Unless you’ve been living on the moon, or under a rock, you will surely have noticed that smallframe Lambretta models are enjoying a massive surge in interest of late. Having been the underdogs of the Lambretta world since, well, forever, all of a sudden these diminutive scooters are starting to be sought-after and command prices previously unthought-of.

The reasons for this are probably two-fold. Firstly, until now, they were too underpowered for any real use (let alone long-distance travelling) and there were only very specialist solutions to bring their engines up to anything near the useable mark. This situation has now changed drastically, with a veritable plethora of tuning upgrades readily available. Secondly, their prices are still affordable at present, despite the almost daily upwards spiralling of the same as demand increases, compared to all the other Lambretta models.

How many of us would have loved to have been at the Innocenti plant in its heyday? This image is courtesy of the Luna Owners Club and shows the factory in full swing with a multitude of brightly coloured J Range and Luna Line, as well as a procession of Lambros.

205,000 Italian units

Between the Luna Line (i.e. Vega, Cometa and Lui) and all the various J Range models, combined total Italian production is just shy of 205,000 units, which is a lot of small wheels indeed. And that’s not even taking into account the Indian or Indonesian production. There is a buoyant market for smallframes with a superb choice of machines to suit all pockets at any given time. You just need to check the FB groups, popular auction sites or dedicated Italian sales-sites, such as ‘Subito.it’ to realise that in some cases you can still get change from £500 when purchasing a complete machine. Try doing that if you’re looking to purchase any largeframe Lambretta.

Rebuilding a smallframe is about as easy as it gets, and there are a lot of dedicated on-line groups where members interact with ideas, assistance and product reviews. For parts, again, there are numerous dealers that specialise in both Js and Lunas. Obviously, I can’t list them all, but here are a few of the most popular.

Torbay Lambretta – England

In the UK, there are several well-known shops to choose from. Amongst others, Torbay Lambretta have made a name for themselves in a relatively short space of time as a one-stop-shop for all things Luna Line. Owner, Mike Farrell must have shares in Haribo, as you’ll defo get a pack of their sweets with your parts order.

Torbay also make and sell their own line of ‘Lunatunes’ parts, including the quick-action throttle you see here.

 

 

Swiss Tony’s

Carlos ‘Ciccio’ Newberry @ Swiss Tony’s Scooter Spares in sunny Weston-Super-Mare has a seemingly endless supply of quality used and NOS parts for all smallframes, and speaking from experience, nothing quite beats new old stock parts during a rebuild. Patch at Scooter Surgery in central London has a vast experience with Lunas, and has clocked up thousands of miles riding his own ‘Casa 75’ kitted machine around the smoke for longer than he hasn’t.

Scooter restorations

Paul @ Scooter Restorations in Nottingham has a lot of stock for J Range machines, including workshop tools and complete new Indian-made Sunny 100cc 3-speed engines.

 

Scooter Surgery

Patch at Scooter Surgery in central London has a vast experience with Lunas, and has clocked up thousands of miles riding his own ‘Casa 75’ kitted machine around the smoke for longer than he hasn’t.

 

The Lui in the photo was built to be ridden and has so far clocked up over 50,000k.

Chiselspeed

Heading further ooop North, Chiselspeed have been tuning smallframes for years, having even developed their own products, including a wrap-around-the-frame expansion chamber for Lunas.

The CST 9 is the Vega and Lui expansion chamber developed by Martin Cook at Chiselspeed. This exhaust is one of only a handful of Luna sports exhausts on the market. These are ideal for any Vega/Lui, be that be on a standard barrel, an aftermarket barrel or one of Martin’s 140cc conversions. Producing, as with all the CST exhaust range, good BHP and torque across a good portion of the RPM range. If you’re wanting a sports exhaust then look no further!
Not only that but they are Hand Made here in Britain!

America

Incredibly, the good old US of A was one of the first places where tuning J Ranges seemed to have originated, with West Coast Lambretta Works even constructing an aluminium-framed racing Cento several decades ago. Nowdays, Deanspeed produce expansion chambers for J Ranges and offer tuning services for the same Stateside.

