FRANK SHUTER Return to Personalities. Home.
Article by Peter Hosking of Christchurch.
When the Templeton track opened in 1963, it attracted a group of young riders
who were keen to try speedway. One of the newcomers was Frank Shuter. Others
were: Tom Black, Allan Brown, Murray Burt, and Roger Wright. Frank was the
first of this group to head overseas to England. He went on to ride in the
British League for nine years and to have a brief stint in the American league.
Frank was born on the 17 June 1943 in Rotorua and came to Christchurch with his parents in 1952. His father, Frank senior, was one of the South Island's leading motor racing drivers in the 1950s and is remembered for his Edelbrock Special and Maseratis. After school Frank worked in his father's garage and on race days he would go along to meetings and help in the pits.
Frank's first job was at Mace Engineering where he served his apprenticeship. He began competing in motor sport around this time riding in scrambles and grass events on a BSA Gold Star. He also drove his father's Special in meetings at Waimate, and Ruapuna and at the Tahunanui Beach races. His first taste of speedway was on the 23rd February 1963 when he had a couple of rides on Tony Nesbitt's bike. After sharing Tony's bike for a few meetings Frank bought a bike from Barry Briggs and he began to move up through the grades. In December he was selected to ride for Canterbury in a match with a visiting team from Hawkes Bay.
The 1964/65 Templeton speedway season was late starting due to track problems and by the time it got underway Frank had decided to try his luck in the newly formed British League. Briggo was a regular visitor to the Shuters' garage when he was in Christchurch and he had encouraged Frank to make the trip to the UK. Before leaving New Zealand Frank drove his father's Ferrari (the ex Pat Hoare 625) in one of the supporting races at Wigram in January 1965.
On arrival in England he went to Swindon where Briggs was team captain and on 16 April 1965 he had his first outing for the club as a reserve. Robert Bamford recalls that "he was quite sharp from the gate but once away he proved to be something of a fence scraper" and "what the public and probably the Swindon management didn't realise at the time was just how little racing experience Frank had." In his first season he rode in 18 league matches and only scored 14 points. A few years later in an interview he admitted "I'd hardly ridden speedway before and I wasn't good enough to make a league team." John Bullock who flatted and worked with Frank during this period, remembers Frank driving a Morris Minor with a rack on the back for carrying his bike. They both worked for Briggo's business converting cars imported from Europe to right hand drive so that they could be sold in the UK.
Frank managed to keep his place with Swindon in 1966 and his scoring started to improve. He was learning a lot from Briggo because they often travelled to meetings together. The following year Swindon won the League Championship. Frank rode in 36 matches and contributed 105 league points.
At the end of the season he returned to Christchurch. In his second outing at Templeton in early January 1968 he set a new track record of 77 seconds. He was invited to Auckland to ride in a trial at Western Springs to select the New Zealand team for the test series with England but was injured in a handicap race when Rim Malskaitis took him up onto the concrete cycle track. He missed the first four tests but was able to make his debut for New Zealand in the 5th test at Christchurch where he scored 10 points. A couple of weeks later he lowered the Templeton track record again, reducing it to 76.6 seconds in a match race with Rick Timmo. His best effort however was in the New Zealand championship in March when he finished runnerup to Ronnie Moore and ahead of Howard Cole and Bob Andrews. When Ronnie and Frank met in heat 15 it was the decider because both were unbeaten at that stage. Frank led from the gate and stayed in front for two laps before Ronnie found a way through on the inside. Frank later told the Speedway Star that "this really was a big moment for me." At the end of March Frank won the South Island title from Bill Moulin and Tom Black.
Although he returned to England in good form he was only used as Swindon's reserve during the first half of the 1968 season. In July Briggs was injured and was out of action for a few weeks so Frank took his place in the team. He finished the year with an improved average of 5.43.
In December he made another trip back to Christchurch to be with his father who was seriously ill. While he was at home he agreed to ride in two meetings with Ivan Mauger and Ronnie Moore. Ivan Crozier in his report on the second meeting wrote that Frank was "really flying" and was right on the back wheels of the two champions.
On return to England in 1969, he was transferred to Poole by Rider Control. He began the year as the team's reserve, but after top scoring with 10 points in a match against Cradley Heath in May he was tried in other positions before settling in as the number 6. He rode in 129 races that year because Poole used the same seven riders for nearly every match during its league campaign and he improved his average slightly to 5.55. Poole won the the League Championship and the team was invited to Poland at the end of the UK season. Frank rode in 5 meetings there in October.
In it's review of Poole's 1969 season the Speedway Star noted that Frank "was still a bit of an enigma - he could beat the best of them or lose to the worst of them." As well as riding speedway Frank was also doing some engineering work on the premises of an engineering company in Southamption. For transport he had replaced the Morris Minor with a Jaguar.
He rode again with Poole in 1970 but had a disappointing season and his average dropped to 4.76 partly because of ligament injuries. In June during the Poole v. Leningrad meeting he was involved in a spectacular crash. While leading a second half race he had a puncture and fell off and went into the fence. The three Russian riders who were following rode over him. Frank told a reporter that "the machinery was a bit dented but surprisingly nobody was hurt." Although his form was not as good as it had been the previous two seasons he was selected for New Zealand in the test series with England and was included in the team at Wimbledon and Sheffield.
