My third visit to SIP’s annual open day, began at 3am on Thursday with a very fresh ride aboard my ’74 Motovespa from home in West Herts to Stansted airport under clear, dark skies and a chilly 3 degrees. Arriving 1hr 45mins later, I had to wait a couple of minutes for my hands to stop shaking so I could lock up the scoot, before entering the warmth of the terminal building and a much needed coffee and croissant. If you’re going on a scooter rally/event; shouldn’t it be by scooter… partly true in this instance but the intention was there despite the help of Ryanair for some of the journey!
As on previous visits in 2013 & 2017 I was staying with Ralf Jodl (who set up SIP in 1994 with Alex Barth) and family at their home in Landsberg am Lech. Ralf’s friend Poldi met me at Memmingen airport and by late morning we were having coffee and a catch-up with Ralf at SIP HQ in their Siperia bar.
I then ventured upstairs to meet up again with a few of the SIP usual suspects, including Martin Silberhorn who showed me a very nice pale blue Spanish Vespa 125N (or possibly 125L) that he had recently acquired in Barcelona. Martin was looking to move it on at the open day. I’m a little bit OCD when it comes to original paint/patina, so he let me get a few photos of it beforehand.
Being there a couple of days before the masses arrive on Saturday is always good; allowing me to get some ‘clean’ shots of interesting scoots without the crowds. After a panino from the bar I came across SIP’s Jesco Schmidt and his ‘Jesco Motors’ home built Vespa and Lambretta sprinters. I loved the black Vespa and for me, despite the myriad gorgeous scooters I would see over the next few days, this impressed me the most – the ultimate scooter badass!
Jesco told me the Vespa runs a 244 Quattrini cylinder with the rotary valve inlet system being his own design. The carb is a 39.5VHSC and that great looking expansion pipe is a prototype made by his mate Truls, from Norway. The engine produces 54hp at the rear wheel with the wheelbase similar to a Lambretta to comply with German DBM sprint regulations.
The complete rotary fits on a standard P200 crank and ignition is from Selettra. Jesco’s latest modification is the sequential gear shift from Motorino Diavolo. Jesco built his Lambretta for the racetrack and has a Harry Barlow prototype cylinder with his own mapping. A 38mm PWM carb is fitted and the exhaust (not shown in photos) is a new prototype, all in all producing 41hp/8000 rpm and 36nm at the rear wheel.
Jesco has used a Vespa front end as he believes it’s better than everything that can be achieved with a Lambretta front end – both scooters are insane and impressive in equal measure and testament to Jesco’s engineering skills!
That evening after dropping my gear off at Ralf’s and a quick shower, I met Poldi for a couple of Bavarian Helles and Weiss beers in Bar Krone situated on the banks of the River Lech, before joining other friends at Trattoria Italiana for dinner, eventually getting to bed in the small hours for some overdue sleep after what had been a long day.
Friday morning and Ralf & I rode up to SIP HQ on the outskirts of Landsberg. Ralf took his gold Faro Basso and as on previous visits lent me his blu pavone SS180, fitted with P2 engine and Malossi 210 top end – an absolute joy to ride! We ate a cornetto with coffee in the Siperia bar for breakfast, before I carried on with more photography as Ralf had work to do.
80s German nostalgia
Folk were beginning to turn up in preparation for the open day, including some guys from Northern Germany, bringing with them scooters in vans to show off on the Saturday. There seems to be a current trend for buying/collecting classic custom scooters from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and preserving them for posterity; one of these was the yellow Vespa cut-down I’d photographed the previous day, as well as a MK1 T5 with Fred Perry and HEAD decals and P-Range with drop bars and Fine Young Cannibals murals.
This trend was also apparent last year with the red smallframe Vespa on display at the 2017 open day, built by Rollershop and used extensively by them for promotion in the 1980s/90s. Christian Albrecht of Salem Speed had travelled down from Lubeck and brought with him ‘Pogue Mahone’, a beautiful vintage custom Lambretta with a deep burgundy and green paint job, Kegra seat and what seemed to me just the right amount of chrome.
It was a little overcast making for better photography conditions; preferable to bright sunshine reflecting off the scooter’s many shiny components and surfaces. Christian had also come with his full-bodied Serveta Jet 200, the winner of best Lambretta at the recent Scooterist Meltdown in Kalkar; a typical stunning street racer that the Germans do so well.
Salem Speed offers specialist services and parts, including Christian’s own range of optimised, precision machined stainless products for Lambrettas such as state of the art breather, gear swivel assembly and oil seal plate etc, some of which could be seen on his Jet 200 and ‘Pogue Mahone’.
Far off travellers
Other late arrivals towards the end of the day included five riders who had taken almost a week to ride from their native Malta to Landsberg am Lech, for the open day on their Vespa GTS scooters. I gather a gentle pace was taken by them but that must have been some ride! Also turning up later on was Dean Orton and team from Rimini Lambretta Centre; attending their first SIP open day after being invited by Ralf & Co.
That evening and following obligatory Helles beers and salted pretzel sticks with Poldi in Bar Krone again, the swelled numbers were treated to dinner by SIP at Fischerwirt restaurant in Landsberg’s beautiful historic centre. We ate liver soup with herb dumpling (Leberknödelsuppe) followed by traditional Bavarian pork with sauerkraut and more dumpling (Krustenschweinbraten mit Biersoße, Krautsalat und Kartoffelknödel)allwashed down with Weiss Bier – all excellent.
Saturday began overcast but gradually the sun came out as the day wore on and became warm and pleasant – Ralf always lucks out with the weather on open day so I’m told! I got to SIP just before ten with Ralf having left the house earlier.
SIP HQ was buzzing with early visitors; the shop and Siperia bar doing brisk business and the tables inside and outside already pretty full. On my previous two visits I’ve tended to spend the open day photographing all day, which although great can be intense and exhausting. This time around I managed to get a better balance between lens work and catching up with various friends; some who I’d arranged to meet up with like Bernd Kirschner from Hola Vespa and photographer Ralf Keuhn
Walking around there were was so much scooter ‘candy’ on view from original paint, customs, highly tuned street racers, modern, rarities and they were just the scooters. Then there were the many stalls present such as RLC showcasing the complete Casa Performance engine and offering demo rides on their green and black liveried SSR250 Lambretta to interested riders, with Dean warning takers to go easy on the bike with nearly 50HP at their disposal!
By 5pm numbers had petered out, leaving a number of hangers-on enjoying the chilled out vibe and relaxing in the still warm sun. After a long day, the core of SIP’s team and guests headed up to Trattoria Italiana again for the last evening of dinner and drinks, making for a relaxing end to a superb day and for me, the last few days. We sang Happy Birthday to Alex Barth whose birthday was that day before eventually retiring down the hill and to bed around half 1ish.
A friend gave me a lift back to Memmingen airport for my return morning flight to Stansted. My two hour leisurely ride home along A & B roads was under clear skies again but this time thankfully of the warm and blue variety!
So that was the end of what had been yet again, a long weekend full of catching up with old friends, making new ones, eating, drinking, music, photography, culture, scooter culture and scooter riding on smooth, snaking open roads with some of the very best people you could wish to meet! Thanks to Ralf, Angie and everyone at SIP Scootershop for being the perfect hosts!
Words & photos: Paul Hart – Vespamore Photography
Feast your eyes on Paul’s old-school 35mm photographs
Get your summer touring goodies from the SLUK Shop, luggage supports, Air Hawk seats…