Vintage scooters are the epitome of cool. With flowing lines, intricate details and a timeless style that still influences us today, you’ll never beat them on looks.
Sadly an original 1950s, or 1960s scooter in standard trim isn’t that practical in the 21st century. Our roads are too busy to be stuck at 40mph. If you want to use the scooter properly and attend the odd event then you’ll want a spot of modern performance and the reliability offered by 12-volt electrics and up-to-date components.
The oldest Vespa models have long been overlooked in comparison to Lambrettas when it comes to performance goodies. That’s down to the popularity of a Lambretta amongst road-going scooterists as much as anything.
If something is in demand then people will spend time and money developing parts for them. Recently, interest in the early Vespa models have had a renaissance and several specialists are busy making performance parts to satisfy that demand.
Roger Green (top right) runs Wessex Scooters alongside Neil Humphrey (left), they’re the official UK distributors for Bollag Motos and specialise in those curvy older-model Vespas. Roger built this scooter as not only his personal transport but also to be used as a shop demonstrator.
The easy way to improve the performance of the older models was to chuck a PX/T5 engine into the existing frame. It’s a good option for instant power and improved reliability but it has its disadvantages. For starters you quite often have to change the scooter from the original 8″ wheels to 10″ wheels. It’s a double-edged sword, you gain better roadholding and handling but sacrifice the original aesthetics. You also have to extend the stand and mess about with the forks.
Similarly, if you fit a later engine you may have to cut the frame loop/engine mounts to allow it to fit. You’ll also have issues with the carb fouling the frame on some models and may need to fit a fuel pump to aid fuel flow because the fuel tank sits lower than the carb and causes fuel starvation – as I found out on my Little Pink Bastard project.
Keeping it original
The option to add ‘off-the-shelf’ tuning parts to the original engine and keep the scooter looking original is likely to work out more expensive but if you want original looks and the ability to ride long distances it’s the best solution., as Roger explains…
Who are Wessex Scooters?
“Wessex Scooters was established by my good friend and Lambretta anorak Neil Humphrey and myself, Neil supplied a large number of photos for the recent Lambretta Concessionaires book and is a trained engineer with a vast knowledge and love of Lambrettas, as well as some of the more obscure marques. Talk to him about Raleigh Romas and he’ll chew your ear off…”
How did you get started?
“Between the two of us over the years we have been building, tuning and repairing friends’ scooters along with our own. We always mused about starting an ‘official’ business and in August 2016 we finally decided that the time was right to give it a try. Our main focus being Douglas Vespa and early wideframe Piaggio/MotoVespa and ACMA Vespas, this was helped along with the Bollag Motos kits. I was already building a 151 engine for a friend and was very impressed by the quality of parts and the attitude and support from Ralph Bollag. His advice and knowledge helped us on our way to being the official Bollag Motos UK distributor.”
“Neil and I do everything ourselves at Wessex Scooters from the website, to sending out orders, building engines and driving across the country in search of scooters and parts. Our ethos is customer service and knowledge, we are both very amiable chaps and really care about the work we carry out. I do honestly lie in bed worrying about the happiness of our customers!”
“Douglas Vespa as a whole also seemed to be largely forgotten about and ignored outside of the Veteran Vespa Club so we took it upon ourselves to try and support people who are restoring and maintaining Douglas Vespas. We are building a stock of NOS Douglas parts and plan to remake some of the harder to find items in the future.”
A younger model
“From a personal viewpoint, I’m younger than 90% of current classic scooterists but have been immersed in classic scooters since I was 15. I appreciate the knowledge that I’ve gained from current experts and enthusiasts – a big shout out to Andy and Colin of Slick scooters in Stroud who fall into this category – and with Neil we hope to be supporting and supplying spares for classic scooters long after the current generation hang up their DMs and moccasins…”
Why is there a need for these kits?
“We want to see more people out and about on their Wideframe Vespas rather than having them languishing in the back of sheds avoiding any rallies or rideouts because of the slow speed. The Bollag Motos 151 kits enable you to keep up with PXs and S3 Lambrettas. It literally brings wideframe Vespas into the 21st century.”
