KTMbretta 390: a multi-cultural fusion of Italian styling, Spanish components, Austrian design, Indian power, British workmanship and Welsh rider…
Could this be the most complete, finely finished and useable Lambretta hybrid ever built? Our Rossa-350-owning photographer, Marcus, calls it a benchmark to judge all others by.
In 2013 I sat in a press conference at the launch of the new KTM Duke 390. On the table sat its Bajaj-produced single cylinder engine. It looked fairly compact and according to the man in orange it weighed just 36kg’s. My mind began to wander away from the predictably boring press spiel.
Later that day as I rode the bike around sunny Leicestershire I realised that although the bike looked great and was good fun to ride it also had close to 40bhp at the rear wheel and this engine would make a perfect donor for a Lambretta project.
The bike itself was too new to find second-hand ones, so building one meant not only buying a donor scooter but also a brand new bike as well. I found and bought a Lambretta Series 1 but that’s as far as my own project got, I fell in love with the scooter as it was and decided not to pursue the KTM dream.
The Brogue trader
That’s where the owner of this scooter comes in; Chris Macnamara makes dreams come true. He loves a project, isn’t adverse to the odd fast bike and as the go-getting entrepreneurial owner of ‘The Brogue Trader’ chain of upmarket gentleman’s shoe shops, he also has the funds to turn an idea into reality.
Impress the wife
To kick things off Chris bought himself an Eibar Series 2 winter model. As with many of these imports it was well past its best. His other half, Joanne was less than impressed when he turned up with it in the back of his Transit. I dare say Jo wasn’t too happy when she realised he was also about to butcher the brand new KTM Duke 390 he’d bought to go with it. That’s £4500 just for the bike and another £1100 for the Spanish pile of junk, most of which was beyond salvation. In the end Chris only used the frame, rear hoop, headset and one side panel during the build.
Not to worry, Chris convinced her that they’d soon be off touring on this jalopy and that it’d look great. He’s an ambitious type of guy who puts his money where his mouth is, so what could possibly go wrong? This project started in September 2015 and it wasn’t going to be a slow one. In fact it was finished by July 2016.
That’s the difference between taking a project to somebody who works in the field full-time and one who fits it in as a hobby, juggling between work/life/family and home commitments. You can get things done at a much faster rate. Knowing Chris personally, I also know he’d be the kind of client who gets exactly what he wants, in the shortest time frame possible.
In good hands
The old and new machines were dropped off at the workshop of Gary Hancox in Leamington Spa. Gary fabricated the complete rear sub-frame and reworked the original KTM trellis sections before mating it to the Lambretta frame. The rear swinging arm, 10″ wheels and rear brake caliper hanger were also fabricated in a surprisingly short space of time.
For ease of access the rear loop, complete with side panels can be removed in one piece by undoing four Allen bolts. The engine still fills the space inside the Series 2 loop very well. The simplicity of a two-stroke scooter engine always becomes apparent once you look beneath the panels of a modern four-stroke bike engine. Where do you start with all those sensors, wires, solenoids and such like?
Aside from getting the engine in, sorting the plumbing, deciphering the wiring and making the whole thing work properly (and of course look drop-dead gorgeous) Gary also turned the legshield toolbox into a fuel tank – complete with KTM fuel pump and senders. The original KTM clocks were mounted into the headset and the bike’s rear light was incorporated into the Lambretta frame.
Gary recycled and used parts of the vintage Lambretta and Indian-built KTM as he went, so not all parts went to waste. The KTM radiator was mounted under the frame and caused a few issues initially but the bike/scooter – KTMbretta, call it what you like, runs cooler than a Welsh jogger in a pair of well-polished brogues.
