La Bomba – Burt Munro homage | CUSTOM
La bomba, is the brainchild and handiwork of English eccentric, Nigel Staley. That eccentricity allows him to think outside the usual confines and parameters of the more mundane machinery. Even if the basic rolling chassis for the project was more bland than a council flat in Milton Keynes.
This fine looking machine isn’t the first of Nigel’s follies to grace the pages of SLUK. We brought you his fabulous Scootacar last year, click the link to be reminded about the drop-dead gorgeousness of that particular project. A fine looking gentleman’s scooter complete with ashtray and pipe holder based around a Lexmoto Tommy, a scooter that looks much better cloaked in Nigel’s fibreglass creativity than it does in standard trim.
Nigel doesn’t like to stand still for too long though and he’s back with another home-built special. Again built around the chassis of a fundamentally ugly and cheap enough to be disposable Chinese 125cc Lexmoto. This time the functional but hardly inspiring 125cc Valencia model. Feeling inspired? You can buy new for around the price of a 5-speed Lambretta gearbox…
You could argue that this machine doesn’t belong on our retro side, it’s not Vespa, Lambretta, Scomadi or another ‘socially acceptable’ scooter underneath. Even so, it’s been built in a shed by a true Garagista using recycled parts and it’ll turn more heads than any fully dressed mod scooter, or 25k full-custom classic as it rides up and down the seafront at Scarborough at Easter. You’ll see Nigel racking up some miles there on the Saturday.
Using a cheap scooter as the base makes perfect sense when what’s beneath is far less important than looking good on the outside. Nigel admits he’ll be using it to commute and strut his stuff at popular bike haunts and locations, rather than riding it long distances. His days of camping in mucky fields are long gone.
He may not be planning long distance on La Bomba but he covered thousands of miles on his Scootacar last year – most of them riding to work and back in Leicester – so don’t be surprised to see it one the road.
Chinese take away
A Lexmoto Valencia is easy enough to pick up for the price of a family meal (there’s one on eBay at the minute at £155) and spares are easy to obtain so buying one with a view to cutting it up is much more acceptable than cutting up a classic scooter just for the sake of it. Not that we mind stuff being cut-up to produce beauty or engineering marvels at SLUK.
With this project it was a case of which comes first, chicken or the egg. Egg is the right answer on this occasion. Or to be more precise a pair of ex-RAF drop tank nose cones from a Jaguar SEPECAT. Usually these 1100-litre auxiliary fuel tanks are jettisoned in mid-air and end up smashed to smithereens in the ocean. These ones were complete and hadn’t been used.
A friend of Nigel’s bought a few from the RAF after the Jaguar was decommissioned in favour of the new Euro Fighter. He’d had them for a while and Nigel had been eyeing them up. Eventually the friend needed to get some cash together in a hurry so Nigel was over there at supersonic speed.
His thought process was to make a four wheeler using them but realised he was still a two-wheeled man at heart. Then he considered using a big bike engine but thought he’d struggle to get his legs to the sides of one in the confined space, so he settled on a much more humble scooter to power his rocket.
These tanks are designed to fly at supersonic speeds and are made from a carbon/kevlar mix, so must cost a fortune to make. That didn’t matter to Nigel though and he had to cut a metre off them before joining them together using fibreglass. He also used a screen from one of the worlds fastest production road bikes, the Suzuki Hayabusa. It was cut and trimmed until it fit perfectly, so we’ve got a supersonic body and hyper-bike screen to cope with the demands of a lowly-powered Chinese scooter – I think it may be over-specified.
Whilst the outstandingly aerodynamic La Bomba nose cones were shortened, connected together and fibreglassed, the actual scooter chassis was cut and lengthened by around 10 inches (25cm) to fit neatly into the bodywork. His seat was fashioned from a £25 bar stool, perfect for the cockpit, which Nigel sits inside to ride La Bomba. When coming to a stop he simply puts his feet down Fred Flintstone style. ‘Flaps open’ is the aeronautical phrase, I believe.
Usually at this stage, electrics start to become an issue but Nigel simply unplugged them before cutting the frame. Then he unwound the cables from the chassis and plugged them straight back into their original plugs, proper plug and play simplicity.
That part may well have been simple but the rear light (to be fair ‘rear light’ is a massive understatement) was a different kettle of fish altogether and had to be farmed out to a company who Nigel does some work for. They usually build LED lighting for classic American Mustangs so an afterburner was a bit different to the norm for them.
The job was given to Nathan Shaw of Bright Lights Custom. Building a programmable LED afterburner isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Well ok, it didn’t really sound simple either. Nigel made a template for it to begin with then left Nathan to figure out the tricky bits.
Those tricky bits included 495 sequential LED’s running on three servers, they’re programmable as well so Nigel can alter the pattern to suit his mood. The rear light also includes the pulsing rear brake light and Audi style indicators. The light was actually the most expensive and trickiest part of the whole project but is also visually stunning as it flares up into a virtual axe-head. Watch the video above to see it in action.
If you notice the cables leading to the pick up truck on the black & white photo they were needed to try and get it running on the day of the photo shoot because Nigel had left the battery switched on over the weekend. His afterburner had drained it.
Imagine driving down a country road at night and coming up behind this low flying jet propelled doodlebug? You’d be both mesmerised and frightened to death until you realise it’s only doing 50mph and is being ridden by an ‘ordinary’ Englishman going about his business, perfectly-groomed moustache billowing gently in the mildly still air of the cockpit.
With all the running gear, afterburner and bodywork looking tickety boo, Nigel turned his attention to the paintwork. Initially he had thoughts of replicating a Mustang plane, compete with painted on teeth but realised it had been done to death. Then he thought about turning it into a Star Wars Pod Chaser but it meant ruining the aerodynamics by having protruding pipe work to make it look authentic.
Homage to Burt Munro
Finally he decided to pay homage to the ‘World’s Fastest Indian’ creator, Burt Munro. A fairly simple paint scheme that would have been hand-painted originally by Burt in his shed. Nigel wasn’t going for full authenticity though so decided to spray it at work instead. He got it looking something like at the end of last year but his paint reacted and it was back to the drawing board, so he called in the expert, Shane at Faircharm Restorations.
Shane flatted it all back and lovingly prepped the bodywork before working his magic. The difference in the finish is like chalk and cheese, Nigel was suitably impressed and got the newly christened La Bomba rebuilt in time for its debut at the Excel Motorcycle show in January.
La, la, la, la bomba
It was entered alongside his Scootacar but as an exhibition piece, rather than as part of the show. Nigel said bikers were queuing up to get a close up glimpse of the scooter and he got sick of counting after the first 10,000 photos had been snapped.
After the show as dusk fell he rode it back to the car park and it literally stopped the traffic as the glow from his afterburner worked its magic, helmet less rider lapping up the rightly received attention. Being seen isn’t a problem on this machine and Nigel likes to get himself noticed, I’d say he’s succeeded once again.
Leicester’s coolest Indian?
La Bomba, or ‘The Bomb’ may look streamlined but it isn’t super-fast and was never intended to be. Even so, it is a stunning original creation, using home-built streamliners of the past as inspiration for this built, not bought project.
Nigel may not own the world’s fastest Indian but his Indo-Chinese dish has the sort of fiery after-burn that reminds me of a few I’ve eaten in the past. Burning ring of fire anyone?
Images and video, Sticky | Words, Iggy