Not many of us own a Vespa 90SS, even fewer of us have the skills, drive and passion to create an authentic replica from the remnants of what was once just an ‘ordinary’ Vespa Smallframe. Craig Lilley is an amateur scooter builder, don’t let that make you think anything he builds is less than stunning and very professionally built though. Craig uses old-time skills, both self-taught and picked up over along the way to build some truly stunning scooters.
Craig’s latest project is this one, in the first part he buys and cuts up a project Vespa before starting to transform it into something very special. With meticulous attention to detail this replica will be as good as the ‘real’ thing once he’s finished with it…
On May the 4th I found a Vespa 90 project that was for sale on a Facebook site. I knew this would be a perfect base to complete a 90SS replica as the front legshields had already been removed, which saves a lot of work. I contacted the seller, a deal was struck and a time was arranged to collect the frame.
The long and short of it
Not knowing the year of the scooter it was going to be pot luck if it was a short wheel based frame, which is ideal to do a true replica of a 90SS. On arrival the tape measure was bought out, the scooter was measured up and unfortunately, it was a long-wheelbase model. However, to my amazement, I got talking with the seller and he had a small door Vespa 90 as well, which as we all know are short wheelbase models from the factory. This gave me a chance to have a quick measure up of the small door Vespa to give me the correct size for the short-wheelbase model. Now I knew how much I needed to cut the mid section down.
Cut it down
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was going to abandon the project due to the frame being long wheelbase. I then decided to make a jig and basically cut the scooter in half. With keeping the frame fixed at the front and bolted down on the jig, the rake of the frame would not be altered. So basically the rear end of the scooter was moved forward to the correct position required for a short wheelbase model. This was then tack welded in place, fully seam welded across the top and welded underneath as well with a plate in place to give it extra strength. I honestly believe this is stronger than when it left the Piaggio factory in Italy.
Once I was happy that everything was lined up and straight on the jig, the all-important legshields were ordered from Scooter Center in Germany. When they arrived and I unboxed them this was when I could see the iconic shape of the 90SS leg shields which gives it the distinctive look.
A few people commented on the way I had approached building the scooter, telling me the rake would be out of line, but I knew in my own heart it would be perfect. So the moment of truth arrived when the legshields could be fitted to the scooter. If the rake was out the legshields would not have fitted the frame, thankfully they fitted perfectly. Holes were drilled, top middle and bottom, both sides and I used heavy duty pop rivets from work. As these are industrial ones used on roof cladding these would hold it in place, to get ready for puddle welding.
Once this was done the horn cover was lined up and welded in place too. The next important part was starting to prepare the scooter for dry build and paint. After all the welding was dressed up on the legshields and horn cover I always use an old school method of lead loading over the puddle welds and once linished up you can’t even tell that they have been welded. Lead is an amazing material to work with when restoring old vehicles i.e. scooters and cars and a lot of people don’t bother to use it anymore.
That’s it for part one, in part two next week Craig will get it ready for paint.
Craig’s build photos so far
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