The upright single-cylinder engine is compact but also quite tall and the filler cap for the radiator sits just under the seat; about 30mm above the frame to be precise. Luckily the cooling problems have been fixed or Chris risked losing his crown jewels if things got heated down there…
Taking into account the rad cap, Chris commissioned Lloyd Watts at Rusty Innovations to custom build a seat with a hoop in the centre to go over the projecting cap. The seat was upholstered using a gel pad for extra comfort and looks fantastic but Chris says “It was still as uncomfortable as hell” he found himself sinking into the seat, rather than it helping to ease the bumps. That’s due largely to the hot engine being so close to the base of the seat and softening the gel. Chris has just had the seat remade by Lloyd using conventional foam, it arrived on the day of our photo shoot. He’ll also be buying a bench seat for longer journeys, or for riding two up. This scooter is built to be practical as well as looking good.
Subtle touches like the flush mount LED indicators; filled horncast and rear frame grille all help to give the scooter a modern look without losing its vintage identity. It also rides on 10″ wheels, so sits as a Lambretta should without the giraffe-leg look of 12-wheel conversions.
A friend of Chris’s in Cardiff, Julian Gill, carried out the perfectly finished paintwork. It sets the scooter off nicely without detracting from the work that’s gone on elsewhere. Sometimes less is more. Let the engineering do the talking whilst the paintwork simply accentuates it.
It’s a subtle yet refined machine, or at least until you start that barking single cylinder four-stroke engine. Unfortunately our Welshman forgot to bring the keys to the photoshoot so we were unable to video it being ridden or run. Originally Chris opted for an Akraprovic exhaust but ground clearance was an issue and performance was compromised, so he’s recently changed over to a reworked Leo Vince system instead. The bike has just been set up and the Power Commander dialled in on the dyno by four-stroke tuning maestro’s R.E.P.S Motorcycles. They’ve removed the cat and airbox to allow more fuel and air in, this extra work has increased horsepower and sorted out the fuel delivery whilst giving a smooth spread of useable power.
The bike is currently pumping out a nice healthy 41.7bhp at the rear wheel and tops out at 120mph on the dyno. Chris says that equates to 107mph on the road (more downhill) and it can easily cruise at 80-90mph all day long. To negate the need for an over-complicated, or unsightly gear changing mechanism a push-button Kliktronic gear shifter has been fitted. Kliktronics can often be found on adapted bikes for disabled riders but they’re also useful for this kind of application. The system also has an option to use it as a quick-shifter to make gear changing as seamless as possible. In theory you can hold it at full throttle, press the button and move up a cog but in practice Chris finds it better to ease off the throttle very slightly between shifts. He can happily change down two gears at 80mph and overtake at will, whilst still achieving a decent enough 45mpg, all with a smile on his face. Try doing that on a tuned two-stroke.
Building a prototype has its fair share of problems, as you’d expect. The first major one was when the rear sprocket was ripped off the wheel after just 300 miles. Luckily without injury to man or beast. Gary quickly modified things and built a new wheel with a cush-drive to reduce the stress. That seems to have cured that issue. Chris also turned a rear tyre into Kojak in just 500 miles, it was down to the carcass and at that kind of distance he couldn’t even do a rally on it without changing a tyre for the journey home; not really practical.
He’s changed over to Dunlop ScootSmart’s now, they’re rated to 93mph and are a harder compound than he was using previously. They also have stiffer sidewalls so he’ll be able to get around corners even better now. He was already able to upset a few bikers around the twisties; this will help him upset a few more.
Are you starting?
The scooter hasn’t been starting as well as it could either, sometimes taking a few attempts to fire it up. After plenty of head scratching and trying different things to try and come up with a solution Royston at R.E.P.S thinks he’s finally cracked it. Chris & Royston noticed the scooter would start better with the rear frame hoop removed, removing it means the fan is disconnected and they realised the fan was coming on with the ignition and draining power. They’re rewiring the fan with a two-second dwell now, so that the bike can start before the fan kicks in. Such are the trials and tribulations of breaking new ground.