Germany

On the continent, in Germany, both Scooter Center (SC) and Jockey’s Boxenstop specialise in the models in question. SC stock the Casa range of parts, with owner Ulf Schroder having a veritable fleet of Lunas in his own personal collection. Both he and his right-hand man Philipp Monforts will be attending the forthcoming ‘Lui Dolomite Experience Tour’ to be held in northern Italy this coming July.

Jockey’s Boxenstop

Jockey’s produce some really neat parts, like the original 3-bolt chain tensioner pictured right. It’s suitable for all J Range and Luna line Lambrettas.

Jockey’s head mechanic Markus Wessner also has a superb working knowledge of smallframes.

Casa Lambretta Italy

In Italy, Vittorio Tessera @ Casa Lambretta Milan has remade just about every part needed to restore a J Range or a Luna Line Lambretta, from the smallest rubber grommet, to all the (factory) standard type, internal engine components. It’s largely unknown, but even all the separate gearbox gears are now available to purchase separately. The reason I mention these is that cogs for both J125 3 and 4-speed models have always been hard to locate, until now. Probably one of the last things that Vittorio still has to produce are the much sought-after 4 (and 5) speed handlebar gearchangers for Luna models, although I believe these are now about to be manufactured.

Casa Lambretta was the first company to offer a mass-produced cylinder upgrade for 50cc Lambrettas, with the release of their ‘Casa 75’ kit several years ago, in collaboration with Parmakit. Despite only producing approx. 4bhp out of the box, these cheap and cheerful kits still provide a healthy ‘power’ increase over the mind-numbing 1.5bhp a standard 50cc Lambretta offers. That might not sound a lot, but it’s still well over double what you had on tap previously…

TV Scooter Garage

Fabio & Alan @ TV Scooter Garage, located in the northern Italian province of Treviso, were probably amongst the first people to do a lot of development work on the CP One35 kits.

Their ‘Green Meanie’ shop bike is a mobile test-bed for their work, and with 20bhp at the rear wheel, it has performance on par with a TS1 225, as anyone who has ridden it will confirm. You can get in touch with the guys via their Facebook page or website.

RLC/Casa Performance

Rimini Lambretta Centre (RLC) stock the entire Casa Lambretta range for J Range and Lunas and have always worked closely with Vittorio in the development and quality control of a lot of his remade parts, including those for smallframe models. Casa Performance (CP), their tuning brand, has probably been one of the main reasons for the resurgence in the popularity of the smallies. They have designed, developed and manufactured the whole package, start to finish, for anyone wishing to reliably increase the performance of any J Range or Luna Line machine. The central point of the entire range, the ‘CP One35’ nicasil-lined 135cc reedvalve induction kits, means that you have plug ‘n’ play options giving you anything from 12-14bhp straight out of the box, depending on what exhaust and carb configurations you opt for.

Their direct collaboration with Italian electrical giants Ducati Energia (who produced the majority of OE Lambretta ignitions for Innocenti back in the day) also means a bullet-proof 12V electronic ignition is also available off the shelf, in the form of the ‘Ducati Firefly.’ The range of available parts is ever-expanding and amongst the latest additions are the new engine sidecasings featuring a super smooth-action rack and pinion, similar to that used on the CasaCovers for largeframes.

That brings us nicely on to the scooter you see featured here, owned by UK scooterist James Whittle from Doncaster. After watching all the smallframe activity on the shop’s website and on FB, he asked Marco @ RLC if he could source him a Luna, with a view of converting it to 135cc? As it happened, at that particular moment in time, an all-original Italian market Lui 75 had just arrived at the shop. After conversing to decide which route to take, James decided to have the full works carried out. As the scooter still had good, original paintwork, he asked RLC to carry out a rustoration – rather than a restoration – but with a modern twist.

