The Second Coming
The once-dormant brand is now innovating faster than ever. New Vespa smallframe engine casings are coming soon and even products for Lambretta are in the pipeline!
Anyone with Vespa in their veins knows the Pinasco name. Tuner Andrea Pinasco made his name in the 70s and 80s producing go-faster goodies for the pride of Piaggio.
Pinasco’s fame was for performance products that worked, and worked reliably.
Maybe not the most powerful once other firms joined the market, but often more durable if you used the products on the road. Pinasco’s speciality was always endurance racing, not sprinting.
The automatic scooter boom of the ‘90s finished the job for Andrea. He had little time for plastic scooters so he was happy to retire.The Pinasco brand though, still had kudos, so it was bought by Bettella, a Dellorto distributor from Padova in northern Italy.
“Our idea was to put together a range of Pinasco parts for automatic scooters, not for Vespa”, explains Piergiorgio Bettella, “In 1999, when we took over, not many people in Italy were interested in Vespa, except for the Germans.”
While Pinasco’s range of automatic parts continues to sell, they did not set the world on fire. As interest in automatic scooters began to wane, Bettella looked again at Pinasco’s sales figures. Pinasco’s historic Vespa product range remained consistently popular in international markets. At the same time there was a revival of interest in classic Vespas in Italy.
Piergiorgio then took the decision to revive the sleeping giant of Pinasco. The company would be at the cutting edge of Vespa development once again.
The results of this move have been impressive.
Cracked Vespa casings – just say no!
As the performance-obsessed Germans will tell you, there is far more power available from a Vespa motor than the original engine casings can support. By the time you’ve welded, lovingly ported and assembled a 30+hp Vespa PX engine then you have built your very own bomb. If you use all the power available then eventually the engine will start to crack like a hatching egg.
The typical symptom is that you miss a shift or break a gear. Then the force is sufficient for the casings to crack from the clutch cover towards the back wheel. How depressing!
Return to GO. Do not collect £200!
Various solutions to the problem exist. You can go for extensive welding (which risks distortion) or engine strengtheners from Scooter & Service. Alternatively you could buy expensive CNC billet engine casings from German firm GP ONE or an even more expensive complete billet 305cc engine from BSG in Italy.
None of these are really cost effective solutions for the Vespa speed freak on the street.
Pinasco offer the first affordable solution. They have pressure die cast their own engine casing for the large frame which is reinforced in all the important places. It is designed especially for use in highly tuned Vespas.
How good is the Pinasco engine casing?
Let’s put it this way. Stuart ‘Mad Dog’ McKenzie, who raced a 35hp Quattrini large-frame in the BSSO Group 6 class in 2015, smashed countless Piaggio casings in previous seasons. However his first Pinasco set are still in one piece after a year of very hard riding.
The Pinasco casings feature more meat, not only in terms of strength, but also around the gasket faces and ports to keep tuners happy. Stuart’s only criticism of the casings was that there was slightly too much distance between the drive side bearing and the retaining circlip, but he fixed this with a home-made shim.
What is refreshing is that Pinasco are not satisfied to simply produce something and sell it with no further development. Instead Piergiorgio and his head technician Vittorio ‘TurboBestia’ have implemented a strategy of 6-monthly appraisals to all their new products. They will revise anything that can be improved.
Already, at the start of 2016, the casings will arrive in 1.1 version; which deals with small issues of fit and finish like those found by Mad Dog.
What versions of the Pinasco casing are available?
So far the engine casings are available in four versions: 125/150 type and 200 type, both in original rotary valve induction (“Master”) or alternatively with Pinasco’s own down-draft reed-valve design (“Slave”) incorporating a 360-degree inlet manifold and 4-petal reedvalve based on the Yamaha RD layout.
The large-frame casings accept original Vespa engine components. The significant differences of the 125/150 versions include use of the bigger (and better) silent blocks from the 200cc engines. They also accept a 200cc-size crankshaft. All models benefit from a larger, upgraded, flywheel bearing.
Engine ‘silent block’ mounts and studs are included with every casing.
For the Vespa world, these casings are a very big deal. Now a very powerful PX engine is a viable possibility at an affordable price. Suddenly there is a worthwhile two-stroke alternative to the drone of a GTS for regular road use and rally work.
