Dick Bettencourt’s passion for riding, working on and racing motorcycles was the foundation for New England’s oldest and largest Honda/Suzuki dealership. The Bettencourt family and dealership also created a legacy that resulted in multiple AMA National race victories and championships.
During World War II, Dick Bettencourt worked as a toolmaker at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology radar lab. He bought his first bike, a 1942 Army Harley WLA, to commute from Avon to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bettencourt had also made some performance parts at his dad’s machine shop for local racer Shortie Atwood. This connection introduced Bettencourt to racing on mile ovals.
Bettencourt became a traveling salesman for Butler and Smith, the U.S. importer for BMW and NSU motorcycles, and he worked on establishing dealerships. His family owned a machine shop in Brockton, Massachusetts, which Dick took over upon his father’s death. Soon after he opened an Indian dealership from that location. BSA, Matchless, Royal Enfield, Adler and Ducati machines were later added, and in 1956 Bettencourt’s was considered a high volume dealership selling 30 bikes that year.
Bettencourt continued racing, competing at historic venues such as the Daytona Beach, Florida beach course, and at Laconia, New Hampshire. The 1950s saw the introduction of purpose-built “Scrambles” courses, and in 1957 Bob Hicks, Dick Bettencourt, Les Beach and others formed the New England Sports Committee (NESC), which organized the New England Scrambles Championship system. Bettencourt went on to win the 1958 New England 250cc Scrambles Championship, and became the NESC President in 1961. Bettencourt had the best race weekend of his career at an annual U.S. vs. Canada scrambles competition, where he won every open class event at the Canadian round aboard his 360cc CZ Twin Pipe.
That same year, the Bettencourt dealership added Bultaco and CZ lines, and became the 86th Honda dealership in the U.S. and the 74th Suzuki dealership. In 1965 Bettencourt’s dealership moved to its present location in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. By 1970 Bettencourt’s carried the Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, CZ, Penton, Bultaco, Husqvarna, and Montesa lines.
In 1970 Ken Maely (also an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member) invited Bettencourt to trail ride in Baja over the Christmas vacation. This became an annual event, and Bettencourt often brought his children and customers to the ride.
In 1973 Bettencourt’s had become a Can-Am dealership, and was one of the first to carry the American-made Yankee 500Z. Bettencourt made a point of organizing Thursday morning trail rides for any customers that were interested in joining him.
In 1975 Bettencourt rode an XL250 on Bill Record’s Afro-trek ride across Africa. Jerry Smith’s book, Into the Heart of Africa, details this adventure. Bettencourt and other trail-riding customers also rode the Roof of the World tour across India and Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains.
Bettencourt and his wife Elaine raised four children (John, David, Mark and Carol) while operating the family business, and all of the children raced at one time or another. David won multiple titles and awards, including the 1973 Associated Racers of New England 125cc Expert MX Championship, the 1975 NESC Sportsman of the Year Award, the 1981 New England Flat Track Association 250 Pro Championship and the Open Pro Championship. Carol raced a Honda MR175 in the women’s class.
John won the 1968 NESC 125cc Expert Championship aboard a Bultaco, and later became a professional road racer. He won the 1978 AMA Superbike National race at Loudon, New Hampshire aboard a Suzuki GS750, and the 1985 race at Lexington, Ohio on a Honda VF750. Sadly, John perished in an automobile accident in 1987.
In 1979, Bettencourt sponsored motocross racer JoJo Keller, who won the New England Motocross Championship on a Honda CR125. Keller led several laps of the 1981 World Motocross Championship round at New Berlin, New York on his Bettencourt’s Suzuki RM250.
When Fields Park in Brockton banned motorcycles, Dick Bettencourt encouraged long-time customer Jim Slade and others to get the AMA involved. The AMA took the parks commission to court and lost. The AMA appealed and lost again. Many in the local motorcycle community were involved in fundraising to fight this ban. John Bettencourt designed a “Wheels for Fields” T-shirt as part of this fundraising. The AMA eventually appealed to the highest court in Massachusetts and won. The AMA then used this high court precedent to overturn motorcycle bans in other states.
Dick Bettencourt died in 1992, but his work continues through sons David and Mark who currently operate the Bettencourt’s dealership. Today Bettencourt’s is a proud sponsor of New England native and multi-time AMA Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth.
In 1990 Dick Bettencourt gave a rare 1973 Yankee 500Z as a gift to journalist and producer Dick Lague. Lague displayed the bike in his office for years, and in 2008 he entered the Yankee in the Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where it was accepted. “Dick would have been very proud to see the Yankee 500Z on that lawn in front of the Ritz Carleton,” said Lague.
Dick Bettencourt was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in 2000.