the Sebring. Unfortunately, it was a very low performance bike and never lived up to its potential in standard form, although many have been made into good racers.
1963 was also the year I started racing 500s. I got a brand new 500 Manx Norton. It was fabulous. The first time I rode it, at Willow Springs, I finished third.
1964 started very well, but ended in disaster. I rode a works Norton Domi Racer in the Junior race at Daytona. That was a 500 twin in a Manx chassis. It wasn’t all that quick but the handling and brakes were really good. I blew the start and by the time I got going the whole field was gone. Fortunately, the race was a 100 miler and that gave me the time to get to serious work. The engine developed a nasty vibration because the top engine mount broke, but didn’t slow very much until about half way through the race. I worked my way up to second place and was catching the leader. Then the bike got slower and oil leaking on the rear tire stopped my progress. I lost second place to Swede Savage and finished third. I rode a works Ducati in the 250 race. It quickly became obvious that the Ducatis weren’t competitive. The “Gadget” was there as well as works H-D/Aermacchis and works Yamahas. My engine seized a piston in practice. I volunteered to work on my bike while the factory mechanics worked on the rest. When I put mine back together, I put the head from my 350 on it. The works mechanics were furious, saying that these Ducatis could race for 24 hours in Spain. When I replied that the Daytona race was 100 miles and we didn’t have 24 hours they refused to have anything to do with me. An ignition wire broke a few laps from the end of the race while I was the only Ducati on the same lap as the winner. That was my last ride on a works Ducati. The next week I won the Sebring race on my Manx. ‘64 was a mixed season. I raced a 125 Bultaco for the Bultaco distributor, 500 and 750 Nortons for Berliner/ZDS, and a 250 Parilla---Orin Hall’s famous “Gadget”. Orin entered two bikes for the race at Cotati, one for me, and the other for Ron Grant. I won---first time on the bike. That Parilla was so good. The last race of the season was at Willow Springs. In the 250 race, a minor problem stopped the Parilla. In the big bike race, disaster struck. I rode Bob Blair’s 750 Norton. Well-known American tuner, Tim Witham, built the engine and it was really fast. Unfortunately, I crashed it in the sweeper at the end of the back straight, at about 135 mph. I broke my back and my left leg, and wrote off Bob’s Norton. I would be in a cast and back brace for about four months---Just in time for the first race of 1965; Daytona.
The first race of 1965, Daytona, was also my last race of ‘65. I was riding the Parilla in the 250 race. Early in the race I clipped another rider and crashed. I broke my left leg again. This time it was really bad. The doctor told me my leg looked like a bag full of marbles and he would have to amputate. After three days of arguing and refusing to sign the amputation papers, the doctor agreed to try to fix the leg. It’s not beautiful, but I still have both legs. All of ‘65 was spent in California, healing and designing new racers. A friend and I made the casting pattern to cast an aluminum cylinder for a, short rod, 500 Norton twin. The bike was quite fast and I hope to get this machine running again, someday.
For 1966 I moved to England. I took my 500 Manx and a 350 Ducati SC. I wish I could say I won some races in England, but the best I finished was a third at Snetterton, a forth and a fifth at Lydden and a fifth at Brands Hatch. Racing in England was great---everything but the weather. For a California boy, English weather leaves a lot to be desired.
1967 started at Daytona where I rode a 350 SC for Berliner, in the 200 miler. It was way to slow to be competitive, but absolutely reliable. I finished, but well down in the field. This was to be the last time I ever raced a Ducati, although I did try one of Vic Camps 250s at a practice session at Brands Hatch. After Daytona I returned to England with two Kawasaki A1Rs. I was supposed to get 350 barrels, pistons and heads to make one into a 350, but the parts never arrived so I had to ride one 250 as a 350. These bikes were beautiful, but they were the worst handling bikes I had ever ridden. They had a built in wiggle I could never get rid of. Tank-slappers were not uncommon. In fact I got in one at Brands Hatch, at the first turn of the Hutchinson Hundred that was really wild. It happened just as Mike Hailwood went by on the Honda 6. After the race he said he was surprised I saved it. When he went by the only part of my body that was still attached to the bike was my left hand. My right hand went through the windscreen and a piece of it hit Mike. I told him I didn’t save it---it was just pure luck that I didn’t crash. I never won on these bikes, but I got a couple of seconds and thirds and some fourths and fifths.
