Riding the prototype Casa Performance SST 265 in Albania | REVIEW
I know from the amount of questions I was asked at EuroLambretta that there are a lot of people closely monitoring the development process of the touring SST and high-performance SSR Casa engines.
I can imagine many are holding off and saving pennies until the engines have a few more trips like the Giro Tre Mari under their tyres and who can blame them? Scooterists have long been used as guinea pigs by tuning part producers because there simply is not time or resources to test every new product. Even when a ‘tuning house’ does do the right amount of testing it’s not uncommon for the actual factory making the parts to supply production that isn’t as good quality as the test batch. Shit happens.
No company has an unblemished record in this respect but fair play to Casa Performance. All the guys there still ride Lambrettas and are prepared to put miles in on the road to find and eliminate weaknesses and to perfect set-ups. I’ve always got a lot more respect for the opinions of people I see with their arse on a saddle compared to those I’ve never seen ride a geared scooter. Additionally I’m quite happy to try new parts and ride around the odd foible if it can help make a better product. That’s how come I ended up piloting Dean’s Serveta fitted with a prototype SST265 engine around the highways and byways of Albania for a week.
VIDEO | Mickey talks about the development SST 265
What’s an SST?
The SST265 is supposed to be the touring version of their crazy 47hp SSR265 Scuderia engine. You can tell by the capacity that these two motors are closely related; both being based on the CasaCase engine with a 68mm stroke crankshaft. The chief difference between the barrels is the exhaust port layout and the port timings.
The SSR uses a bridged exhaust port, but the SST design is a single exhaust with two smaller sub-ports. Casa have a selection of various SST cylinders with different port timings to test, but the one fitted was probably the most radical of the lot with 126 degree transfer timings and 186 degrees exhaust. Those are similar timings to a standard TS1 kit so whether this is a touring kit really depends on your definition of ‘touring’.
The first compromise for this trip was the use of the Protti race exhaust from the SSR motor which is designed for longer port timings and an engine that will rev to around 11,000rpm. Thus the exhaust and barrel were not a perfect match for a cylinder that’s done breathing by 9,000rpm. There’s a lot more low-rpm and mid-range performance to be found with the right exhaust.
The second compromise was the fitment of a 34mm DellOrto carb, again pretty much straight from the SSR because the lads didn’t have time to jet a 28/30mm carb; which would be the preferred configuration for the SST.
How does it perform?
This is an engine that will pull cleanly from 2,500 rpm, right around to 9,000. Even at 3,000 rpm it’s making enough power to potter around at 30mph with the scooter parade when we were guided to Kruje castle through the city of Tirana. Certainly there’s nothing to criticise in terms of manners and rideability out of the power, but in fairness the two SSRs ridden by Dean and Mickey were just as well-behaved in traffic.
High-rpm performance of 32hp was perfectly adequate for all the roads we were riding on. If you want more than that on dusty roads with 10” wheels then you need to be fairly skilled or crazy. The SST would sit happily at 80+ mph and had enough mid-range for the gearing it was pulling, though it would certainly have more with the correct exhaust.
At the moment it’s thirstier and noisier than I’d want from a touring motor, but that was only because the guys hadn’t had a chance to develop the box exhaust and correctly jet a smaller carb to suit. In terms of tractability and outright power, it’s already in the right ball park.
You know I said that I didn’t need more power than the touring SST engine? Well that was fine until we entered a section of dual carriageway travelling at 80mph or so, and Dean with a passenger on the ‘little’ SSR250 would sail past me 2-up with 10mph or more in hand. We held these speeds for long stretches in the 30-degree temperatures and none of the three Casa motors even blinked. Up until this point I had my doubts about how such large capacity fan-cooled motors would cope with high speeds in hot climates, but this trip put my mind at ease.
The only mechanical problem on all three Casa motors in 1000km was a split carb rubber on Deans 250, but that can happen on any kit.
Pros and cons
The biggest bonus for the trip was the transmission used. The combination of the latest Cyclone 5 Pro gearbox (totally revised and now with full-width cluster teeth), the cush-drive PowerMaster clutch and CasaCover side casing made for effortless gear-shifting. Put it this way, I could ride with a pocket camera in my left hand and still change gear and use the clutch with one finger!
The only negative aspect I found with the SST was that it took real commitment to kick it over thanks to the low exhaust port making for high starting compression. There are engineering solutions to resolve this issue used on large capacity motocross 2-strokes which the Casa Performance lads plan to experiment with.
The other pain was the loud bark from the Protti exhausts which are not exactly quiet. Knowing also that not every potential customer for an SST will want a box exhaust, Protti has also been instructed to develop a dedicated expansion chamber to pull lower down the rev range and this will also be internally silenced, thus addressing the noise issue.
To my mind the SST engine I tried was too much like a detuned SSR 265. There was a modest boost to mid-range power and a small saving on fuel economy but not to the point where I’d be happy to give up maybe an extra 15hp. You might as well just have the full-fat version if you are going to use that amount of oil and fuel.
The SST will only come into its own once it has a dedicated exhaust and carb set-up. Touring for many people now means long distances with good fuel economy so you don’t need to carry bottle and bottles of oil.
In my head a great touring engine will make massive torque at 5,000 rpm so it can be ridden at high speeds with tall gearing and lower revs. Hopefully they can develop a box exhaust which will allow for excellent over-rev while still remaining sensibly quiet. It’s a big ask but I think it’s possible if the lads are given enough time to do the job properly.
Of course no matter what they build, other manufacturers and tuners will soon start producing exhausts and other parts to suit the SST motors.
Now I’ve tried it, I like the idea of riding an engine built with all-new parts. If CP can get the SST to behave like a BGM RT with 60% extra power over the whole rev range, and offer similar fuel economy on a run, then I think that’s what a lot of people would like from a touring motor.
That’s only my opinion though – what sort of characteristics would you like from a 265cc touring engine? Leave your comments below.
Where do I find out more?
At the time of writing, only the SSR engines are for sale. They are presently being offered in part-assembled form (pre-built top end) for you to fill with the transmission of your choice, for less than £3,000. You can find out more here. To find your nearest Casa Performance dealer use this link although within 2-3 weeks they will have their all new e-commerce website going live. To read about previous SLUK coverage of the SSR click here.
Use this link to read about the 2018 Giro Tre Mari.