Vespa 152L2 museum piece | FEATURE
It started back in Summer 2013. At the time my lad, Scott was 15 years old and was at High School. He’s always been into retro stuff and has got a wee vinyl record collection going on.
He’s also bought his own gramophone, Dansette, mk1 iPod, ZX Spectrum etc. It was no real surprise when he said he was going to do volunteer work for the local museum as part of a school credit scheme. I think he just wanted to see all the ‘cool’ stuff. He’s 18 now and has a 1965 VNB rusteration, and a Mk2 Fiesta!
Anyway, I met up with him when he was finishing his volunteering one day and there was a poster in the Dunfermline library proclaiming that this new museum was going to be built, and they were appealing for items for inclusion that had been voted for as a ‘Top ten items we would like to see’ by the local public.
Number one was a 60s scooter!
A seed is sewn
I toyed with the notion and then a few weeks later popped in to discuss it at the main offices. Apparently, they had sourced all the other items some time ago but still needed a scooter, and had no real prospect of getting one. I was considering donating my Li125s, and had decided they could have it as long as they wanted, on the condition I retained ownership so one day it would go to Scott.
The curator, Lesley McNaughton, explained that for insurance purposes all the exhibits had to be donated and ownership fully transferred to the Council. Hmmm. No wonder they had struggled to find one! I said I’d think about it, but also pledged that if they did get one I would be happy to donate my time to restore it if needed.
About a year passed and Lesley got in touch to ask if I’d thought anymore about the scooter. She explained they did have a prospective donation of a Vespa 152L2, but the owner was a little reluctant. They were getting concerned, time was moving on. I hummed a bit then said ‘I tell you what, I’ll give you mine. You can have it for free, I only ask you acknowledge myself and Scott on the info plaque on the display’. She was absolutely delighted.
I left feeling a little sad but was also quite pleased in some ways. However, a few days later she got back in touch to say that when they let the old Vespa owner know they had a Lambretta it moved him into action and he offered his for display! Lesley went from zero to two scooters in 48hrs. She knew I’d been a bit reluctant to part with mine and she called me to discuss, we agreed I would keep the Lambretta but restore the Vespa. Win, win.
Then I met Douglas Groom, the man with the Vespa. Turns out he worked all his days at the same dockyard I’m in. He retired in the early 90s, not long after I started. He knew my uncle and my old boss, it’s a small world, especially up here in West Fife. He invited me into his garage to have a look at the scooter. It didn’t look too bad really. It was a 1959 Douglas 152L2.
Douglas (the owner) bought it he thinks in 1962, and recalls it was a kind of ‘cardboard’ colour. He never took to the shade, and after having a minor spill on it he decided to repaint it in British Racing green.
May contain lead
I think he ended up having a few incidents on it over the years, but kept the tin of paint for touch-ups. Both panels had been bashed in and beaten back out with modest success. The front legshield had been bent back and split, then repaired somewhat with brazing and filled and primed. The floor had been painted top and bottom with silver hammerite, as had the wheels, hubs and forks.
It wasn’t too pretty, but to be fair it probably went a long way to preserving it during the many years it was used and then laid up before now. He ran it constantly in all seasons commuting to work from Dunfermline to Rosyth Dockyard, and generally using it as daily transport from the early 60’s through until 1979, when it was stuck at the back of the garage and hadn’t moved since. He knew it was 1979, because that’s when he bought his ‘new’ scooter! Which he declared had come fitted with ‘trafficators’ (indicators!). He then proceeded to lift an old dusty cover off a blue ‘T’ reg Mk1 P150E at the back of the garage. This one he bought new, and used up until 1988 where it’s since been left stored without use. On closer inspection, this one also has a few scars and dents and the engine no longer turns over. He’s considering selling it, but only considering mind. I think he has a notion he’ll restore it himself one day although he did admit time is going against him now. He did restore a Morgan Roadster a ‘few’ years ago (and it looks lovely) but when pressed a ‘few years’ materialised into nearly twenty, much to his own astonished realisation.
