Lambretta GP 200 Electronic – rendering the impossible | FEATURE
There’s no mistaking the beauty of a Bertone designed Lambretta Grand Prix 200. It’s a thing of beauty, an object of desire and a dream scooter for many. Including the ‘owner’ or should I say ‘creator’ of this fine ochre specimen.
It’s a classy build for sure, almost perfect some might argue? As it should be, it was 1000 hours in the making. Sometimes though things aren’t always as they appear and although this scooter has taken more man-hours to complete than any other scooter we’ve featured it still isn’t rideable, and never will be.
This my friends is a rendered image, carefully created pixel by pixel by Tim Draper, a man in his early 50s. A man who found some time on his hands whilst recovering from prostate cancer. A disease he only found he had by fluke after a routine screening, something that could catch any of us at any time and something Tim wants to help raise awareness of.
He was one of the lucky ones, caught early by chance. Don’t ignore things if your own health changes, many men try to brave it out (or are too scared to visit the doctor) don’t suffer in silence. We’ve got some helpful advice and things to look out for at the end.
The obvious question is why render a scooter?
For Tim there were a few reasons, firstly he’s a qualified mechanical design engineer and has worked as a CAD manager for various companies over the last 20 years. In companies as prestigious as Mclaren and mobile phone company, Vertu.
Having given up scooter riding in the early 80s, after progressing from a Vespa smallframe to a 240cc custom Lammy TV175 with Kegra engine, Tim didn’t own another scooter until the 1990s. His reintroduction was on a Vespa ET4, which he used for commuting. He had another break after that for a decade before buying a GP200 in 2010. He’s still got that one, it’s kitted with an Avanti TT3 225cc kit and he still enjoys riding with the same group of friends he rode with in the 1980s.
Just before buying the real thing around eight years ago, Tim wanted to put his professional skills to good use by rendering a Lambretta of his own. There are 3D modelling websites around where users can share/buy and sell designs but although there were some Vespa designs and a Lambretta LD there was nothing of much use to Tim so he started to create his own. His first attempts didn’t give the high standards he was looking for though so he lost interest, it went on the back burner. Especially once he bought his own ‘real’ ochre GP in 2010.
Tim was back into rendering in a big way as part of his job at Vertu. He was responsible for introducing a new 3D CAD system to the business, which would take rendering lifelike images to another level and he needed a case study to help develop the new techniques. Then nature played a cruel blow, in June 2016 Tim was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was a huge and unexpected shock. He’d suffered no symptoms at all. The cancer was detected during a routine health screening. An MRI and subsequent traumatic biopsy, followed by an anxious wait turned his world upside down.
Tim was lucky though, by chance they’d caught things at an early stage and with surgery he was given a 90% chance of a cure. The surgery took place in August 2016. It was completed with ‘negative margin’ which meant there were no signs of cancer cells on the outside, they were all completely contained within the prostate. This couldn’t have been a better outcome.
Tim still had an 8-10 week recovery period to get through before returning to work, with the first three weeks attached to a catheter which he said: “Was a deeply unpleasant but necessary process”. Luckily he had a project to get stuck into, something to take his mind off the illness and discomfort he was in. So he dug out the laptop and got stuck into rendering.
Tim takes up the story…
I had already completed a lot of the panel work whilst I was still at work. My original professional aim was to use the graceful lines of the Series 3 as a use-case to be able to master modelling complex styled surfaces in 3D CAD. At best, I could only justify spending work hours on modelling panel work and some basic mechanical components. But now, with 8 weeks to kill, I thought why not go the whole hog and aim for as close to perfect as my skills would allow.
So… the GP render project was born. I started from scratch in my own time.
My ultimate objective was to produce an ultra-high quality CAD model of a GP that would stand up to close scrutiny from a proper Lambretta enthusiast. Not as easy as it sounds, I soon found out. I spent more than two days reworking the side panels alone, and the engine casing was started again three times. All of us in the scootering fraternity know implicitly what a Lammy looks like, and even the subtlest of errors in the surface modelling stand out like a sore thumb.
I made life even more difficult for myself when I decided that the rendered images would not just be complete scooter shots. I also wanted to do ultra-high detail close up images that still hold true. All in all, I would say that I have dedicated in excess of 1000 hours to the project to date. Even now, I am far from satisfied with the result, I know there are still many areas where the model is not quite right.
After completing the 3D model, the next phase was to use specialist rendering tools to convert the 3D model into realistic images. This again is a deep and complex process. Not only does it require specialist knowledge of the software, I also needed to learn about camera and lens settings, studio setup, composition and lighting. I also needed to master the black art of Photoshop so that I could prepare my own special texture files, used to create different surface finishes in the renders. Another trick employed when preparing renders is to deliberately add imperfections.
This might sound odd, but actually, if an image is too perfect, it doesn’t deceive the eye and looks fake. So all of the geometry from the CAD model had the sharp corners rounded off to add realism. Look closely at the paint finish in the close-ups, I have deliberately added a very slight “orange peel” effect to give the impression of sprayed paint. On the headlight close-up images, the chrome has a few specks of dust and blemishes on it. The tyres have dirt smudged on them. I also use depth of field in some of the images to bring them to life as well.
Design a custom
I haven’t really decided what to do next with it yet! Currently, I just have the factory standard GP/DL model. I am thinking about creating some custom/performance components. Expansion chambers, outboard disc brakes and hydraulic lever, aftermarket shocks, panel cutout with carb bell mouth, Ancilloti/Snetterton seat, sprint rack etc. I have a dream to rebuild and customise my own GP, so ultimately I aim to produce a perfect replica of my custom build in 3D and to design and perfect the paint job before spending any money on it.
I did think about monetising my model and uploading it to some of the online vendors where I could sell it. But to be honest, having invested so much time and love into it, I am not sure I could ever really recoup the cost. Besides, I’m not sure that it would have a real mainstream appeal to the mass 3D model market, it’s a bit niche. Also for some strange reason, it also has a lot of sentimental value to me, it is almost like a second scoot sitting in my garage!
I guess if any of the companies involved in our scene had a commercial application for the models or rendering I might be interested in talking to them, but it still remains a hobby for me and it would be very hard to deliver anything on a deadline because it is just a spare time activity.
All in all, it’s been a very long time in the making, but ultimately an enjoyable and fulfilling exercise. I have now moved on in my career again and work as an IT consultant in Financial services, so I’m not involved in CAD or rendering as part of my day job anymore. The GP project is still alive and well though, and as the winter evenings draw in, it will continue to develop and grow as my time permits..
Words and rendered images: Tim Draper
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Symptoms and contact if you’re concerned about your health
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
- difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
- A weak flow when you urinate
- A feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- dribbling urine after you finish urinating
- needing to urinate more often, especially at night
- A sudden urge to urinate – you may sometimes leak before you get to the toilet
If the cancer spreads out of the prostate it can cause…
- Back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain
- Problems getting or keeping an erection
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Unexplained weight loss.