Preservation

The machine was stripped down 100%, thoroughly cleaned, and then any areas that were rusty were duly treated before being sealed. The only parts to be repainted on the whole scooter were the front mudguard and the areas of the forks where auxiliary damper brackets were welded on. Interestingly, when trying to analyse the shade of Yellow Ochre paint, the three different bodywork parts given as samples to obtain a near-perfect match were all (visibly) different! Despite this minor setback, a happy medium was found and then painted in cellulose. Rather than going down the all-original route, the owner asked Marco for the hubs and wheels to be painted satin black, rather than in the usual standard silver, giving the ‘ped a more aggressive muscle car type appearance.

The scooter was rebuilt with all new Casa rubbers and trim, Teflon-lined cables and a CP simplified wiring loom, to mate up with the Ducati Firefly ignition. A BGM single sports seat was fitted along with a SIP Vespa smallframe speedo, albeit modified to take the memory-bank pack. The original speedo drive on the hub was maintained but machined and then threaded in order to take the SIP/Koso electronic-type cable. An original centrally-mounted spare wheel carrier was also fitted and again, painted satin black. BGM ‘Black Edition’ shock absorbers were mounted front and rear, to offer handling more adapt to the increase in speed and the power output.

What’s the crack

4-speed J Range and Luna Line engine casings have a noted problem, generally known as ‘the dreaded crack,’ which basically equates to a hairline fracture that can manifest itself along the bottom of the lower gearbox endplate studs. This is usually immediately apparent due to oil dripping onto the garage floor when parked up, and oily muck accumulating on the underside of the motor. If left unchecked, subsequent fractures can also occur around the top of the endplate as it works itself loose. This is caused by the cast-in lug for the rear brake cable of the engine casing flexing slightly when the brake is operated and over time, this minute flexing causes the casing to crack. Oddly, this problem only seems to be the bain of 4-speed casings, as I’ve never seen a 3-speed casing suffer from the same.

The fix?

The cure is quite simple and welding a small area on the back of the casing, corresponding to the problem hot-spot, instantly resolves the issue. RLC carries out this modification regardless of whether the casing is cracked or not, and James’ motor was no exception.

More HP than a GP 200

The full spec of the motor is as follows: Innocenti 4-speed casing, Casa Performance (CP) ‘CP One35 135cc cylinder kit, CP ‘HD4’ crankshaft, CP reinforced magneto flange, ‘Ducati Firefly’ 12V electronic ignition, IWIS drive chain, CP ‘Vega5’ 5-speed gearbox, Casa Lambretta layshaft, ‘LunaMaster’ 5-plate clutch, CP top chain guide, CP ‘LunaSports’ expansion chamber exhaust and a Polini CP 24mm carb breathing through a BGM/Marchald sponge-type airfilter. As can be seen by the accompanying sample dyno-graph, this set up gives 13+bhp at the rear wheel and you get better acceleration than a standard GP200 (for the record, a completely standard Lambretta 200 has less than 10bhp at the rear wheel). The LunaSports pipe can be too peaky for some, and alternatives are either a Casa Performance ‘Maxibox’ exhaust, or a slightly modified standard Vega 75cc silencer – if you are lucky enough to own such a rarity. These last two options give better low-down torque, at the expense of losing the kick-in-the-pants attribute that an expansion chamber offers.

The whole scooter was completed in just three weeks, start to finish, before heading over to the UK to its new owner. I spoke with James whilst writing this to ask him what he thought of the machine. He let on that various members of his family have scooters, including both an SST and SSR265, and he too has an SST265 currently being built at RLC. I intended on asking him what he thought of his new CP135 Lui, compared to a bog-standard Lui/Vega 75, but much to my surprise, he had never owned or even ridden a smallframe Lambretta prior to this one. Although he says he still hasn’t clocked up many miles due to the current Covid situation, he seemed thoroughly impressed by it and declared, “It pulls really well for such a small machine with 14 stone of weight on it!”

Words: Dean Orton/Speedball Publishing
Main feature scooter images: Stuart Lanning/Dean Orton

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