A quick rub down
Anyway, we discussed the 152L2 and the museum said they wanted a sympathetic restoration. ‘Just rub down the paint and polish it up a bit, maybe patch the seat and give it a clean’. I couldn’t see it. It didn’t look too bad in a musty garage, but leaking oil inside a state of the art new build? Nah. I recommended a deeper resto, especially when Dougie produced the old tin of green touch up paint, complete with the big black cross with the red background proclaiming ‘CONTAINS LEAD’. I had images of kids licking the scooter on display and suing the council!
We agreed on a nice resto, for display purposes, non-running and fluid free, to be done within an agreed budget that would allow my costs to be recovered but my time and Scott’s would be donated F.O.C. I asked to be notifed six months prior to the grand opening, so that should be plenty of time.
The museum opening was moved a few times over the next couple of years. Project delays from construction issues, trying to mate a new glass build into a listed building can’t be easy. Anyway, I finally got the message to say the opening was December 2016 and could I start the restoration in June 2016.
‘Yes’, I said. ‘No problem’. Except it was a problem. I’d only gone and snapped my achilles at Kelso Rally at the end of May, Saturday night King Kurt live on stage has a lot to answer for! That meant in June 2016 I was still on crutches and house-bound, with the prospect of 17 weeks in traction. Nightmare.
I finally got the ‘stookie’ off in September 2016, and even though I was still on sticks I managed to uplift the scooter and get started. I was keen to get all the strip down done so I could order parts and get the dipping and blasting underway. The scooter had been together a long time, and was reluctant to come apart! Seized fasteners and snapped bolts were the common theme.
Mind your fingers
More awkward was the fact the main engine bolt was seized solid, and the engine removal required the careful use of a thin grinding blade through between the frame and the engine pivots. Scott later told me he was shitting himself as he was holding the engine with fingers very close to the grinder, but he trusts his Dad. Aw. Lol. I’m not too bad with a grinder. I can be pretty exact with it and it frustrates me when people see it as a tool of destruction and just dig in roughly.
I had no choice but to take a day off at short notice to pick it up and get it away to the coaters. Luckily the parts weren’t too bad. The floor needed new struts, and there was a bit of perforation at the rear end but really all in all it was solid.
Time is tight
We are in mid October at this point, and the painter who had indicated it would take 3 or 4 weeks, is now saying 8 or 9 weeks. There was a fair bit of prep needed though but time was getting so tight, then I got a call from the museum to say the opening had been delayed until the end of January. I can’t say I wasn’t relieved! We agreed a new delivery date of Friday 13th January 2017. I picked up the powder coating from my usual place – Williams in Falkirk (sadly ceased trading a few weeks later), then got busy rebuilding the engine and arranged a seat cover from Beedspeed for the original seat frame and sponge.
I got the call from the paint-shop late November to say it was ready. Despite the tight timescale and the growing panic about letting the museum down, I was blown away by the quality of the paint. I knew the owner (we’d raced in the same superstock class) but never used them before. This was a top end job, albeit quality costs. Perfect colour too – Fiat Alpino Verde. There was an SX200 just been finished as well. If you can afford it I would recommend them to anyone (Jacksons of Kelty).
I now had to build it without scratching it though. Aarrgh…
I started the rebuild in earnest at the beginning of December. About this time I also got a call from Beedspeed to say they’d stopped doing seat covers! Where was I going to sort a seat at this late stage? I had a Plan B to use a set of saddle seats I had spare, but the main feature of a Douglas Vespa of that era is the two-tone dual seat. It’s what Douglas fitted to distinguish their models from the Italian ones. I made a few calls and got a few mad quotes (upwards of £300 from one place!) to recover the seat. Then I was put in touch with a local lad in Kirkcaldy who does bike seats, Hunter Innis.
