One of the initial reasons for our love for classic scooters has got to be aesthetics. And it is hardly surprising that the vast majority of desired machines are of Italian origin. Innovative and equally timeless design forms part of the nation’s DNA. Good examples are Vespa scooters, particularly the models from the fifties and sixties. The curves of the Faro Basso – the ‘low lamp’ Vespas – remain an all-time classic and set a template for automotive physiognomy. However, already from the beginning the creators had reached the zenith of shape of things to come; any more voluptuousness and it would have become a caricature of itself. The evolution of vehicle design follows contemporary fashion and slimming down was the formula for the future; Marylin Monroe was prescribed an amphetamine diet to become Twiggy.
This is why the successor model GS 150 from 1955 featured diluted convexities, yet rightfully deserved its popularity as the wide body (or wide frame in German speaking countries) Vespa because of its coherent styling.
The reason you don’t see too many of them on the roads is they are impractical. Taking them out on a sunny Sunday afternoon is one thing but using them on a daily basis or covering hundreds of miles certainly requires masochist tendencies. Without extensive surgery the old piston ported engines cannot easily be replaced with modern power plants. The same goes for suspension and brakes.
The first Vespas allowing for such modifications are the VBA/VBB models. The VBA (the designation comes from the prefix-frame numbers) was introduced in 1959 and equipped with a predecessor of the modern PX engine albeit only being a three-speed. The VBB followed in 1960 and was a four-speed. All modern large frame motors and small frame forks (which have a similar length to the original items) including their suspension units fit plug & play.
The stunning VBB model you see before you was customised by German Scooterist Clemens Biber (supposedly no relation to Justin). What you see here is the result of a smart concept: enhance the genuine styling of the original machine and employ modern technology to make it a safe, reliable and quick every day transport.
While the VBB is not considered part of the wide body family it is still one of the curviest Vespas built. So Clemens tidied the whole bodywork up and had it sprayed in a vintage silver. The fiberglass base of the modern sports seat was modified and now slopes down a lot farther, nicely complementing the classic lines. The tank on the tunnel comes from an old light truck and has been altered for storage so it replaces the toolbox.
The forks were transplanted from a Vespa PK and fitted with a semi-hydraulic disc brake by Grimeca and a modern aftermarket shock. The engine was salvaged from a Vespa PX. The positive side effect of both modifications is that Clemens can now use the safer ten inch wheels. Apart from the larger diameter he also benefits from a bigger choice of tyres compared to the original eight inchers that have hopefully been destined for duty on a wheelbarrow and never see tarmac again.
Needless to say the engine did not remain standard. Clemens tuned it using a large K&N style air filter, a Mikuni flatslide carb, a German MMW reed block, a 60 mm stroke crank, an S&S New Line pipe and the new 210 Polini kit made from aluminum, rather than the old cast iron version, making it ideal for touring.
The use of the old kickstarter conserves the contemporary looks and, at least at first glance, conceals the modern power train. He reckons it produces close to 20 BHP on the rolling road which sounds like a good compromise between reliability and punch. And it should definitely provide plenty of the latter given he is using the standard gearbox with a short fourth gear.
Incidentally, if you have marvelled at the trick CNC carb top, these are Clemens’ idea and are now produced for Mikuni TMX and Keihin PWK by MPL in Austria. They not only angle the cable routing to clear the frame but also incorporate an internal roller wheel for easy throttle action.
What you see wrapped around the exhaust is Teflon tape like it was originally used on drag motorcycles. Today it is regularly spotted on down pipes of café racers ridden by people with turned up 501’s, slicked side parting and hipster beard. While this is perfectly okay since the world of fashion loves accessorising we presume Clemens has a good reason for using it in police-infested Munich; it also adds to the silencing effect of the expansion chamber.
Thanks to his sophisticated plan and the flawless execution Clemens achieved the result he wanted. It looks just right, nothing is missing or needs adding and the technical improvements indicate it rides well, stops well, performs well and lasts well. Whatever else would you want from a scooter?
Words: Marcus Photos: Sticky
Owners name: Clemens Biber
Scooter model: Vespa VBB
Engine details: PX 200 engine, Polini 210 alunimuim barrel, short 4th gear, 60 mm crankshaft, MMW reed block, Mikuni flatslide carb, aftermarket carb top including pulley, Scooter & Service New Line exhaust,
One-off parts: PK forks with Grimeca semi hydraulic disc brake, tank from small truck converted to toolbox
Fabrication: Slope on fibreglass seat base. Original roller carb-top design now produced by MPL.