If I wanted to make a mile-muncher from a modern PX125 or LML 2-stroke then this is where I’d start.
Currently (Jan 2016) the Pinasco large-frame casings retail for €700-800; which translates to around £550-650 at current exchange levels.
More engine casings?
Piergiorgio remained tight-lipped, but there was a wider than normal smallframe crank on display that would not fit standard Piaggio casings. I reckon they are developing a new smallframe casing to join the fray.
Also they are promising a completely new Version 2 engine casing for large frame Vespa in September 2016.
Remember where you read that first!
To go with the new engine casings are a range of new kits released in 2015 which will be expanded on for 2016.
For smallframes the Zuera is a 135cc smallframe kit named after the famous 24-hour Vespa race in Spain. It features:
- 8-point head fixing
- Single-ring piston
- Single exhaust port for endurance use
- Large 4-petal reed-valve and manifold for ‘inside frame’ use.
Kicking around on Turbo’s desk was a prototype version without a spigot which supports a 60mm piston and offers 144cc on a standard 51mm stroke crank.
For ‘small-block’ large-frame 125/150/Pinasco casings Pinasco offers the Magny Cours kit, which is a single exhaust-port Nicasil-kit aimed at endurance or road use. There is also a ‘Racing’ variant with a wider, bridged exhaust port (“traversino”) or sub-exhaust ports (“boosters”). Pinasco also produces kits in special long-stroke versions which take the traditional 177cc conversions up to 190cc with a matching 60mm stroke crankshaft.
Forthcoming modifications include a bolt-on steel exhaust stub to eliminate the problem of alloy stubs being damaged when you clamp steel exhaust systems to them. These new kits, which feature 8-point head fixing, arrive in April 2016.
For ‘large-block’ 200/Pinasco casings their latest kit is ‘Race 9TX’ so named because of the 9-transfer port layout.
New cylinders by the ton!
Pinasco’s latest competition cranks (above) have better quality rods and balancing.
True to their mantra of constant revision; Pinasco are updating their range of performance Vespa cranks in line with their experiences in endurance racing.
The latest large-frame versions have improved balancing, plastic padding to raise crankcase compression and new con-rods with improved lubrication to the big-end bearing.
Pinasco are also one of very few firms to offer a competition version of the Vespa T5 crank.
Tubeless split rim
Pinasco’s split version of the tubeless wheel rims is not a new product, but it is an example of their product improvement strategy. Like many rival tubeless wheels for Vespa, Pinasco’s was not strictly legal for road use in countries that required homologation of aftermarket parts (like Germany and Italy).
In 2015 however, Pinasco bit the bullet and produced a version that gained full TuV approval for road use. This new version has additional bolts to hold the rims together around the central sealing O-ring.
While in theory tyre fitting to these wheels is easier without a tyre-machine than single-piece tubeless wheels, roadside fitting is still not really an option. You normally need a powerful compressor to get the tyre to seat fully on the bead.
What the rims do offer though is very stylish ‘custom car’ aesthetics. In Italy the aluminium version retails for €106 while the grey or black versions cost €119.
One really interesting element of Pinasco’s current range is that they are revisiting the earlier Vespas with a range of performance kits and cranks for 1950s and ‘60s models. Enough to pep up your vintage steed to modern levels of performance.
Pinasco have made a packing plate that permits the use of a PX clutch in very old models like the Faro Basso. They also produce versions of their Flytech electronic ignition system to fit most models of Vespa back to the ‘50s.
While labelled ‘plug-and-play’ there is still an element of terminal-fitting to do and the process of setting the ignition timing is different once you dispose of contact breakers, but the improvement in starting and lights output should make electronic ignition an essential modification for older models.
Endurance remains the name of the game for Pinasco in terms of sport, and also as a development strategy for reliable tuning parts. For that, we can only applaud them.
The company’s ambitions are not restricted to Vespa however, and 2016 will see the brand delving into the Lambretta market as well.
It seems that the giant of the 1980s was only sleeping. Pinasco is awake again and back in full force.
Additional photos courtesy of Pinasco and Vittorio Carlini.