I’ve know Maicol Gentili for a long time. I met him and his dad in Italy in the early part of this millennium. Both were into Lambrettas and home-brew engineering. In that way Emilia Romagna and the West Midlands have much in common. Except the weather and the food. Except everything apart from the shed-engineering I suppose. Bad example…
When I first met them, father Paolo and teenage son Maicol (Mike) were working on ‘the Bodge.’ This cutdown Lambretta had a water-cooled Cagiva motorcycle cylinder conversion. Completely illegal in Italy, but not enough to put Maicol off riding it over the mountainous spine of Italy to Elba rally with us in 2004.
Growing up in the scooter scene I’ve known a great many wasted talents. Hidden gems whose party excesses meant they were never destined to achieve their full potential. Mike, on the other hand, is a shining example of how it can work out if you fall like a cat and always land on your feet.
After building The Bodge with his dad, Mike studied engineering in Bologna University. From there he got an internship at Ferrari in Maranello. He was effectively working for free but got involved in the development of Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) which is now the standard method for gear operation in many top-level motorsports. DCT allows an engine to have two gears selected at the same time, so shifting ratios can be done almost instantly, simply by engaging one clutch as the other is disengaged. All this is done electronically and far faster than it is possible to move mechanical gears.
While Maicol was at Ferrari his boss in the DCT department was head-hunted by British F1 team McLaren to help develop a Dual Clutch solution for their forthcoming MP12 4C supercar. One of the conditions his boss requested was that Maicol was also employed by McLaren. Thus he went from earning bugger-all at Ferrari to getting a healthy wage in Woking. The job occasionally required driving around in Supercars and reprogramming them on the hoof with a laptop.
You can imagine the stir in our suburban street when one night a young guy turned up at our house in a pre-production MP12 4C with gull-wing doors. It was like Michael J Fox had come Back from the Future again. Either that or Jay Kay from Jamiroquai had got seriously lost in Nuneaton.
Woking is not as exotic as Italy though, so Maicol was stuck for something to do. He still kept scooters at home and kept in touch with the Italian scene and attended events there.
The SX200 itself is another illustration of quite how lucky he is. The scooter came to him via a chance encounter while competing on the Vespa Club of Bari’s excellent Tre Mari event in Southern Italy. An old man in a petrol station offered him a Lambretta but Maicol, at first, wasn’t that interested. Then he heard the words “due cento” (200) and quickly made arrangements to view and possibly buy it while they were still in Calabria. Conveniently, they had a back-up van with them.
The scooter was planned and customised in Italy using various accessories including LD handlebars and1970s cycle mudflaps. Registration took place in the UK because it is very hard to re-register a scooter in Italy and almost impossible if it is non-standard.
The lights on the legshields serve one as main beam and one as dipped beam. Masochist tendencies are catered for by the seat which is some sort of medieval torture device. Lambretta seats only come in two types: stylish or comfortable; never a combination of both.
By the time Maicol’s SX was on the road, and being used around London, Mclaren had decided that it was too expensive testing cars in England. Instead it proved more practical to use a testing facility near Barcelona. Maicol was offered an attractive package if he’d like to carry on working for McLaren but this time being based in Spain. Hmm, let me see; a flat in London or one near the seafront in Tarragona. Tricky decision…
In May 2015, I planned to pass Barcelona on my Twin Town Courier trip so Maicol offered to put me up for a night. By this stage his girlfriend – now fiancée – Alessia had moved in. The three of us spent a balmy evening razzing around the seafront on Lambrettas.
Unlike the SX200 I was using for my tour, I’ve never won a custom show. Mike’s, on the other hand, took top prize at its first rally in Imola.
I’m sure there’s a part of that story that he left out. The bit where he met a leprechaun while riding home who directed him to a pot of gold, just the other end of a rainbow in field of four-leaf clovers…
Words & Images: Sticky
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Owners name: Maicol Gentili
Town: Tarragona (Spain)
Club: Instetti Viandanti (Cesena, Italy)
Scooter name: It doesn’t have a name, it’s just my SX 200
Model: Lambretta SX200
Engine details: SX 200 block, RT 225 MBgm, 28 Dellorto carb
Top speed: slow…
Power output: I don’t know…
Paintwork: My friend Ciullo (Christian Zanuccoli) did the paint job. And another friend Ringo Weiredpaint did the pin striping (by hand).
One-off parts: Rear foot boards, rear foot stands.
Fabrication: I did all the work and assembly myself.
Accessories: Nannucci front mudguard, original 70s front and rear mudguards, Wipac lights, aluminium number holder, Biemme Flourescent Green Flyscreen, Original ULMA central wheel holder, Biemme mirrors, LD handlebar, RLC disc brake air duct, candy stipes, late 70s Clubman VW (it wasn’t fitted when we took the pictures)
Inspiration? I had the inspiration while I was reading an article about the Supertune Special on the Racing Lambrettas website. From there I got the Supertune shape of the side panels and the idea of the different handlebar. Then I’ve added my touch to complete the project.
Acquisition? I bought the scooter during the 3 Seas Race in southern Italy. I don’t remember exactly the year. A man stopped me while I was at the petrol station. He told me that he had an old Lambretta in the garage. At the beginning I wasn’t interested, but when he said the magic word (200cc) my interest started to grow. We were about to take the ferry to Sicily, so I had to meet the guy on our way back. Once we came back from Sicily he was waiting me at the harbour in Reggio Calabria. I left the rest of the group and I went with my scooter and a friend driving the van to see the bike. After driving for 30km through a couple of dead towns in the mountains, close to Reggio Calabria, we arrived to his house. The man was telling the truth, it was an SX 200, in quite bad condition, but still an SX 200.
It was stored in an old illegal bar closed since the late 70s; a really weird place.
We loaded on the van and I went back on my scooter trying to catch up with the other guys. I rode for an hour at full beans on the Salerno Reggio Calabria motorway and managed to catch the rest of the guys with my new scooter behind in the van!
Alterations? I fitted the handlebar of a Lambretta LD. I also cut the rear floorboards.
Perspiration? It took a full week of holiday to put together the scooter. Obviously I had everything ready to go (already painted / chromed…). As I’m not living in Italy anymore, my father (Paolo) prepared everything so I had it all ready to build when I was arrived at home.
Aggravation? Given that the bike is modified, it is not easy to put it on the road in a legal way in Italy, but we managed to do it in the UK when I lived in London.
Recommendation? Be patient and think a lot at what you’d like to build before starting the work. I designed my scooter on paper before starting the restoration. I bought the LD handlebar and tried it on even before starting to take the scooter to bits. Only after all of that I understood that the project was feasible and began work.