German one-off Vespa GS | RETRO CUSTOM
Maybe you’ve met Darren on a rally during the past 30 years, or at least seen one of his self-fabricated customs. For instance, his most famous creation which was voted ‘Best Custom Scooter’ of the year 1994 and is a timeless milestone of the street racer genre: the Simpson Racer Lambretta. Darren forges yet another unique road-going custom scooter; his 1959 Vespa GS 150, which is hiding modern technology beneath a classic shell.
As to why someone with an English name builds a German registered scooter has to do with quite a unique biography. Born in Germany by English parents, moved to England during childhood, wasted youth in the mod/scooterboy cult of the eighties, moved back to Germany, discovered scene over there, liked it, stayed, settled down with family and, obviously, still doing the scooter thing (together with wife Ina).
Cramming a whole lifetime in one sentence may seem a bit shallow so here’s an interesting detail he told us: ‘When I moved to Germany in 1991 everything had to go in this Citroen CX. I wanted to take my PX in bits but couldn’t get the engine bolt out since it was rusted solid. I ended up chucking the complete Vespa on the roof rack, covered it with a tarp – which later got blown away – and went. That was pretty much the start of my new life.’
21 years on and Darren starts tinkering on his latest project, namely this 1959 Vespa GS 150. The idea: classic styling with reliability and performance based on the later PX models. The problem: PX engines don’t fit into wide frame models as easily as they do into the 1970s Rally/Sprint frames so Darren had to accommodate it via an adaptor he made from steel. He was aware there are equivalent aftermarket parts today but it has always been about elaborating his own solutions.
All these mods plus the use of a low 100/80 tyre at the front, while jacking up the back end with a tall 130 hoop, not only increased the wheelbase but altered the frame geometry overall. Since this scooter was made for riding and not hiding it took a lot of experimenting with various combinations of shocks and different lengths of rear damper mounting rods to make it ridable.
For fast travelling Darren wisely selected a combination of performance parts that are available off the shelf: The MHR version of a Malossi 210 barrel, which is designed for use with reed induction. A Scooter & Service reed cage, modified to level the – relatively small but appropriate for touring purposes – 26mm Dellorto VHST carb. The air is sucked through a Ram Air foam filter and the fuel is supplied via a diaphragm pump (no, not the type that is in your bedside cabinet).
Darren uses a crank with bell shaped webs especially designed for reed engines. However, as opposed to high revving engine layouts he did not open the inlet too excessively but decided on a good compromise to keep as much primary compression as possible thus creating better torque. The sparks are provided by a Vespatronic advance/retard ignition with a lightweight, CNC machined ali fan. And the result is quite impressive for a road engine: 23bhp with a box type exhaust or 30bhp with an expansion pipe.
As you can imagine it took countless frame modifications and one-off components to make this puzzle fit. Let’s take the headset as an example of the extent: You might have noticed there is no visible brake fluid reservoir. That’s because it is nicely tucked away inside behind the reflector, a rubber hose leads to the hand brake cylinder that is mounted on a self-made aluminium bracket. The headset top has been machined out and a fabricated ali ring welded in to take one of the trickiest instruments the two-wheeled custom world has to offer.
A combined tacho/speedo unit by the innovative German company Motogadget who supply reputable custom and sports bike builders. Their Chronoclassic clock can be set to work with (almost) any bike and perfectly matches the GS’s classic lines.
Does the scooter work? In a word: Yes! Now it handles great, it performs brilliantly, it looks stunning and it has already been to a lot of rallies. And most importantly, the complete project was thought up and made by its owner.
Owner: Darren Creek
Town: Porta Westfalica, Germany
Club: Cloud 9 SC Paderborn (founded by members of the original Cloud 9 SC from Liverpool/Birkenhead who were stationed in Germany as service men) & Lambretta Club Germany
First scooter: Vespa PK 50s in Jan 1985. First Lambretta in ‘86.
Model: 1959 Vespa GS 150 (Made in Augsburg)
Engine details: Vespa PX 200 engine ported to match transfers, Malossi 220 MHR barrel (185° exhaust port timing / 126° transfer timing), 60mm stroke bell shaped crank (Glockenwelle) by Mazzuchelli, inlet as large as necessary but as small as possible to retain good primary compression, 26 mm Dellorto VHST carb, Ram Air air filter, Scooter & Service reed cage modified for level carb position, diaphragm fuel pump, BGM Superstrong clutch, modified SIP Performance 2.0 exhaust (wrapped in Teflon tape for baffling) with Scooter & Service end can, Vespatronic ignition with CNC machined ali fan by GP One, power output: 23-30 bhp depending on exhaust.
Top speed: 80 mph / cruising 65 mph
Paint: BMW Space Grey Metallic, sanded between coats and finished off with matt clear coat
Frame: Heavily modified with new steel subframe welded by Darren to take PX engine hence pivot point moved back which increases wheelbase. Rear shock mount moved back and out to the right to line up wheels.
Fork: Vespa LML with hydraulic disc brake, shortened at damper section by 70 mm
Headset: Heavily modified with machined 100 mm aluminium ring welded on top to take state-of-the-art German Motogadget Chronoclassic instrument with analogue rev counter and digital speedo (unit can be set with standard menu to work with any kind of ignition, regardless of two or four stroke engines), brake fluid reservoir inside headset connected to hand brake cylinder with ali bracket made by Darren
Wheels/tyres: Tubeless 10 inch rims by SIP with 100/80 tyre at front and 130 at rear
Suspension: BGM shock at front (mudguard modified to fit), SIP shock with short mounting rod at rear
Seat: German OE Denfeld seat lowered by 60 mm, retained genuine cover
Won so far: ‘Best Vespa’ in Venlo, ‘Best Custom’ at Hidden Power Rally, ‘Best Oldie’ at Tortured Maniacs Rally.
All work – and we mean ALL – completed by Darren!