Importing, registering and tuning an Eibar Lambretta – Part 1 | FEATURE
Being in the right place at the right time is crucial when it comes to buying scooters, for me the right place was on the sofa at home and the right time was when I’d just mentioned to the missus that I quite fancied a Spanish Lambretta. The stars were in alignment that night, she was in a good mood because she didn’t say no. I took that as a green light. That’s when I noticed an advert on one of the Facebook scooter sales pages for this little senorita.
An epiphany moment
It was an almost original condition, very straight looking, one registered owner from new Eibar 150. You can’t hesitate at times like this so I immediately messaged the seller, a Spaniard named Borja. We had an exchange of messages and a few other interested parties were also in the running but the thing that was putting the others off was that the scooter was in Spain and the buyer had to get it home. Borja had been gifted the scooter after its original owner died and he wanted to be sure the buyer would go through with the sale and it would go to a good home. He told me “The owner of the scooter was ‘Epifanio Bueno Rojo’ that in English means ‘Epiphany Good Red’ and the scooter has been all it’s life in ‘Campo’ till it came to my garage in Getxo. ‘Campo’ is a very little town in Burgos, Spain”.
A friend of mine had recently bought a scooter from Barcelona and I knew he’d had no issues getting it back so I convinced Borja to sell his to me. I wasn’t looking to buy it and sell it on for a profit, I genuinely wanted the scooter. Now I just had to work out how to get it back to England.
I spoke to Neil Jones, he’d just got his Spanish model back from a scooter shop in Barcelona. He put me in touch with the shop but they couldn’t help with this one (it turned out to be an Englishman in a van who had brought Neil’s back whilst collecting one for himself). So I started looking around for a courier. There are a few comparison sites and courier bidding sites if you search Google. I put the job on to the bidding sites and got a few offers. Eventually, I settled on one operator called ‘One man in a van in Spain.’ The job was agreed for £280 from Bilbao to my front door.
Playing it safe
You have to have a certain amount of trust when buying something unseen from a stranger abroad. Could the scooter be dodgy? Could it be a scam? I’d swapped quite a few messages with Borja since agreeing on the sale and offered him a deposit but he wouldn’t take one. I decided that I’d pay him via bank transfer on the day and at the time when the courier collected it. Paying into overseas banks isn’t free so the best option is to use a third-party to transfer the money. I used a company called Transferwise. It cost around £8 to transfer £1500 over. I set the transfer date and time and felt fairly confident all would be ok.
Where’s the man with the van?
That’s when the courier vanished on me (I didn’t have to pay him until he dropped the scooter off so wasn’t worried about being ripped off). Borja had gone down to his lock up in another town ready to meet the van driver but the man with a van didn’t arrive. He didn’t call and I couldn’t get in touch with him. This was on a Sunday lunchtime and Borja was away from his family, waiting in vain, getting frustrated as he wasted precious hours sat in his lock up. The bank transfer had also gone through by now so I was £1500 and a courier down but was trying not to panic.
Eventually, I managed to get hold of the courier, his radiator had gone in the middle of nowhere and he was having to be towed to a garage in the opposite direction to where the scooter was located. He assured me everything would be ok and that he’d collect it as soon as the van was fixed. In the end he had to be recovered to the port and arranged for a replacement driver to collect the scooter a few days later. Borja was fantastic and true to his word. He sent me a photo of the scooter being loaded up and I just had to wait for it to arrive in a few days time. This was around this time last year and the scooter was eventually delivered whilst I was at Scarborough for the Easter rally.
A good buy?
The scooter had been advertised with lots of original documents and history and I wasn’t to be disappointed. It came with the original Lambretta Locomociones keys, the toolkit still in its original pouch. All the booklets, bill of sale, details about the owner, insurance documents, handbook and 1960s camping ticket books (I think I can probably still camp for free at the sites in Spain).
The scooter itself was in fantastic original condition, the only things that had been changed were the front forks and a hand-made one-off stainless steel exhaust. Look under the panels and it still had what appears to be the original 6v battery, HT cap and even has the original cable outers, complete with oilers in place.
The bodywork was also in very good condition, very straight with only a bit of surface rust scarring the surface, telling a story of its 56-year Spanish history. It also had a slightly bent left legshield where the fold in mirror had been knocked at some stage. It had the kind of authentic patina you simply can’t recreate. I was very impressed.
Hunted by the historians
That originality was fantastic but also caused me sleepless nights. I wanted to be able to use this scooter, would I have to keep the 150 engine as it was to avoid being hunted down by the Lambretta historians? I thought the best cause of action would be to get it running for starters. I’d been told it needed a new fuel tank so took it out with a view of cleaning it. I tried the usual nuts, bolts and washers method but realised it was a bit beyond that. The petrol I drained out was blacker than crude oil, smelt rank and wouldn’t even light when I tried to use it to start a bonfire. Months later I can still smell that distinctive fuel.
A friend does powder coating and blasting so he offered to have a look at it. The tank spent a full week being flushed, drained, flushed, drained… He said he’d never seen anything as bad in his life. Even so his perseverance paid off and he got it clean and powder coated it because the process had damaged the paint. I sealed the tank with Petseal Ultra (it’s resistant to ethanol). Refitted the tank, put some fresh fuel and oil in and cleaned the carb out. Amazingly it fired after a few kicks with some carb cleaner sprayed into the carb. The carb was leaking badly but after letting the scooter warm-up I could ride it around the front yard. All the controls worked as they should, even the lights and horn worked. I was confident enough to have a little ride down the road. Wearing my best Adidas safety shorts. It’s always a good idea to do the first road test on an unfamiliar scooter whilst wearing unsuitable attire, but hey, when riding a scooter that lived its whole life in the sunshine…
Performance is probably too strong a word to associate with a bog standard 150 Lambretta engine but it was rideable, just, although I wouldn’t fancy going further than the local shop on it. There wasn’t enough power for my liking and if I left it as it was it would never get ridden anywhere. I was in a bit of a quandary now, do I ditch the engine and put something else in or go for a small block kit? After careful consideration, I decided to buy and use a standard 200cc engine instead, so I bought one from a mate after a Facebook appeal.
I’ve never had to register a scooter before but it was fairly straightforward, even though I didn’t have a Nova certificate. If you want a scooter registering without any hassle there are a couple of people to choose from, Gary Seale of Supertune or the scootering enigma that is Rob Skipsey. Rob offers his services through our SLUK Shop here. I had to go and see Gary though for a feature on his electric start Lambretta conversions so let him do the job for me. It was painless enough, starting with Gary getting me a dating certificate and Nova. Followed by me taking it for an MOT, then Gary registering it. The process took about 6-8 weeks but was over the Christmas period so took longer than usual.
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Best laid plans…
Over winter the plan was to rebuild and fit the 200 engine, make sure everything was running well then ride it back to Spain for the Euro in June and take it back to visit its hometown of Burgos on the way there.
Things changed quite quickly though, it was just before Christmas when I was asked to do a feature on a brand new Lambretta smallblock kit up at Chiselspeed. The Quattrini 210 would change everything.
We’ll bring you more details about that in part 2…
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