Meeting Hunter was a godsend. He knew what was needed, got the perfect colours of material, was very keenly priced and turned the whole thing around before Christmas. Cheers mate! Definitely recommended and I’ll no doubt be using your services again soon.
Life of grime
The rebuild was going well, but slowly. The floor runners alone took over 20 hours. Every one of the 16 alloy end caps had to be cleaned of nearly 60 years of grime, sanded, polished and lacquered. Some of the old runners were missing so I had to buy new runners which needed to be cut and shaped to fit. The number plate took another 10 hours. The lower edge and the fixing holes were welded up and shaped back. The plate was blasted, smoothed, masked, painted, lacquered and then finally fitted. Despite the effort, I’m glad I didn’t just buy a new one.
The badges were rubbed down and hand-painted with tiny artist brushes using colour mixed gloss tester pots! The whole build for me was about using as many original parts as possible, including nearly all of the surviving fasteners, which were all hand-blasted and re-painted in dull chrome paint.
Although I’d spent most nights after work in the garage until around midnight, I was still worried about the deadline, so I took an early Christmas leave and finished up on Dec 16th for three full weeks holiday. The following week, I clocked up nearly 80 hours in the garage, but that put me right back on track. The forks were in by the end of that week, and the engine a few days later.
I picked up the seat at Christmas, had a couple of days off, ate my body weight in turkey, then started putting the finishing touches on just before the New Year. We had a problem with the speedo because the glass was smashed, but I couldn’t get just a replacement glass and had to buy a whole unit. The new unit looked too ‘new’ and white, so I separated the two units and put the new glass on the old speedo. It still looked too new, so I coated the inside of the glass with grease mixed with turmeric spice, left it for a day, wiped clean and now it looks perfectly aged!
I arranged a photoshoot in early January with Niffy (Grahame Smith- GWS Photography), a great bloke and also a long-term scooterist. I’m glad I did. The scooter does look good, I realise that, but the images he took really set it off. It looks absolutely fantastic and goes to show what can be achieved at a professional level.
We had a wee scare putting it in the van though. The whole thing slid off the ramp sideways! Luckily we caught it but it gave us a real fright. The problem was we had used some old BMW potion my Dad gave me for ‘lustering’ the original old perished tyres. This stuff looks the business, but also made them slidier than yer granny on an ice rink! After the shoot we made a few final amendments and finishing touches and then delivered it to the Dunfermline Carnegie as arranged on Friday 13th January 2017.
Hot off the press
The local press were there to greet us and ran a small feature in the following weeks issue. Lesley McNaughton was very generous in her praise of the scooter, and I was also humbled when the owner Dougie said to me it was way higher quality a finish than he could ever have achieved or expected, and was befitting of the machine and its story.
Letter of commendation
Scott and I were then blown away when Lesley revealed they had been in touch with Piaggio, and had shown them the pictures of the build. To my absolute delight, she presented us with a framed letter from Piaggio Ltd, commending the quality of the build and praising our efforts, and a goody bag with Vespa merchandise. I was really humbled.
I had offered my time for free from the start so wasn’t expecting anything, but for her to go to that effort for us and to be recognised in such a way was extremely rewarding. Dougie also got a similar letter thanking him for his generosity in donating the scooter.
That’s it, job done. The grand opening has been put back again though. The latest expectation is for sometime in late May. We have been requested to organise a scooter ride-out and a drive past for the opening, which I’m sure we can sort out between the local clubs. The scooter is being stored in its own room until the museum is fitted out and will be the last exhibit to take its stand as it has pride of place on the very first plinth right opposite the main entrance. I think I’ll pop in from time to time, just to take a peek and have a wee smile to myself, and think ‘I was a part of that…’
Words: Dunf, Edinburgh Blues SC
Photos: Niffy – GWS Photography
A brief history of Dunf
I’m a Fifer born and bred. Born in Dunfermline in the year 1972 and have stayed and worked in the same district pretty much all my life. Left school in 1988. First car in 1990 (mk2 Escort of course). Rode the wave of indie and Brit-pop like everyone else at that time, then in 1996, with a group of mates we travelled down to London from Fife to see The Who doing Quadrophenia at Hyde Park. Life changing! Within 3 weeks of getting home, I bought my first scooter, a bag of shit Vespa PX bitsa with a poorly T5 motor.
