Exporting British built scooters via Holland to an Italian ex-pat makes a change from us importing anything we can get our hands on from Italy. That’s exactly what happened to this tidy Rod Model Vespa, it was bought recently by an Italian Vespa enthusiast and taken abroad.

Paul Hart was there with his Italian friend, Auro as he picked up the scooter and also to capture the moment on proper old school 35mm film for SLUK.

Paul takes up the story…

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Early September, I get a message from an Italian Vespa friend who has bought a Douglas Rod model from an English guy off eBay. He has arranged to collect it in early November and asks if I want to tag along and take some photos – of course I do.

I originally ‘met’ Auro Meotto online about eight years ago, through photo sharing site Flickr, where we connected through our shared passion for classic Vespas. We eventually met in person when he came to London in 2012 for World Vespa Days; riding his Sprint Veloce with friends from Den Haag in the Netherlands. Auro grew up close to Massa Carrara, Tuscany where the famous Carrara marble has been quarried since ancient Roman times.

Not long after graduating he moved near to Antibes in the south of France, to take up a role building computer systems. With the warm climate and stunning scenery, particularly up in the hills overlooking the glistening Cote d’Azur, Auro began searching for a two-wheeler; believing it to be the best way to appreciate his surroundings while getting around.

He was originally thinking of a motorbike before coming across an advert for an ACMA Vespa; he went along to view it and promptly bought it on the spot. This was the beginning of a long and continuing affair with classic Vespas. Thirteen years on in 2010, Auro moved to The Hague in Holland for another computer job where he has remained since.

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Auro has consistently had ‘a thing’ for 1950s Vespa models and for a while had been looking for a Douglas. Ebay alerted him late summer 2016 to a Rod Model, which was wrongly listed in the toy models section, as opposed to motorbikes and scooters; no doubt due to it being called a ‘Rod Model’. This probably worked in his favour and remained under the radar of other interested parties. At first confused, Auro believed it to be a model Vespa, all the while thinking it looked remarkably realistic. After questioning the seller and requesting more images, he soon ascertained it was a genuine full sized Rod, rather than a toy Vespa model. With the deal done, the ferry was booked for 5th November from Hook of Holland to Harwich.

The Rod’s current owner lives in Rugby, Warwickshire but Auro takes a detour and stays overnight in Hemel Hempstead, as I live nearby in West Hertfordshire. We arrange to meet for breakfast at his hotel and I arrive shortly after 9am, riding the short distance from home in Tring on my own ’71 Motovespa GT160. After coffee and croissants we leave for Rugby, once we’ve loaded my scoot in to Auro’s van, just in case any ‘magpies’ take a liking to it whilst we’re gone. We catch up properly during the journey and get to Rugby around 11.30am.

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After greeting owner John Healey, we’re shown through the house to the Rod Model which is stood waiting outside on the patio. Auro gets acquainted with his new Vespa while I get busy with my film cameras (my Olympus OM-2N and a lovely Hasselblad on loan from a friend). John shows Auro his parts collection and sells him a spare Douglas engine and Amal carb for the bike. Films spent, we go inside out of the cold and John tells us what he knows about the Douglas.

It’s a nice touch that the original buff logbook is still present and we see that the Vespa was first registered in Southam, Warwickshire, before passing through three owners, all in Leamington Spa and then onto its fifth owner in Coventry. The sixth owner (before John) purchases the Rod at an auction in nearby Warwick, which by now is wearing an aged, hand-painted coat of thick black paint over the original metallic green. John tells us how shortly after buying the Rod in 2008, he spent weeks painstakingly removing the crudely brushed-on paint with Nitromoors.

What a job that must have been and all credit to John for undertaking it and delivering the scoot from its sad state. He couldn’t save the mudguard and carb door, which had to be re-painted to match the revived, original green. The Vespa was also missing its cowls when John bought it but he eventually sourced an original period pair from an ACMA, complete with various rally stickers from the time.

Additionally, he picked up an original and rare Douglas toolbox side panel from Wicksteed parts fair, which was very fortunate as it had the large dimple on the underside for the exhaust, this being absent on the corresponding ACMA panel. So for now the French engine cowl is fitted along with the correct Douglas toolbox panel. Auro intends to finish off the Rod’s electrics himself on his return to Holland but may ask Peter Maske of Maskes in Rijen to sort the gears as they need attention before riding again.

We load the Rod into the van, thank John and say our goodbyes. We head back to Tring to drop me and my scoot home and have dinner, before Auro leaves for Harwich to catch the 11pm overnight sailing to Hoek van Holland. All in all a brief but pleasant and interesting jaunt and a nice opportunity to get some shots of a rare Vespa. Thanks for asking me along Auro.

Words and photos: Paul Hart (Vespamore photography)

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Douglas Rod Model Vespa | FEATURE
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