It’s little problems like these that you have to expect on your first-born KTM 390 hybrid. It means the next one will be more straightforward – in theory. This is mongrel puppy-farming for the scooter fanatic and the first Jack-Shit breeders didn’t get it right first time, as my dog, Tripod (or little shit as we often call him) will testify. Trial and error, overcoming hurdles and solving problems are par for the course for the bespoke scooter builder. Although the build was done and the scooter was on the road in just six months, it’s taken another three months to get it to just about where Chris wants it.
Chris has been using the scooter as much as possible to iron out any teething troubles. He’s also had to have some of the paintwork redone after gaining a few war wounds during the constant stripping and rebuilding. Chris says he isn’t going to worry about the odd scuff or two now the scooter is being used properly though and says he’ll turn it into a vintage style ‘Brogue mobile’ to promote his shops once it has some scuffs here and there. It’s not quite finished yet, he’s not happy with the front brake set up and anti-dive so has just booked the scooter in at JB Tuning to have a twin billet Casa front disc fitted.
The perfect package?
This scooter has ended up costing £16,500. That’s a lot of dosh and a few pairs of Loake shoes need to be sold to pay for it. The end result is the scooter Chris always dreamed of. Something that goes very well, can cover distance, get around corners and look good whilst it’s at it. If that was his original brief I reckon he’s done it with the kind of style usually reserved for his well-heeled customers.
Words: Iggy, images by Marcus
Build photos: Chris Mac
If you have an interesting scooter that you’d like seen first on SLUK, please get in touch
Scooter name: KTMbretta 390
Model: 1962 Spanish Lambretta Series 2
Engine details: 373cc KTM Duke, single-cylinder, 4-valve, fuel injected four-stroke. With Kliktronic gearbox, Power Commander, foam filter, Leo Vince exhaust.
Top speed: 107mph
Power output: 41.7bhp
Paintwork: By dear friend, Julian Gill in Cardiff
One-off parts: Rusty Innovations seat, KTMbretta stainless steel badges by Chas Speed Fabrications
Fabrication: Complete rear frame fabricated and KTM trellis sections remade and then rejoined to the front end of the Lambretta frame. Rear swinging arm, cush drive and rear brake calliper hanger all made by Gary. Rear frame loop & panel section can be removed in one section with only four allen bolts to release it, radiator mounted under floor, legshield toolbox turned into petrol tank with KTM fuel sender & fuel pump housed within it, flush fitting LED indicators mounted in front legshields and rear panels, original KTM clocks mounted with the KTM screen into the headset, KTM rear LED light frenched into the Lambretta frame and finally the front grill on the horncover and the rear grill on the frame both frenched in.
Coatings & finishes: Powder coating through Gary Hancox
Acquisition? Bought in September 2015
Inspiration? I’ve done the tuned scooter route to death and in fact rode nothing but fully tuned scooters for the last 20+ years but they don’t last the pace. I have two speeds, stop and go and this little beastie will sit at 80+ all day. That’s the type of scooter I’ve wanted all my life so I indulged myself and got one built.
Alteration? Pretty much everything.
Perspiration? Gary would say mounting the engine and getting the frame aligned, then sorting the cooling system and also manufacturing the rear wheel cush drive after I shattered a wheel within 300 miles of abuse.
Aggravation? For me just travelling backwards and forwards from Gary Hancox’s in the midlands. I wanted to see it weekly and get involved as much as possible. I think I must have visited Gary about 25 times between dropping it off and getting it back. I think I was doing his nut in by the end! The teething troubles have allowed me to get stuck in a bit though and I’m finding my way around it now, seeing how things work and go together.
Celebration? I can’t recommend Gary Hancox enough, he delivered all he promised, is reasonably priced and a great communicator. Also Julian Gill for the excellent paintwork, Chas Speed for the badges, Lloyd Watts and Chalky for the seat and of course my darling wife for allowing me to spend our holiday fund on a flashy moped.