Vespa Douglas 152L2 – rescued and resurrected #2 | FEATURE
In part one I introduced you to my Vespa 152L2 project. A neglected machine that needed a fair bit of TLC. You can read about it here if you missed it.
As I write this it’s the 8th of June and I need the scooter built, running and on the road complete with MOT and tax in just 12 days so that I can ride it to Vespa World Days in Germany. Time is tighter than the webs on the crank we used for this machine…
I was never going to settle for a 40mph standard 125cc vintage engine running on wobbly 8” wheels. Especially when the forks have less damping than a dry year at Glastonbury. I wanted this scooter to go fairly well, stop and get around corners but without costing a small fortune to build, or by making it look too modern. Its original engine was set to become a paperweight I’m afraid, and the forks were either going to be chopped up or shoved in a corner.
The standard springy 152L2 forks make a scooter handle like a pogo stick and the 8” wheels don’t help matters, so I picked up a set of used PK 125 forks for £70. These give me the option of using a drum or disc front end and give a better choice of suspension. I want to keep things simple and reliable so I’m not looking for a high-power motor at the minute, so I was happy to stick to the PK drum brake. I always have the option to upgrade later if I go for more power.
More than just a bit of welding
It’s not as simple as sticking a different set of forks in though, the PK forks needed some serious work. This included cutting them up, shortening by 40mm, machining, the steering stops needed moving and welding back into place, a different top stem welding on and a fair bit of grinding and fabricating. Thankfully a friend (Shaun) was on hand to do all the cutting and welding, he also had a stem from another set of forks so didn’t need to cut up my original ones. Another friend, Keith, sorted the engineering side out. He also powder coated the forks once Shaun was happy that they’d fit and work and we’d dry fitted them.
There’s nothing worse looking than a scooter perched higher than is natural. To keep the scooter as low as possible Shaun suggested using a YSS Zip SP front shock from SIP, it’s shorter than a PK one, it’s also adjustable and he shortened it a further 15mm to keep the geometry right. The other good thing is the shock only cost around £50 and it fits under the mudguard without alteration. For the rear suspension I opted for a PX SIP shock.
Moving to 10” wheels causes a few issues, one of which is the stand needs lengthening. My original stand had an inch cut off; a ‘root’ drilled into it then a four-inch length with male protrusion welded back on. The stand will be cut down to the exact size once the scooter finally gets back on two wheels.
I’m useless with electrics (I’m not much better with mechanics but I’ll have a go) but Shaun is multi-talented and offered to convert the electrics to 12-volt for me. There are 12-volt looms available ‘off the shelf’ but Shaun prefers to build his own from scratch (he can’t be that clever, I’d have used some coloured wire instead). He also talked me into going for a 12v DC system so I could charge a phone etc. I also wanted to keep the original light switch if possible, so he had to work out how to convert that as well.
By this time it’s the middle of May, I’m just about to go on holiday and Shaun would be going away as well once I came back. The clock was ticking. After dropping the frame off at his on Friday evening he set to work and by Sunday I was picking it back up complete with a custom built wiring loom. A brilliant job and very tidy. That was one scary bit for me sorted.
Whilst on holiday I was still pondering over which engine to use. My initial thoughts for the power department were to use a set of Pinasco 200 engine cases but building a complete engine from bare casings isn’t cheap. They’ve been put on the back burner for the time being but will get built at some stage when time and funds allow. They’re lovely, and deserve only the best. I’ve also got a T5 project waiting to be built and its engine has sat on my bench for the past 18 months untouched. For ease and to keep the cost down as much as possible I decided to borrow that engine but was unsure on whether to keep it standard or not.
June 1st – engine build
The T5 engine came from a friend’s scooter, it had been sat around for six years before I bought it, so I stripped it to replace all the bearings, seals, cruciform etc. and was planning to (reluctantly) keep the top end standard. Glutton for punishment, Shaun volunteered to do most of the tricky work for me so he split the crank to fit new big ends; his crank press struggled to split it though. It took almost 12 tonnes of pressure and plenty of muscle to eventually split the webs; he says he’s never done one as tight. Whilst apart he gas flowed it then it took him four hours to get it back together again as well. Then he balanced it. I let him fit the bearings as well then I started to rebuild it. I opted to fit a Cosa clutch that I had lying around, using a 22 tooth clutch drive, new plates, new steels and Malossi clutch springs.
In the groove
I bought new rings and little end bearings but planned to keep the top end standard. When I went to fit the rings I noticed one was very tight. The piston was damaged in and around the top groove; I was planning to file it out and risk it but after consulting our SLUK Technical guru, (Sticky) he said to bin the damaged piston rather than bodge it. This left me with a choice of buying a new standard piston, or adding a bit of extra power. Of course power won, I went for a Malossi 172 kit from VE (UK). Before fitting the new kit I noticed the crank was very tight though, so after trying a few things to cure it the engine was reluctantly given to Shaun to finish off (properly). This was just yesterday and I’m starting to get a little bit worried.
Meanwhile back in the garage…
Although I’ve farmed the bits out I either can’t do, or somebody else could do better it still left me with plenty to get on with during May and June. Jobs like cleaning the surface rust off the inside of the frame then undersealing it. I also did the same to the panels. I’ve fitted new rubbers and got a set of new old stock floor runners and end caps from a couple of people after doing a Facebook post looking for parts. The floor runners are a pain in the arse, time-consuming job. Especially as the floor was new and I had to work out where to fit them, I also had to straighten the runners out as best I could, clean up the used end caps, drill the holes, rivet the runners on (I wish I’d have known the SIP sell a specific riveting tool and rivets to make this job much easier. and find the correct sized rubber for the channels. It took three goes to get the right size rubbers but in the end and with a little help from Dumph who built the 152L2 for the museum in Dunfermline VE (UK) came up trumps.
I also fitted the bearing cups, bearings and forks. Put the mudguard on and fettled it to sit centrally on the new forks. That in itself was half a days job. I also fitted all new cables, a mixture of PK, T5 and PX to suit various parts. Feeding the cables through was one job I expected to cause loads of hassle but remarkably they fed through the frame and into their respective feed tubes very easily. It’s unusual for a job like that to run smoothly.
All this takes us up to today, Thursday 8th June. That’s 12 days until we leave for Germany on the 20th. The milk in my fridge has a sell by date past the 20th June. As it stands my engine is at Shaun’s, he’s sorting the tight crank out and checking it over for mechanical ineptitude (I’ve just had an update to say it’s finished so will pick that back up today). I’ve not actually offered the engine up to the frame yet but have been told it’s a straight fit, if not I’ll be even more scared than I already am at this self imposed deadline.
The next few days are going to be a frantic rush to get the engine back and fitted, hopefully get it running and sort all those niggly little teething problems out before the MoT. I also need to get it run in a bit before the ride to Hull for the ferry. If it’s not ready I face the embarrassment of going to Vespa World Days by Lambretta. Failure is not an option (probably).
I’ll bring you an update next week…
Words and photos: Iggy
The project gets a move on