In 1968 I went back to England, got married and bought a racecar---a Formula 2 Lola. I brought the Lola and the wife back to California. Both are gone now, but I did win my first car race. It was at the old Ontario Motor Speedway in 1969.
I was concentrating on car racing in 1970, but I did ride the Ontario motorcycle race on a very badly prepared Norton. It broke and I didn’t finish. I also raced a beautiful, and very red, 100cc Aermacchi road racer for Jack Krissman, the inventor of the Filtron air cleaner and the man who ran the H-D desert racing team. I won some races on it in the early 70s. The color photos I sent to you are of the Aermacchi.
At the end of 1972 I returned to England to race cars. I raced a Formula 3 Ensign in 1973 and 1974. The racecar photo I sent to you was me racing the Formula 3 car at Brands Hatch.
Well, that’s about it for my racing career. I hope this info is what you wanted.
Frank is living in Southern California enjoying the good life...... Thanks Frank!
I posted this trivia question in the later part of September, 2002....
And the winner is......
Our very own Uncle Tod Rafferty aka Team Geezer (almost by default I might add,..... he sent in like 30 guesses and was running out of options!)
We had 3 other guys who got 2 out of 3 correct,..... John Burkhard, Ron Kloetzli and Bob Moberley.
We had just over a hundred entries in total, can;t believe i stumped everyone as i had JUST put together a page about Frank S the day before with pictures of his face as well,..... Farne has been in a bunch of books,.......
So, the guys are on the left, Frank Scurria and on the right, Franco Farne.
The picture was taken at ZDS in Glendale, California. It was at a dealer school. Franco Farne was the instructor and he used Frank's Ducati to show the dealers how to tune it for racing. The bike in the photo is a 200 Americano and the picture was taken in 1959 by Ron Kloetzli.
Scurria had a hand in Gordon Jennings Ducati 250 Cycle World project racer in the mid-60s. Quoting from "Ducati" by Tod Rafferty (signed copies still available for $20 incl. shipping), "Frankie was pretty fast on a motorcycle, and he was a completely engaging character and always up to something absolutely mad. He broke his leg badly, the second time, at Daytona in 1965 where I found him rolling around in front of my front wheel.
"He smashed the leg badly enough that they were going to amputate it, and he said nothing doing, just splint it and send me back to California. When he got back the real doctors, orthopedic surgeons, patched him up."
Scurria took up car racing and became a cop in Los Angeles. He's probably about 60 now, think Steve Allen has more info his site.
Franco Farné began with Ducati in 1951 (before Dr. T.), and became the lead development rider; he was also an ace racer and mechanic. Farné worked for both Taglioni and Bordi, and only left Ducati last year. Interesting to note that when they sent someone to the States in 1963 to instruct the Yanks on small Italian motorcycles, the sent a small Italian.
Tod <[email protected]>
I owned Frank's 250 champ bike and regrettably sold it. Fortunately, it is still in the area and I am trying to get it back. It had a copy of the the first Ducati 250 engine that either Frank or myself can imagine, courtesy of a local bore and stroke by Frank himself.
As you know, most people don't appreciate that he also created the first 350 Ducati as well. A terrific guy and greatly under appreciated among Ducatisti, but then as we all saw up at Las Vegas, most Duc people including the director of their museum really don't really understand that it all began before the twins.
Lastly, let me say that I appreciate your effort. It is essentially thankless. Such are most of the things that we feel passionate about and wish to share with others.
Ron Kloetzli <[email protected]>
There ya go. Frank is a super cool guy, I have not met Franco but you can read about him in just about every book ever written about DUCATI - ace mechanic, test rider, racer, one of the official Ducati mechanics to follow Mike "The Bike" Hailwood during his stunning '78 TT victory...... What is so super about this picture is when it was taken. look how young these guys are! Franco just retired from DUCATI last year or so was it? it is so interesting to me as a racer to meet other racers that have been there and done that.... Long ago... on the old tracks, before really good pavement or any kind of pavement in the pits... on the old bikes and hard tyres! I wonder how I will be when I have been around that long? I doubt anyone will remember my racing exploits but still, I like to give these guys the credit they deserve.... I know what a tough time it is making the grid. Every weekend. Count on more info about Frank Scurria's racing tenure to show up on my site in the future. He most certainly is part of the DUCATI history book and I will be doing my part to help document it further.....
Steve Allen <Steve @ Bevel Heaven Dot Com >
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