It didn’t look great and broke down constantly but I loved it! I spent hours tinkering with it, and gave it a full rattle can paintjob. The good thing about having a crap scoot is you do learn about them quickly! I think within two years I was able to do a full strip down, every nut and bolt, and had it resprayed ‘properly’ at my work. We were painting trains at the time so it ended up a lovely blue and orange – eerily similar to the orange on the GNER Type J. The motor was then rebuilt with a better set of casings, and everything went great for a while.
In 1998 I bought my first Lambretta. This was from a local lad who had bought it from Pete Merchant’s the previous year. It was a 1968 Li125 Special, in original duck egg blue, but with primer and filler on and hand-painted Union Jack sidepanels. Apparently, it was used as Compo’s Lambretta in one episode of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’, with the same number plate and paint-work. I’ve still never seen the episode to this day, but plenty of others I know say they have.
I seized it running it in. I was doing less than 30mph. That was to be a common theme over the next ten years… It ended up restored and repainted, then emerged as a TS1 for a while, then I sold it a few years ago and was Lambretta-less until I recently bought a S2 project which is yet to be commenced.
In 1999 I sold the Vespa bitsa, and bought my first (and until very recently – my only) brand new vehicle, a white P2 Disc. Mega. I picked it up early on 28th Feb 1999, because the shop was closed on 1st March when the new ‘T’ reg came out. This meant I couldn’t ride it home so I picked it up in a van. Within 24 hours I had completely stripped the entire scooter!
Everyone thought I was mad, but I had a plan. I rebuilt the scoot taking a lot of time and care to get everything perfect. I did things the factory would never dream of, like use more than just a dab of grease on the steering bearings, and applied ‘exotic’ things like seam sealer and underbody paint! Lol. I wanted this scooter to last. I knew I was keeping it for a long time and wanted it to start off with the best of everything.
Well, it’s now 18 years old, has done about 40k rally miles, still looks mint and hasn’t a sniff of rust anywhere on it. Even the front mudguard seam is still perfect. Just shows I wasn’t so mad after all eh?
Dunf Quality Rebuilds
It wasn’t long after that when I started to get a reputation for doing decent work and began to do a few jobs on other people’s scooters. By 2003 – Dunf Quality Rebuilds was born. It started as a laugh, and a pure hobby (and still is) but I’m now a little more organised and as my reputation and I guess my customer base has grown, I now have my own logos, and clothing and even some merchandise. It is still just for a laugh really, it’s not a proper company, but I’m serious about the work. I’m not OCD or anything, but I can’t accept shoddy or poorly executed work. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but it does have to function properly.
It didn’t help that when I first got my DQR stickers made up, Kitch took a couple of dozen away and set about putting them on the rattiest things he could find on the rally campsites! Cheers mate.
I guess I specialise in engine rebuilds. I prefer engine work. Usually Vespas. I can turn them around quicker and they take up much less room than a whole scooter. I probably still do around 2 ‘big builds’ a year though. Full restorations or similar. I can do almost everything myself, including painting, but I prefer not to paint in the garage where I am now as I no longer have a separate shed and it’s a pain to mask everything up. I can also do all my own fabricating, welding and tuning. If it’s a really awkward casing weld I’ve a cousin who’s a genius with tig aluminium though. I’ve also invested in a proper Guilliano pneumatic tyre machine specifically for scooter tubeless rims! Bit of an extravagance I know, but its sooooo handy for changing SIP rims. The local motorbike shop even sends folk down to me.
