Lambretta SSR250 road test | FEATURE
SLUK grabbed a go on Casa Performance’s latest development engine to get a taste for how a 46hp fan-cooled Lambretta feels on the street.
We also cobbled together some exclusive riding footage from our tame test-rider – The Twig.
Casa’s SSR250 engine is still in its development phase, but it’s already a monster.
Read on and be afraid!
Text by Sticky
What’s the spec?
- SSR 250 cylinder: this is a fan-cooled cylinder made in a small batch via rapid-prototyping methods. There are now two of these V1 kits in use for evaluation with data being used to define the final version. Another batch of revised V2 rapid-production prototypes (in photos) has just being plated.
- SSR 250 piston: Casa Performance are working with Wossner Pistons who have produced a special piston just to suit this kit.
- CasaCase: the air-cooled SSR 250 kit is designed specifically to fit this engine casing and won’t fit onto a normal Lambretta case.
- CasaCover: the special side casing needed to work with the 7-plate BSG-derived Casa Performance clutch.
- 7-plate CasaClutch: The difference between this clutch and all the rivals is in the sprocket. This one contains a motorcycle-style sprung cush-drive which gives every transmission component a much easier time. This system even allowed the Casa boys to be confident enough to fit the latest version of the Cyclone 5-speed gearbox.
- Protti exhaust: made for the SSR250.
- 34mm Dellorto carb: there’s probably more power to come by fitting a bigger carburettor.
- Casatronic ignition: fitted with a special CNC fan to maximise airflow.
- Casa 64mm stroke crankshaft: Special wide-web crank required for the CasaCase with 120mm con-rod.
- Cyclone 5-speed gearbox: RLC have moved to using their third manufacturer for the Cyclone using uprated production methods and materials. There was initially some doubt about whether any standard-width Lambretta gearbox would cope with this kind of power, let alone a 5-speed, but the proof is in the pudding.
What does it ride like?
Well it certainly wakes you up. Espresso can’t match the hit in terms of a wide smile and leaving you shaking.
At the moment it’s still set very rich and boggy low down, but it feels like there’s room to clean that up and make it more pleasurable to use around town, below the power band. As a result of this richness, the delivery in 1st gear was a bit harsh for the street, delivering instant aerial action of the front wheel. Better to short-shift and give it the berries in 2nd instead.
That’s not to say it’s ridiculously brutal though. Once in second gear, and as long as you sit well forward, then you can use it hard without worrying that it’ll flip you off the back. In terms of ride-ability it’s far more manageable than any of the shorter Vespas that put out similar power (from the likes of BSG) but only want to point at the sky when you use the throttle.
To coin a phrase, “power is nothing without control” and that is doubly true when you have a surplus of power matched to small wheels and short-travel suspension. The good thing about the SSR is that the transition between ‘out of the power’ and ‘yehaaa’ doesn’t feel as harsh as some other high-end tuning kits.
What really makes the difference, as you should be able to tell from the video, is the use of the 5-speed Cyclone gearbox. With an extra cog to use there’s not really any reason why you should be riding outside the power band because with close ratios there seems to be a good gear for any occasion. Obviously 6 gears would be better than 5, but there is only so much room in a Lambretta engine.
a lever action that’s as light as a tramp’s washbag
Before I rode this engine I didn’t really think that there was a need for yet another Lambretta clutch system. I already rate the LTH 7-plate as excellent. The AF cassette clutch is simple and reliable. A largely standard BGM clutch was enough for the Casa race team to win the BSSO Group 6 championship. Why then, add another clutch to an already saturated market?
The answer is that the CasaClutch can not only handle 45hp+ without a sweat, but also has a lever action that’s as light as a tramp’s washbag.
Some of this light action comes from the CasaClutch itself – the more plates you have then the less spring pressure you need – but the rest of the easy-operation comes from the CasaCover side casing. This features a rack-and-pinion actuator instead of a simple cam. Like the Vespa XL2 – where the design idea came from – the effect is to greatly reduce strain at the lever.
If you are going to ask questions about the SSR’s fuel economy then you are really looking at the wrong sort of engine. To me, this is a race engine that you can use on the road to upset bikers, horrify environmentalists and generally scare the bejesus out of everyone.
That said, the SSR is already more practical than the BSG305 because it doesn’t have the 305’s exhaust ground clearance problems. Also, the 305 featured crankcase reed induction and a carb hanging out over the cable adjuster block which meant a special fuel tank. By contrast the SSR has the same inlet arrangement as any of the aluminium reedvalve kits, so any fuel tank set-up to suit a TS1 should also work with this motor.
If I had to make a criticism, it’s that the muffler fitted to the Protti exhaust barely kept the aggressive bark of the engine in check. The motor wasn’t running long before we started to get complaints about the noise.
From deaf people.
The develoment chassis housing this demo engine has had its seat arch removed and a fibreglass race tub fitted for easy access to the motor; along with fibreglass legshields. Essentially it’s a race chassis in terms of lightness, but it doesn’t have the additional frame bracing of a race scooter, nor the exotic suspension.
Put simply, the front fork springs were too hard for the weight and speed of this Lambretta, so it got kinda wobbly. I was pre-warned, so I wasn’t surprised by the handling but it’s not for anyone of a nervous disposition.
The engine would certainly handle better in a full-steel Lambretta, but all those tiny fixings are not development friendly. New fork springs are in production, but riding it acted as a reminder that you do not want to be putting an engine like this in a scooter fitted with poor quality brakes, suspension or tyres. You can’t afford to cut corners at this level.
If you like that, then you’ll like this.
If you want to have the fastest Lambretta on the block, then this is really a good place to start. It’s an entertaining ride for sure, but the SSR250 demands both skill and respect if you are really going to use it. How a fan-cooled motor of this output will cope with the motorway is another question. I’m sure it will be possible to rally on this with the correct jetting for fast cruising but is it sensible to do so? Hell no, but people still throw themselves out of perfectly good aeroplanes every day in a quest for skydiving adrenaline. If you like that, then you’ll like this.
Casa Performance don’t intend the SSR to be another ‘unicorn’ project; something everyone has heard of but nobody has ever seen. Currently the guys are on with other versions of the cylinder with revised external structure and fining and even a single port version aimed more at the touring market.
The next stage of development is to make a further 20 kits via rapid prototyping and a matched number of pre-machined CasaCases to suit. These will go out to Casa Performance dealers and selected RLC customers with the aim of compiling their feedback to finalise the production configuration. I’m sure a lot of people will see this video and say “here’s my credit card, I want one”, but patience will be rewarded by a more thoroughly developed engine, which is better for everyone.
Where are we going next?
Development doesn’t stop there though. They’ve already figured out how to integrate a crankcase reed intake (like the BSG 305) into the CasaCase. This opens up a world of future tuning possibilities using exotic cylinder conversions that incorporate power-valve technology to broaden the power spread and improve fuel economy.
Then we are talking about an engine that ticks all of my boxes…