Today is June the 1st and in 19 days I’ve got to ride this old relic to Vespa World Days in Germany. To be honest I’ve been a little too relaxed with this project but if I don’t get it built, through an MoT, taxed, teething troubles ironed out and be on the Hull ferry to Rotterdam on June 20th my travelling companions will kill me.
Most classic scooter enthusiasts are always on the lookout for that elusive barn find, hoping that one day one will appear right in front of their eyes. This one wasn’t quite found in a barn but it has certainly been rescued from a future date with the scrap yard.
About three years ago I started a part time job at Midland Scooter Centre. On my first day there I ended up in the attic space and was told by a new colleague about an old neglected Vespa that was tucked away. Allegedly it had been found at the bottom of a garden pond before being left at MSC for well over a decade.
After climbing over boxes of brand new scooters and shifting some scrap out of the way I caught my first glimpse of this long neglected relic. Although I love classic scooters I’m no vintage Vespa anorak, so I wasn’t even sure of the model at first but I took the photo above and secretly lusted after it for the next two years. It may be lilac and scruffy but I could see it had vintage charm and potential.
Left to rot
I was told that there had been no contact from the person who brought it in to the shop and there were no contact details or paperwork with it either. It had been left at MSC to see if it was worth bringing back to life, but it was never collected, or touched. With a rotten floor and a few bits either missing or loose, restoration of the scooter was probably out of the budget of the owner, especially as the model itself isn’t as highly prized as some old Vespas.
Last used in 1988
I’d done a bit of research by this time and realised it was ‘only’ a British built Vespa Douglas 152L2 but it still wore its original pressed ‘9901 MC’ number plate and the frame number was still intact. I also checked the DVLA register and the scooter was still on the system, having last been taxed in 1988. I’m not a gambling man but had a sneaky suspicion that with an ounce or two of luck I’d be able to get a logbook on the original number plate. I had to own it though first…
Two years of grinding them down finally paid off and I eventually struck a deal and swapped the old Vespa for a Piaggio Typhoon engine I’d bought with the intention of doing a Lambretta auto. I wheeled the derelict machine out to my van. This in itself was a good sign, the scooter still rolled on its wheels and the engine turned over, the gears and clutch selected and even the brakes worked. I’m pretty sure at some stage MSC must have put the scooter through the workshop to see just how bad it was but the rotten floor probably put them off going too far with things.
Either way I was happy to trade my unwanted engine for a vintage British scooter, no matter how bad it was and even if it never saw the road again at least it was going to survive in one way or another.
Vespa World Days
This was during 2016 and the scooter just sat in my garage awaiting a plan/time or inclination to do something with it. During winter we decided that for Vespa World Days in Germany 2017 we’d travel by geared scooters. That decision gave me the kick up the backside I needed to make a start.
The first hurdle was to try and get a logbook, there’s no point spending money on something if I could never legally own and ride it. I crossed my fingers and sent off to the DVLA using the frame and engine numbers. A couple of weeks later I had a call from MSC to say the original owner had been in touch. The DVLA had written to him and he wanted to know if the scooter had been restored. They told him the storage fees alone amounted to more than the value of the scooter and he decided not to pursue it. My logbook arrived a few days later, one owner from new in 1961. Well chuffed, it suddenly made it worth spending some money on. Although restoration was never even a consideration. I wanted this scooter to keep the original looks but benefit from some modern power and better handling.
The rusty floor to me seemed like a major issue, you could see plenty of daylight through it. I really wanted to save it if at all possible but wasn’t sure where to go to get it sorted. Or at least I wasn’t until I noticed the restoration of a Lambretta Starstream on a Facebook group. The man in question turned out to be Hodge of SSR Fabrications in Birmingham.
Bits and pieces
Just before Christmas I stripped the scooter down. Surprisingly the Vespa came to bits really easily, less corroded fasteners and hard to remove parts than you’d get on a 10-year old PX. Once stripped I took it down to see Hodge. The usual ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ ensued but in a straight-talking fashion Hodge explained that the floor wasn’t really worth saving but he’d already made a new one and would replace it. It sounded expensive but in the end turned out to be quite a bargain.
Floored by the service
Just two days after dropping the frame off with Hodge he’d not only updated his Facebook page with some scary looking progress photos (after attacking the scooter with an extra large tin opener) but he’d also made a floor and welded it into place. Fantastic service and a great job.
Rather than shopping for gifts, Christmas week saw me heading off to the West Midlands to pick the frame back up. A fantastic job done by an expert fabricator for just £165 all in, bargain.
Smoothed and blended
Rather than taking the frame home I dropped it straight down at Disco Dez’s Scooters in Stourport. Nathan, their sprayer gave it the once over and agreed to spray and blend the new floor into the old paintwork. Again another very quick turnaround, just three days and it was ready to pick up.
That’s where the initial speed and excitement stopped. After picking the frame back up in early January it ended up sitting around the garage propped up on buckets, just getting in my way until the beginning of May. With a ride to Germany planned in just a few weeks and one of my travelling companions having bought a new PX 150 especially for the trip (just so she could ride a geared scooter) it was beginning to feel like I’d be letting the side down if I couldn’t get the Vespa on the road in time… Deadlines and threats of violence help to focus the mind.
In part two we’ll see if we can get this project back on track…
Words and photos: Iggy
The project begins…