The Warriors, an iconic film about the gangs of New York and a virtual right of passage for anybody growing up in the 1980s.
Gang culture, youth rebellion and the feeling of belonging all bear at least some resemblance to the scooter scene. Back in the 1980s the fighting and territorial disputes were almost as prevalent at scooter rallies and events as they were in the Bronx. Thankfully both are now much less violent.
This custom Lambretta caught our eye during one of our recent photo competitions. The scooter was just a bit too special to only receive a quick thumbnail image and a few words so we contacted the owner.
Stereotypically, if not somewhat ironically we expected the owner to be a big butch American, influenced by the cult film. In fact it turned out to be owned by a petite lady who many UK based scooterists will remember from her time in her own gang, the Dirty Mills Scooter Club.
Bev Daynes was a familiar sight on the rallies back in the day, and could usually be seen on her custom Vespa chop, until she bought this GP. That was just before she emigrated to America.
Bev has owned this scooter since 2002. That was the year before her husband, Tony saw a dream job advertised on the LCGB website. Brooklynbretta were looking for a scooter mechanic for their new shop. Tony applied, got the job and that was it, they were off. Taking the GP and partner’s Spanish Lambretta TV 175 with them.
You know how these stories go, dream job, new scooter, new life in the Big Apple. You might as well get pregnant as well, so she did. Whilst Bev was busy being maternal with her first child and the GP wasn’t being ridden as often as it could be, it seemed like the perfect time to strip it down and customise it. It also seemed like a good idea to choose a local theme to base it on.
Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!
Based on the 1965 novel by Sol Yurick and released in 1979, The Warriors is set in the dark underbelly of New York city. A place where rival gangs ruled the streets. Each having their own fiercely guarded territory and club colours to both run with and of course protect.
The murder of Cyrus, the most powerful gang leader, (depicted on the front legshields) as he gives a powerful speech to leaders of all the cities gangs, leads to The Warriors being blamed for the killing. Cyrus was trying to bring all the main gangs together to become an impenetrable force, above the law and all other lesser gangs.
After the killing all hell lets loose as The Warriors are hunted by the other gangs. They’re forced to cross through the most dangerous neighbourhoods as they head back to the safety of Coney Island – their own ‘hood’.
60,000 gang members are reputed to operate in the city, outnumbering the police 3 to 1 and making it a virtual no-go area in many districts. This also made it a very dangerous place to be wearing a Warriors back patch at that moment in time.
The Warriors ‘colours’, sewn on to their uniform of brown leather waistcoats is modelled largely on the Hells Angels well-protected wings insignia. A badge of honour guarded more fiercely than any of the gangs of New York could begin to comprehend.
I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.
The movie was shot on location in New York, filmed during darkness and not without its fair share of problems. Gangs would regularly intimidate the cast and crew. During one shoot the cast were urinated on by gang members from a building above. During another scene a gang disrupted filming as they took over an unused building.
The film company were forced to employ the services of a gang advisor who not only tried to keep the crew away from the worst areas but would also pay the relevant gang leaders a bribe to allow filming to continue.
Real gang members were also drafted in as extras to pad out the relatively low budget cast during crowd scenes.
The problems didn’t end there. A big movie with a tricky subject is always going to get a following, not always the right kind of following. Once it was released at the cinema gang-violence accompanied various showings.
The movie was released in February 1979 and quickly topped the box office. Just three days after it was first shown a 19 year-old boy was shot dead at a drive-in showing in Palm Springs, California. That same night, an 18 year old bled to death after being stabbed in another cinema 165-miles away.
Fights, violent attacks and incidents amongst rival gang members and regular movie-goers lead to the film being pulled from cinemas. Paramount president, Michael Eisner said “It wasn’t worth having somebody else get stabbed or shot or killed in line because of a movie we made. It just wasn’t worth it,”
Thirty eight years later the streets of Coney Island and many of the districts portrayed in the film have been cleaned up beyond all recognition. Tourism flourishes and the days of The Warriors and their kind are long forgotten to a certain extent. That’s not to say New York doesn’t have its fair share of problems, like any major city, street and large scale organised crime are never far below the surface.
Speaking recently, Eisner believes that maybe banning the movie was an overreaction “The gang members on the screen are pussycats next to many of the people I see walking in the streets,” he wrote. “Hence, there was no point in banning The Warriors.”
Even though the film was dropped from cinemas it didn’t disappear. The Warriors became a sought-after hire at our local mobile video van in the mid 1980s. The well-worn VHS tape was booked out almost as often as Quadrophenia. Both are still regarded as cult classics many decades later…
Can you dig it?
Back to the scooter…
Being married to a scooter mechanic who works for a local scooter shop is a definite advantage when you’re embarking on a custom project. Especially when you’re the kind of girl who likes a scooter to go as good as it looks.
As such the engine was treated to a TS1 kit and all the goodies you need to go with it. Bev still likes to ride as often as she can, although she admits motherhood gets in the way and the rallies aren’t quite the same over there as they are in the UK.
Of course a custom scooter needs to look the part, so the paintwork is equally as important as the engine. This job was entrusted to Toontown Paint in New Jersey. They kept the American theme going by using a Harley-Davidson purple base-coat with a smattering of blue mirrorflake. A great combination as it happens.
Once the sparkling base coat was sorted Jonathon Pantaleon was let loose with the air brush to recreate some of the characters and scenes from the film.
Bev found some Warriors back patches on eBay so they were put to good use on the custom made spare wheel cover. Both that and the seat were created by Jay at Pirate Upholstery.
Although the scooter has been built for a good few years it still looks stunning. It was built to be ridden though, so it’s a practical custom rather than full-blown gold plated and engraved showmanship. Battle scars are worn proudly. Just as they should be on a scooter themed around violence.
Photos: Shot on Coney Island by Adam Lerner
Close ups & video: Bev
If you have an interesting scooter that you’d like seen first on SLUK, please get in touch
Scooter name: The Warriors
Model: Lambretta GP200
Engine details: TS1 225, MB Race Tour piston, Yamaha reed block, 35mm
Mikuni carb, Dev-tour stainless exhaust, electronic ignition kit, Pacemaker
gear box with 18/47 primaries & AF cassette clutch.
Paintwork: Basecoat by Toontown Paint, murals by Jonathon Pantaleon
One-off parts: Seat and spare wheel cover by Jay at Pirate Upholstery
Acquisition? Bought in 1992
Inspiration? Errm, The Warriors!
Perspiration? Getting time to ride it
Aggravation? Missing UK rallies
Celebration? A new life and kids in America