When the season ended he decided to take a break and return to Christchurch. Although Poole offered him a contract to return in 1971 Frank reluctantly turned it down. He told the local newspapers that he wanted to establish a home in Christchurch for his English wife Julie and their newly born daughter, and that he couldn't afford the cost of travelling back to England. In mid December he was back on the track again at Templeton for a match race competition with Allan Brown and Roger Wright. Frank won three of the four races, but there was little between the three riders and when they met again at meetings in the new year the results were evenly shared. In March 1971 the New Zealand championship was held at Templeton and it looked like it would be a close contest between Allan, Frank, Roger and Gary Peterson. A week before Brown had been a sensation scoring 13 points for New Zealand in a test match with England at Templeton, and he was the favourite to win the championship. On the night, however, Frank was in determined mood and he won the title with a 15 point maximum. He later told the Press that before hand he was far from confident and that he had completely rebuilt his Jawa for the meeting. "I was worried all right" he said. "I thought Allan Brown would be hard to beat."
After buying a house he spent the winter in Christchurch. He had a few rides at Templeton during the 1971/72 summer before returning to England to ride for Poole again. It took a couple of months for him to readjust to racing in the UK but from June onwards he began to score around 6-7 points a meeting and on occasion reached double figures. Highlights were 10 points for Poole v. Leningrad; and a paid 11 points at Cradley a few hours after the birth of his son, Daniel. In the final meeting of the year he scored 14 points and the Speedway Star described the meeting as a "Shuter showpiece." When the magazine reviewed Poole's 1972 season, it noted that for Frank the year got better the longer it went on.
At the end of the the year Frank returned to Christchurch for what would be his final season at Templeton. He had bike problems for most of the summer but he did manage to win the South Island Championship after a run off with Graeme Stapleton. Frank's final ride in Christchurch was at the Cooper Henderson International on 3 March 1973 where he finished 6th with 10 points. Before he left Christchurch he told the Press that he expected to be away for three or four years. "I don't seem to be able to settle down here" he said in the interview.
In England he was transferred to Exeter where he continued to have mechanical troubles. In late April Briggo came to his aid, lending him one of his own bikes. Frank responded by winning two races in the match against Newport and winning his race in the second half. After sorting out his bike problems he began to regain the form he had shown the previous season. His best result was a 12 point maximum at Wolverhampton where he won his four races. He was selected for the New Zealand team in the Daily Mirror International Tournament and contributed a useful 5 points on his home track in the match with Poland. During the year Frank also worked for Briggo's business making trailers.
The following year he was in good form at the start of the season and was often paired with Ivan Mauger. Frank's fast gating proved useful on the small away tracks because Ivan could then team ride alongside him and they would score a 5-1 or 4-2.
In August Frank injured his knee in a race at Ispwich when Alan Sage tried to come inside him on the final lap and both riders ploughed into the safety fence. Although he continued to ride at Ispwich, a few days later his knee injury worsened and he had to take a break for a few meetings. He came back to finish the season and share in Exeter's league victory. In doing so he became the first rider to win three league medals with different clubs.
He decided to retire from riding in the British League at he end of 1974. His marriage had ended, so he applied for a highly paid engineer's job in Israel and moved there in 1975. He was employed to work in a munitions factory making Uzu submachine guns. Each day he was taken by bus to a high security compound to work and at night he said he could often hear gunfire nearby. While living in Israel Frank met his second wife Sylvia.
In March 1976 he rode in five speedway meetings in Israel for a rest of the world team which included Briggo and Ove Fundin against a USA team. After the series in Israel Frank moved to California to ride in the American League for the LA Sprockets at the Irwindale track. Also in the team was emerging star Bruce Penhall. Barry Briggs loaned Frank an old car when he first arrived in California which Bert Harkins who was also riding in California at this time remembers was nicknamed "La Bomba". Frank only rode a handful of meetings for the Sprockets before he was injured in a match with the Ventura Sharks on 27 May. His leg was badly cut and he was forced to retire.
In the late 1970s Frank set up his own engineering machining business in Los Angeles. The business took off in the 1980s when he obtained contracts to make prototype components for MacDonald Douglas and he also did some work for the NASA space programme. Around this time he took up flying and bought his own small plane.
There was one final episode in Frank's speedway career. On 8 October 1988 he returned to Swindon for a reunion of the 1967 side. In a match against the "Soft Water Centre All-Stars" he scored 2 points.
In the early 1990s he moved his business to Hemet a small town in the Californian desert. He did some machining work for American drag racing legend Larry Miner, and this led to him being invited to join Miner’s support crew. Frank and his third wife Barbara moved base to Indianapolis at the end of 1993 and they followed the drag racing circuit for a year driving a celebrity bus for Miner, entertaining VIPs at drag racing meetings.
In 1995 they decided to return to Hemet and Frank reopened his machine shop. In 1996 Steve Millan visited the business and found that it was "meticulously looked after and the gear was all top quality.” Millen, was interested in buying the machine shop so he invited Frank to a speedway meeting at Costa Mesa where they reached an agreement on the sale, and that Frank would stay on to run the shop for the STILLEN Company.
Sadly Frank died in an accident a year later on 12 July 1997 when he was riding home on his motor bike after visiting his brother and was hit at an intersection by a driver who did not see him. Frank was 54 years old and was survived by his wife Barbara and his four children. (Photo at right is Frank riding for Swindon in 1968)
Rode for New Zealand 14 times.