Scomadi TL 400 – Exclusive first ride | ROAD TEST
Although many die-hard traditional scooter riders won’t even entertain a ‘lookalike’ model, like the Scomadi or ‘new’ Lambretta, there are plenty more who can see their appeal.
With a 400cc engine and a potential for 90mph top speeds this prototype has the potential to massively expand that appeal. The Scomadi 400 will bring modern retro scooter performance into a new era.
The prototype uses the existing TL bodywork but Frank Sanderson has been busy modifying the chassis to house a 400 engine, albeit the carb fed rather than fuel-injected version. The finished model may well look more cramped beneath the panels than the prototype once the fuel injection and ABS modules go in.
The new chassis has much wider frame rails, suitable not only for this Morini-based motor, but it’s also wide enough to take any of the latest 2-stroke performance engines designed for classic Lammies including the Casa SSR250 and the Targa Twin.
The 400 engine itself fits well enough in the chassis but the large clutch housing protrudes a bit, so the left hand panel had to be cut. The wheelbase is also longer than any other production Scomadi so the rear wheel fouled the bodywork slightly under load. A section of the rear frame beneath the number plate was trimmed for testing purposes. These are minor problems though and will be easy to overcome.
VIDEO | TL 400 in action
Although the bodywork on the TL 400 is just a set of recycled plastic TL 125 panels the scooter felt roomier to me. Looking at the riding shots it seems like I’m sitting further back than I ordinarily would. Perhaps because the engine is longer it makes you naturally sit further back? Either way, it felt spacious enough, and looked roomy when Sticky was riding it as well. Extra space is always worth having, even if it’s perceived rather than physical. Either way the bodywork will need some alteration before production begins.
I asked Frank about the possibility of them building an even more retro inspired version. Anybody fancy a 400cc Scomadi with really retro styling?
It’s the natural next step, feel free to comment if you’d like to see one being produced.
Of course you all want to know about the engine and how it performs. It’s performance figures that will make any ‘not sure’ die-hards contemplate parting with their money. Scomadi have bought the rights and tooling to the existing Franco Morini 385cc engine that was used in the Malaguti Madison 400. The Madison (and Maluguti as a manufacturer) is long gone but the engine was based on the single cylinder, 4-valve Suzuki Burgman lump. Morini built it under licence in Italy at the time.
Scomadi are updating the old carb-fed engine to meet and exceed Euro 4 specs, in fact they’re planning to make it to Euro 5 specs in order to give it a longer shelf-life.
How many horses?
This standard carb-fed engine made 28bhp at the rear wheel (a GTS 300 makes around 17.5), but it is the torque output that is more impressive. By the time the 400 goes into production it’ll have been switched over to modern fuel-injection and digital ignition, and the gearing will have been sorted to make best use of the power in the Scomadi chassis. When Euro 5 legislation arrives in 2020 anti-tampering measures will be included to prevent new machines being tuned or modified by the owner, Scomadi aim to get the best out of this engine before Euro 5 arrives.
Scomadi are also still deciding where to get the engines made. Currently the tooling remains in Italy and all of the previous 3rd-party suppliers (like Vertex for pistons and Gilardoni for the cylinder) have agreed to make the required parts. Alternatively, there are variations of this engine being made for quad bikes in Asia that have already been converted to fuel injection.
Used and abused
The engine in the scooter we rode was a used Malaguti lump, mileage unknown but it ran well enough, even though Scomadi were waiting for a new belt to arrive for it. The used engine suits their purposes for testing and development and it gave us a chance to see how the chassis copes with the extra weight and power.
Remember this is a development machine, built to evaluate changes. The exhaust on the prototype was simply a 250 Scomadi pipe modified to fit. Secondly the airbox (a very important part of any four-stroke) was adapted in a Heath Robinson way using a lump of plastic as a spacer to increase the volume and a sliding ‘front door’ to allow it to be fine-tuned easily. It’s a development tool but actually works quite well.
On the road
The 400 barks into life through the Scomadi exhaust, it’s not overly loud, especially in comparison to the Stage 4 Scomadi 200 we rode alongside it but it does pop quite a bit as you let the throttle off. It’s a trait of this particular exhaust as un-burnt fuel ignites in the silencer
If you’ve ever ridden a Suzuki Burgman you’ll recognise the momentary lag before the centrifugal clutch engages as you accelerate. Don’t panic though; it’s still rapid from a standing start. The 400 will leave a GTS for dust and the pretty nippy stage 4 Scomadi 200 was left behind quite quickly as well. The good thing about the way Frank has designed the 400 is that the engine sits nice and low and as centrally as possible in the frame. This gives it a great weight distribution; this is translated to a well-planted feeling on the road.
Whilst we were at Scomadi HQ in Lancashire we rode four different variants, the 125 air-cooled, 125 LC, stage 4 200 and the 400, this gave us a chance to compare differences.
The 400 handled better than all of the others, the suspension both front and rear was well damped and the scooter was sure footed. Most other Scomadis are hard on the front end and lack feel. This is something the firm are working hard to correct on their forthcoming Thai-built models, with a forthcoming developmet they call Plush-ride suspension. With the 400 they’re certainly heading in the right direction. The demo scooter sported wide forks, these will be replaced by a new twin disc front wheel and narrow forks. You can see the new wheel in the video.
Style it up
We’ll not concentrate too much on the aesthetics of our test bike; by the time this scooter arrives (probably late 2018, early 2019) it will most likely have different bodywork, equipment and features. Not to mention the steel panels, running boards, leg shields and mudguard. It’ll also have an alloy headset bottom and the latest trapezoid style clocks.
Despite the engine being used, having a worn belt and not having the gearing set up perfectly it felt quick enough. If you’re used to a GTS 300 you can expect to see a useful 10mph extra on the top end with the Scomadi 400. The chassis copes with the power and speed very well, it’s a great weapon for playing around the twisties and should be fantastic for cruising at decent motorway speeds.
The scooter we rode just had standard disc brakes at both ends, none of this new fangled modern ABS or linked braking. Of course the production model will have ABS as standard. The single rear/front disc set up worked well but you can begin to feel the limits of the front disc when you’re pushing hard; a twin disc set up will certainly be needed. Braking mid-corner also made the scooter feel like it was trying to stand itself up.
Similarly you could feel the scooter starting to squirm slightly around corners at speed, the suspension and chassis were just about reaching their limits for the available power, but don’t take that in a negative way. It lets you feel what’s happening beneath you and allows you to feel like you’re a part of it. To me that makes for a more involving riding experience than some perfectly set up superbike.
Although we may well have to wait over a year, (maybe two) to see a production ready version of the Scomadi TL 400 in the shops, I think it’ll be worth waiting for.
Providing quality from the Thai factory is as good as we hope, the metalwork and styling tweaks are in keeping and the engine itself is as quick as the demo scooter, then this could be THE sports scooter to own. It needs to be comparable on price to a GTS as well. We’ll have to wait and see though, such massive developments don’t happen overnight but once the legal issues are dealt with (one way or another) at the end of September, Scomadi should be able to get back on track and hopefully win back some disgruntled dealers and customers.
For more on the latest developments at Scomadi, read this article.
Photos: Sticky & Iggy
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