I’d get a whole lot more done if I wasn’t also ‘moonlighting’ as an Engineering Manager in Rosyth Dockyard. I’ve been there for 27 years now. For the last two years, I’ve been working on the design and build of an offshore substation. For the three years before that I had responsibility for a large zone on the new Aircraft Carriers, and for the two years before that I was living in China getting the biggest Goliath Crane in Europe built (for assembling the Carriers).
In at the deep end
It was in China, with no tinkering to do and two-strokes banned there anyway, that I first started to race motorbikes. I took a trip up to the F1 track one weekend, really just to see if I could volunteer my mechanical services and get myself a hobby overseas. I ended up being directed to a garage where they said they had no use for any more mechanics, but were screaming out for riders and would I like a shot?
Take that R6 over there, stick some leathers on and off you pop. No charge. So of course, I did! It was awesome, first time on slicks and I had both knees scraping by the end of the second session. By the time I came in, the boss asked me if I’d like to represent his team at the next race meeting. I looked at Jeannie, got a miniscule nod and that was good enough for me. I’m in! Then he dropped the bombshell that it was only two weeks away.
A fortnight later I’m back at the track and its crazy. There’s now about 10,000 people there. The race is live on China Channel 5 sports, I’m doing autograph sessions with fans, and all the time thinking “what the fuck am I doing?” I qualified 19th out of 28, and before I knew it I’m lined up on the grid waiting for the lights to go out and realising I’d never even done a practice start and then booof! We’re away. I stayed on the bike, even managed a couple of overtakes, and finished 17th. I was buzzing!
I signed up for the following season on a rented R6, and over the next few months I practised a couple of times a month and made a lot of progress. For my second race, I took 6 seconds off my previous qualifying time and lined up in pole position by a few hundredths of a second! As I was on the front row I was allocated a brolly dolly, whom Jeannie promptly elbowed out of the way and assumed the position for herself! Lol. Complete with her tartan travel brolly! Mint.
Race day – I crashed in morning practice and wrecked the bike. I went out on a spare bike in torrential rain, with a front wet and rear inter (because the team had sold all the spare wets), and slipped and slid around almost every corner, somehow stayed upright and came home in 9th place. Disappointing based on my qualifying, but with hindsight it was actually one of the best rides I ever had.
I continued to race for the rest of the two years I was in China. When I moved back to Scotland in 2011, I got my licence here and raced in the Scottish Superstock on a GSXR-600 for another two years. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Had some good times and some sore times but ultimately, it’s just so expensive and although Jeannie was completely selfless I felt it was unfair all our spare cash was being burnt for only my gratification. I had recently turned 40, and decided I’d had my fun and was time to quit while I was ahead.
Since I stopped racing, I’ve spent a lot more time back in the garage working on scooters again, and trying to get to a few decent rallies a year. Quality over quantity these days. I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m able and enjoying it. It’s a kind of therapy I guess to just dodge away doing something I enjoy, and am reasonably decent at. I’ve also branched out into scooter related upcycling, making piston clocks, ‘lamp-bretta’ lamps, and other bits and pieces. Keeps it interesting and a wee bit different.
We will both always have scooters and I don’t think we’ll ever sell the ones we have now.
Thanks and acknowledgements
Scott Hynd: Puts up with working with me, grafts when he’s out of his bed and here. I couldn’t have done it without him
Jeannie Hynd: Puts up with me being at work all day and in the garage half the rest of the time. Thanks babe..
Lesley McNaughton: Museum co-ordinator and photography and all round nice person
Douglas Groom: Donated the scooter, restored parts, and good company and chats
Henderson Metal Finishing: Edinburgh, dip and blast metal prep
Williams of Falkirk: Powder coating
Jacksons of Kelty: Paint
Hunter Innis: Kirkcaldy – seat upholstery
Clarik Supplies: Rosyth – consumables
GWS photography: Dunbar – photoshoot and video
Check out the gallery to see just some of the work that went into this stunning scooter
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