Revived 80s Lambretta chop: Illusion 2 | CUSTOM
Once upon a time chopped scooters were the vogue and as they grew in popularity, so they became more radical.
Illusion was a child of the 80s, and back in the day it was certainly one of the longest too.
In the beginning there were scooter magazines by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts: Scooter & Scooterist by Norrie Kerr, Scootermania by Martin Dixon, and in early 1985 British Scooterist Scene was launched by Stuart Lanning, who formerly produced Somerset Scooterist Magazine.
In October 1984 Steve Maw began the final stage of turning his Lambretta chopper into a custom scooter named Illusion and on it’s first outing at the Telford Custom Scooter Show in May 1985, his hard work was rewarded with a trophy for Best Chop.
Illusion then made it on to the cover of the July edition of BSS and was featured in August’s edition. It was here that we learned that Illusion’s forks had been extended by 17 inches and raked by 20 degrees, that the engraving was by Jinette More and cost £130, London Chroming did their bit for £450 and the paint was by Taylor’s Creative Customising of Croydon for about £280.
The whole scooter cost about £1500 back then and Steve also won Best of Show at Donington with Illusion as well as Best Lambretta Chopper at both Gt Yarmouth and Exmouth rallies. Yes, there was even a custom class for best Lambretta Chopper back then.
Later that year his scooter graced the cover of the third edition of the first scooter magazine to be commercially produced by a major publishing house. As a result, Illusion gained a wider audience, beyond Steve’s local friends and those attending the events he displayed it at. This lead to Illusion gaining a reputation nationally as both a stunning machine and one to watch out for wherever you went.
Around 1987 Steve set up a scooter shop named Scootique in Crowborough on the Kent/Sussex border. Customers will no doubt recall Illusion taking up a lot of floor space in there for a while! After he closed that in the early 90s Steve went off to Thailand to do some duck farming (it’s a long story!), but he is now back in the UK with a more regular job in the health industry.
As for Illusion, well for the last 30 years or so the scooter has been residing in his flat. I suppose you can’t beat waking up to a nice chopper every morning!
The time eventually arrived when Steve decided to bring Illusion out of storage and put it back on the road, although Steve told us that by then, “Quite a bit of the paint was damaged, and the chrome was flaking off.”
Of the original scooter, most of the parts have been reused on Illusion 2, including the frame, petrol tank, seat (repaired) and engine casing. In fact even the original DJ exhaust was good enough to be re-chromed and used again. As for the rest of the engine, well the standard 175 top end and Amal carb have been dumped in favour of a more lively Imola 186cc top end, breathing through a rubber mounted Dellorto carb. A BGM electronic ignition has also been fitted for reliability and while Steve did a fair bit of internet shopping for this project, he also told us that Dave and Paul at Atoms in Kent proved very helpful with regards to buying parts locally.
Cosmetically, Illusion 2 looks very similar at first glance to how it was when Steve first built it. But a number of alterations have been made.
Now from a personal point of view I’ve always liked the fact it retains Lambretta forks, albeit extremely modified – I for one reckon that a well-executed Lambretta chopper needs Lambretta forks rather than borrowing from the custom motorcycle world.
Having said all that, Steve did tell us that the forks have been rebuilt from scratch, inside and out, as the old ones weren’t in great condition. Mungo was the chap responsible for that, they are sleeved inside of course for strength, and also feature Scomadi forks at the bottom end. These new forks are also about an inch or so shorter than originally to make it more rideable.
Also, at the front end, the drum brake of the original 80s machine has been replaced with a modern PM Tuning hub and hydraulic disc brake, and BGM dampers help the handling too.
Other obvious modifications include the addition of framework around the forward controls to both suit the owner and make riding both more feasible and comfortable. “So I’m not sat like a frog,” quipped Steve.
The frame has also been modified under the petrol tank where the horn and some of the electrics are now hidden, with the rest secreted within the shiny box at the rear. The tank itself now sports a single Harley Davidson tap rather than the rather “rubbish” twin taps originally on it, and a new screw cap. The work on the tank and the forward controls were done by P&D Customs. In fact although they are predominantly bike people, Steve had originally worked with them before through Mike at Taylor’s Creative Customising. They covered Illusion’s seat originally.
P&D also fabricated the new stainless steel handlebars, although the gear change however is both old-skool and self-made by Steve, a product left over from his Scootique days. One of the last ones apparently, that still needed machining to finish.
Personally, I think the new style bars add an up to date feel to the whole scooter, the current (and recently added) low-slung headlight complementing it well.
Illusion was originally painted by Taylor’s Creative Customising of Croydon – long since closed down – back in the 1980s. For the revamp Steve chose Ty Lawer at Pageant Paint to apply the artwork. It’s still in a shade of pink as Illusion was first time round, also with flowing detailing picked out perfectly to suit the overall scooter.
Of course the trouble with owning an old custom scooter is what to do with it, because you’re always aware of other people’s opinions.
But should you be concerned about them?
Scooters are a personal thing to each and every one of us, and as long as our scooter makes us happy, who actually cares about what others think?
From a personal point of view it was nice to see Illusion 2 lined up in the custom show at the Isle of Wight scooter rally last summer. Those with an eye for such things either clocked the way the chopper sat, or possibly the name, and realised it’s heritage. Others were oblivious to the fact it was an old scooter back from the dead and simply appreciated it for what it was – a fine example of a chopped Lambretta.
What Steve has done with Illusion 2 however, is develop the scooter he created all those years ago, improve it in certain areas, and put it back on the road with a few neat touches that to my eye makes it both look brand new yet at the same time remind you of times gone by. And that’s very clever indeed.
Words: Emperor Ming