When I first received a video of what looks like the basis for a Lambretta streamliner I was intrigued. This wasn’t built by some big budget heavily sponsored scooter business flexing their corporate muscles, this was a 12ft long shed built sparkling silver dream racer.
I’m always surprised at the lengths some people will go to just to create something unique. When I delved a little deeper I discovered that this sparkling whale shaped carcass was just the tip of a much deeper iceberg and its creator, Bob was no one-trick pony. We had to pay him a visit.
Above left you can see Bob’s home video showing some of the modelling and moulding process. This is four month’s work and approximately 500 hours, many sleepless nights and plenty of heartache.
Above right, see Bob in action as he shows us around his creation and how he worked out how to make it. Plus the local priest gives his blessing and the odd dirty joke.
Not only had the creator taught himself how to make the mould needed to form something sleek enough to cut through the air but also able to encapsulate a scooter and rider.
He’s also well into the process of building his own shed built twin cylinder Lambretta engine, his own cranks, his own barrels, heads, expansion pipes and plenty more besides. This is one hell of a project and we needed to find out more about man and machine.
Meet Bob Monkhouse, a Yorkshireman on a very tight budget. A man with a ‘can do’ attitude to life.
Bob certainly has the ability to make things. He worked for Chiselspeed many years ago but his self-taught skills go way beyond the realms of the majority of Scooterists, scooter shop mechanics or trained engineers.
Before suffering a severe life-changing injury that would leave him wheelchair-bound for two years and still suffer the after effects 20 years later, Bob was full on with scooters. Racing them, working on them, building them, tuning engines and designing and making his own parts, including race fairings. He was also responsible for the bodywork for the Coca Cola Lambretta cutdown (a project commissioned by Macca at Downtown Customs). He still has the moulds.
He also has sand cast moulds ready to go for what could be a decent commercial Lambretta kit. Bob iron lines damaged barrels, makes his own cranks and of course has his own 536cc twin cylinder Lambretta engine to finish off. Bob’s fictional brand name is ‘Challenger’ a name picked in homage to his favourite American car. I say fictional because like many of our eccentric builders, Bob is no businessman. He has the ideas and the skills to bring them to fruition but sadly lacks the business acumen and funds to make a go of them. Investors should be beating a path to his garden shed.
His injury and circumstances at the time, forced Bob to drop out of scootering and concentrate on getting himself mended as best he could. He got himself back on his feet and back to as normal as possible, although I’m not sure ‘normal’ is a word often used in this context. That yearning to develop was still there, he still had an itch that needed scratching and his creative spirit meant many of his early prototype cylinders, heads and projects were simmering away in his mind, if not in the shed.
Enter Mike Ward, a Scooterist who heard of Bob through the grapevine and got in touch. Mike wanted to try his hand at a Lambretta speed record and needed somebody to help him realise his dreams. Now you don’t just go to your local scooter shop and buy a streamliner and if you haven’t got a decent sized budget you can’t get somebody to create a one-off for you either. Bob wasn’t interested when Mike first muted the idea but it set him thinking and before he knew it he’d put his alloy-framed sprinter project on hold and set about watching YouTube videos on how to build a 12ft streamliner body.
Home video 2
Here’s the moment of truth as Bob’s streamliner is released from the moulds, would it be a success?
This video contains scenes of excitement and the odd swear word but after four months of hard work and determination, it’s hardly surprising that our Yorkshireman is quite chuffed.
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Almost 500 hours and four months later Bob’s first body was ready to pop out of the mould but there was plenty of heartache before he got to that stage. He learnt along the way, pulled in favours to keep the cost low and used off cuts of Kingspan insulation from a local building site to allow the shape to be modelled before moulding it. This project is all the more astounding when you realise it’s been done on a budget of virtually nothing by one man in a garden shed.
How do you even work out the dimensions and shape? Bob is nothing if not inventive. He’d already decided the rider would be kneeling inside the enclosed bodywork and the first thing to do was to get Mick to kneel on the floor in a racing crouch. He drew around him with chalk, then introduced a Lambretta frame, forks, wheels and an engine. He drew around those as well then using inspiration from Barnes Wallis’ Grand Slam and Gerry Anderson’s Stingray he drew the rough shape of a streamliner.
He knew his home built twin cylinder engine was going to produce some decent power so he decided he’d lengthen the wheelbase to help with stability. Although he didn’t bank on how much wider the bodywork needed to be to accommodate the extra cylinder and carb so his ‘power bulges’ were added to the shape as an afterthought.
400 hours later
Bob had already dabbled in fibreglassing but not on this scale and not without having a shape to work to in the first place. This was a massive project started from scratch and it wasn’t without the odd hitch, paint reacting, gel coat going wrong, plenty of extra sanding and not to mention his improvised metalflake technique. This is no House of Kolor flake job, Bob used his grandkids glitter and applied it to clear coat using a chocolate sprinkler. Inventive and very cheap but it works. On close inspection, the bodywork looks rippled but it is smooth to the touch and the 3D effect is beneath the surface where the gel coat went a bit wrong. It’s a fantastic achievement but looks to me like he’s a long way off breaking any speed records. Bob insists he’s 75% finished though.
Costs of the bodywork
What’s it cost so far? “I’ve been doing an estimate of the money spent on making the streamliner from start to finish, from getting the plywood to pulling the first mouldings. In the GRP world the full-size model is called the plug, that’s the bit you take the moulds off. The bits you get out of the moulds are the mouldings”.
“Costs as follows: Plywood sheets x 4 £80, hardboard for the templates and split line £20, adhesive etc £25, surform £8, GRP tissue £20, filler/paint etc. was sort of free but I had to do a full engine rebuild and casing welding and modifying as a swap, so say £300, approximately 55 kilos of resin/GRP mat/gel coat £180, release wax £10, pipe for the torpedo tubes £6, metalflake 1kg £75, large prismatic flake £25, that’s about it I think, the cost of any further mouldings are say 8kgs per side so £75 in materials.
Challenger 250 endurance engine
Bob is nothing if not enthusiastic though, at the minute he’s concentrating on getting one of his home built and tuned 250cc Challenger engines (including his own cast aluminium barrel) finished. That 60mm stroke engine uses a 120mm KTM rod, has one of Bob’s own six-transfer port cylinders (3 exhaust ports, dual inlet port and 2 Boyesen ports) on a 73mm bore, it uses a Wiseco H2/K750 piston and modified Atomic manifold with V-Force reed block.
He’ll be using that to enter the T Side 6 Endurance Race in September on one of the two pink GPs. Why pink you may well wonder? His wife always wanted a pink scooter so he sprayed one for her years ago and had enough paint left over to do a matching one for himself. Bob said “I like pink anyway so I thought, why not…” Once the endurance race is over he’ll turn his full attention to finishing his shed built twin cylinder engine and getting the streamliner up and running. We’ll bring you more details about the engine in part two.
For people like Bob, seeing a project hit the road (or track) is what it’s all about. He’s not got deep pockets or a blank cheque book so if he can make it he will. He said his twin was “Quite literally designed on a kids drawing board on my knee and brought to life (almost anyway) in an overgrown garden shed and when, not if it’s running it will have been achieved on a shoestring by a complete amateur, not given to an engine designer or manufacturer.”
That to me is what scootering is all about…”
If you’d like to help sponsor this project feel free to get in touch at editorial@ScooterLab.UK – there’s plenty of space for advertising logos on that bodywork.
Sticky will be catching up on the latest developments with the Lambretta Siluro streamliner project shortly and we’ll have a look at what SRP Racetech are up to with their own sprinter.
A day with Bob
Bob’s build gallery
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