Vespa T5 love affair spanning two continents | FEATURE
Inspired by our recent story about the restoration and rebuild of a Vespa T5 in Poland (read about that here), Rob Thompson got in touch with us about his own T5 love affair. Bought new in 1985, Rob claims ‘Root the Scoot’ was one of the earliest T5s to arrive in the country and he could be right.
We’ll let Rob take up the story but you really need to watch the short home video (directly below) accompanying this article and let it be a warning to anybody attempting to work from the confines of a garage…
T5 – it’s not for squares
I bought my T5 in Feb/March ’86 at the age of 18. I got it from Bladders, Worcester, where I’m originally from. They told me it was ‘The T5’ used at the motorcycle show at the NEC and honestly, I think it was really one of the very first. At least I seemed alone (and had the piss taken out of me) for quite a long period for having such a non-conforming scooter.
Lee “Fats” Harris was particularly vicious from his moral high ground… with his Serveta (you know, the Spanish one). But, several years later even he decided to try a T5, bought one, loved it, still has it…
I put a Mikeck exhaust on my scooter and it still has it to this day. I rode it to work every day, for several years, sun, rain, rain, snow, ice, ice and a little sun. I had an open piss-pot helmet that later became a robin’s nest in my Dad’s garage; I also had a scarf to which was sewn a piece of cloth to help absorb snot and tears (when I forgot to insert kitchen towel) on the trips to work, which in itself became a new discovery to science.
FedEx – Smashing
I went on a camping tour and to a gig in Brighton with my mate Phil “McCavity” Ashwell. Someone smashed my headset. The bastards! They ripped out the fuel gauge as well. I returned home downtrodden. A few months passed and one day at work, we got a sample from our Italian reseller of a part made with our CAM software (Computer Aided Manufacturing), and I poop you not, it was A bloody T5 headset cover! What a stroke of luck. Of course, I had it.
One day, parked on the then missus’ driveway, next to Big Phil, he falls off his scooter and pushes mine over. Nice. Time to repaint the panel… I don’t think he ever coughed up either. I think he used the money towards the bowling ball he seems to carry around in his t-shirt these days.
Then, one fateful day, I rode to work. There was a lay-by on the right, as I took a right turn on the A4103 at Bransford. A FedEx driver pulls out in front of me, I thought “You bastard!”, and revved up the mighty transfer-by-five motor to take him out. He clearly was a bastard, as he then took another right back into the other end of the layby without indicating. My scooter lost balance, I had gravel burn on my arse and a weakened ankle which I still have today.
Root the Scoot
Poor old “Root the Scoot” as my mate Barry “Slaps” Robinson used to call it, was now dented. The old man came along in his Bedford van and we scraped both myself and the scooter off the road and took it to his factory (he was a toolmaker). The innocence (well, idiocrasy) of youth decided that “it was my fault really”, so I never did make a claim. With the benefit of old age and being far, far feistier, today I would have gone for that big US Corp for my two-grand scooter. But I didn’t. So there it languished. For three years or so. I got married.
One day I decided to fix it, so I did the typical thing, got my grandfather’s ball-peen hammer and whacked the body a bit to get it almost right. Lots of red paint cans later, it was alright-ish. I rode it a few years, had kids, then I emigrated – to the land where that bastard fedex corp comes from!
Root ended up in the old man’s garage this time. For like 18 years. My mate Stu did get it MOT’d for a trip I made one summer and we rode it again, it started second kick after about eight years sitting. I bought a used but really good saddle, the old one had split, and a used speedo with the plan of taking the gauge out and putting it in my headset – not the whole speedo – as it was from a Mark 2, not a Mark 1.
Quarter of a century later
I then decided it was time to take ‘Root’ to The Colonies, so spent a fortune on wood (yes, it costs twice as much in the UK), to make a crate to ship it out. Root got taken apart, then shoved in the crate. There it sat, for four years. My Dad appreciated its alternative use as a workbench, being a retired toolmaker and all. I tried to export it after year two as it sat in its coffin, but given that the US is so environmentally friendly (yes, I’ve had a 5.3L V8 truck, and I am sorry), they (the EPA) wouldn’t let it in because it wasn’t old enough. It had to be 25 years old. I waited a few more years.
June 2016 came about and I pulled the trigger. We ship it. It costs about five-hundred quid. UK-side. Let’s remember the crate cost about an additional 150 quid. Getting it from Charleston North Carolina to my home in Atlanta, Georgia, another 500 quid! But, Root is worth it.
So, here she is, in bits. I patiently get it down to bare metal. I call about for someone to paint it. “Sorry, we don’t do entire paint jobs, just collision repairs.”. I’m like “WTF, it’s about two car-wings worth, surely it is harder to match old paint with new than do just a simple entire scooter?!”. A buddy says he has a contact who will do it, so I dutifully take it to him. There it sits. For six months. He does nothing with it. Disgruntled, me and Sean “Captain Mainwaring” Moorhouse (ex-British Army) go to get it, bearing arms and pick it up (yes, we have Glocks simply for range practice purposes and because you never know what kind of President you may get).
So, I’m back at home, Root is in the Garage-Mahal (named such because it took me two years to build it) and I start to think “Surely, I can do this?”. I add filler, I sand, filler, sand… Looks OK? Nope, it is still shit. I give up on the side panels and buy new ones from SIP (let’s not talk about how much all the bits costs via FedEX (yes! Those bastards) to get delivered to me).
OK, I think I’ve got it right. I set up a spray booth in the Mahal and go for it. There was a heated debate on Facebook about what colour to paint it. Some purists said, “keep it red”. I’d seen it in red a long time. My mate Rodi suggested that funky blue BMW colour. I thought “That’s smashy”. So it was written.
The bloke at the paint supply shop says “Oh, you probably just need a self-etching primer, a pint of Laguna Seca Blue and some clearcoat.” Great, I go for safety and get a quart (two pints). I buy a spray gun from Amazon. Start spraying.
I have to say, I wasn’t too bad on the top coat but the clear coat had more runs than a party of gluten intolerant people in a bakery.
Sand it down. Dammit, went through to the base coat. Start all over again, repeat failure, return to shop for another quart of paint. In the end, I think I spent over $500 on the stuff. Painting truly isn’t my thing, clearly. As a side note, Laguna Seca Blue doesn’t look the same in person as opposed to the pics on the internet, or even through an iPhone camera, that is utterly bizarre, but I still like it.
My Facebook page has many a photo and video of my passion towards getting Root back going. Most of it despairing. But in the end, I got her done. It cost me about the same amount it cost me to buy new, without inflation. New tyres, plastic bits, indicators etc. etc.
Root started up second kick, as usual, after at least 10 years. I have the actual video of me saying “no chance it’ll start”. Then me saying (to paraphrase) “It f….. started!” From my perspective, once you own a T5, I think it is fair to assume you always will unless you really are going hungry and need the money instead. So far, I’m managing to tread water…
I just stole the old man’s ’62 Greeves 250 (see the photo and gallery below), and did the same thing, but I grant you, that ain’t a T5!
Words, photos and video, Rob Thompson
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