Tell us about the scooter
“It’s a 1957 Douglas 92L2, built in Kingswood, Bristol. The engine was built by us (Wessex Scooters) with the following spec: Original 92L2 casings and 3-speed gearbox, Bollag Motos 151cc cylinder kit, Pinasco 57mm racing crank, uprated 9-ball Japanese main bearings, Bollag Motos 64 tooth primary gear, uprated cush drive springs and touring clutch with reinforced basket, Pinasco 23-tooth clutch drive gear, Pinasco Flytech variable 12v electronic ignition, 24mm Bollag Motos inlet manifold and Bollag Widebox classic exhaust, Polini CP23 carb with rapid clip choke and shortened Marchald foam filter, LED rear brake light added (original 92L2s have no brake light), uprated (Deluxe) CDI bracket, Bollag Motos rear suspension bracket, SIP Performer rear shock”.
That’s quite a parts list, what kind of power does it produce?
“The 137 kit produces approx. 8hp and the 151 kit (used in the demo bike) produces approx. 11.9hp. It’ll do close to 60mph. The engine in the 92L2 has done approximately 2500 miles since its build over winter. It’s been all over the country and was also borrowed by a customer to use at Vespa World Days in Celle. I use it as a daily rider and it’s never missed a beat, there are a large number of Bollag Motos kits being ridden all over Europe with the same story.”
How much does an engine like this cost?
“The approximate engine parts cost, taking into account new uprated bearings, seals, and cruciform is £2k. There is a standard package that we use, which contains all the parts you need to get to the same spec as the demonstrator. There are also different crank options and a 4-speed gearbox is also now available depending on the customer’s needs (our 92L2 is 3-speed). We can sell you all the parts you need to build your own Bollag Motos 151 engine, or we can build one to your own specification.”
Does it handle?
“I must mention how well the scooter handles with the rear suspension adapter and PX SIP performance shock, it is sublime. We’ve also added SIP tubeless rims and a Pinasco front drum brake”
On the road
Earlier this year, not long after building it, Roger gave the scooter a good workout doing the Two Channels Dash on the newly built 92L2, you can read about that here. It was a 280 mile round trip, a good test for man and machine.
After the Two Channels Dash Roger gave the scooter the once over “I checked the usual Vespa troublesome areas for leaks around the cylinder head, exhaust mounting and kickstart but all areas were clean and dry, a testament to Swiss engineer Ralph Bollag’s design, which uses Viton O-rings on the cylinder and exhaust, which create an air-tight seal.”
Which set up?
“We use a tried and tested configuration with regards to the engine setup, there are many Bollag Motos kits on the road in mainland Europe so we know the best gearing and carb settings to use.”
“To really get the best out of the kit it’s worth upgrading to a 4-speed gearbox, these are now available from DRT, and Pinasco have recently released their version. The Bollag Motos kits are also available in 137cc format, which allows anyone with a 125cc Wideframe Vespa to keep the existing 54mm crank (if you know it’s in good condition).”
Do it yourself?
The Bollag Motos kits are plug and play and can be built by anyone who has previously built scooter engines (beware of the quirks of the wideframe engine though!). Wessex Scooters can also build the engine for you to your spec and in fact the 92L2 is a demonstrator for anyone who would like to try the kit out.
Wessex Scooters are the main UK distributer for Bollag Motos in the UK, they have everything you need to build one of these engines yourself, as well as the full range of other Bollag Motos parts.
Torque ain’t cheap
Tuning scooters isn’t a cheap hobby and building an engine to this spec is likely to leave a good sized dent in your savings account. It’s a lot of cash for what is essentially a 55-60mph scooter. That’s about 15 miles per hour better than it would be standard. It also has lights that are bright enough and it starts easily, both thanks to the 12v conversion.
It’s not all about the money
If you have a classic Vespa, need to make it rideable and practical to use and have a few quid to spare a scooter built to this spec will be well worthwhile. Don’t expect a high-revving race engine, but do expect something you can ride and cover decent mileage on with decent reliability.
Wessex Scooters are located in Newbury, Berkshire and can be found here
Special Thanks to Paul Hart at Vespamore Photography
Photos shot on old-school 35mm film by Paul Hart, Vespamore Photography
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