High-Performance Scooters â€“ The Ultimate Guide
LAMBRETTA t ee r t S &VESPA & VESPA acers R
By Stuart Owen In association with
A retrospective tracing the evolution of Lambretta & Vespa street racers across six decades
The British scooter scene has always been one that is very diverse. It is not only made up of a passion for different makes of scooter but is also intertwined with different tastes in music and fashion. That’s what makes it so unique and why the whole scooter scene in general is as strong today as it ever has been. One important part of its makeup is the street racer, whether it be a Lambretta or Vespa. Both models have been subject to intense modiﬁcation and development to improve their performance. So why is there this desire for owners to create monstrously powerful engines and bolt them in to a frame emblazoned in bright paintwork that wouldn’t look amiss on a MotoGP bike? Several reasons come to mind: the quest for one-upmanship perhaps, or the need to have the fastest machine. Some owners want the latest gadget or that little bit extra to improve their performance, even if sometimes it doesn’t exactly do that. Whatever the reasons, the demand to continually improve these machines fuels the market that surrounds them and continues to thrive to this day. Where did it all begin though? Who were the pioneers of tuning and performance and how did it all start? The street racer’s roots go all the way back to the 1960s with entrepreneurs who had the vision to see that there was a market for such modiﬁcation. There is no doubt that the street racer had a close afﬁnity with track racing but that itself was in its infancy back then. It is clear for all to see that as these two scenes developed, decade after decade, they worked hand in hand – one feeding off the other. As they grew so did the industry that supplied them. There have been some fantastic ideas, inventions and creations that have pushed the boundaries of these machines way beyond the limits of what they were ever designed for. At the same time there has been a catalogue of failures now consigned to the annals of tuning disaster. It was not, and still is not, uncommon for owners to spend thousands of pounds on a machine to try and eke out that extra bit of performance; quite often on an engine that had already had a signiﬁcant sum spent on it. Not that this is a problem as it further pushes the boundaries, both of the owners and the tuners who create these machines. Likewise, the painters who create the dazzling artwork that adorns the bodywork of these exquisite creations have gone further and further with each passing year, quite often each craftsman attempting to outdo the others to set new standards. Slowly but surely the street racer scene has spread to other countries, even continents, often mirroring what has happened in Britain, many taking their inspiration from its rich history. Even here, many owners have turned back to the early times to recreate iconic machines and ideas of the past. Now there is both a modern and retro scene that happily work alongside one another – making up the world of the Lambretta and Vespa street racer.
4 24 42 68 90 110
1960s – The new generation tuning for speed
Ch Chapter hapter two two
1970s – Th 1970 The underground revolution
Ch Chapter hapter three hree 1980s – TS1 and 1980 d tthe T5: a new era of performance
Ch Chapter hapter four fo our 1990s – P 1990 Perfecting f i the art
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart Owen is a life member of the LCGB, owner of the 100mph Lambretta Club, a regular contributor to Scootering magazine and a scooter restoration expert.
AUTHOR: Stuart Owen Design: atg-media.com Reprographics: Jonathan Schoﬁeld and Paul Fincham Publisher: Steve O’Hara Advertising manager: Sue Keily email@example.com Publishing director: Dan Savage Marketing manager: Charlotte Park Commercial director: Nigel Hole Published by: Mortons Media Group Ltd, Media Centre, Morton Way, Horncastle, Lincolnshire LN9 6JR. Tel. 01507 529529 The work you are about to read is dedicated to all those who at one point in time improved the performance of their Lambretta or Vespa with the sole intention to make it go faster. Many thanks go to the following people whom without this publication would not have been possible. Nicola Owen, James King, Steve Safﬁn, Dave Tooley, Chas De Lacy, Norrie Kerr, Frank Osgerby, Dave Omerod, Dan Robotham, Walter Nelson-Aylott, Colin Cheetam, Brendan McNally, Adam Sheridan, Mark Broadhurst, Richard Taylor, Tino Sacchi, Duncan rose, Dan Clare, Duncan Kilbride, Martin Murray, Phil Mays, Gareth Gadd, Dave Close, Frank Donaldson, Jane Skayman, Richard Black and Andy Blake PRINTED BY: William Gibbons and Sons, Wolverhampton ISBN: 978-1-911276-44-9 © 2017 Mortons Media Group Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage retrieval system without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
Ch Chapter hapter ﬁve ﬁve 2000s – A surge of power
Ch Chapter hapter 6 2010 to the present day – beyond the realms of possibility
LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
1 960s The new
generation tuning for speed
s with any culture or trend it has to start somewhere and the more appealing it becomes the faster it grows. When looking back at the history of the Lambretta and Vespa street racer scene this is exactly what happened. In the early days it may have got off to a slow or somewhat modest start but after a few years it exploded into life. Once it got going, the momentum has continued throughout each decade up till the present day and still shows no signs of slowing down. Actually pinpointing where it all started is almost impossible but there were certain deďŹ ning periods in the early days that were a catalyst in allowing it to grow. There is no doubt that the Lambretta
ABOVE: The Rallymaster was ﬁrst introduced by Lambretta Concessionaires in 1961. This modiﬁed Series 2 Li 150 was the ﬁrst sports scooter to become available in Britain. Aimed at the sporting members of scooter clubs, its engine was very mildly tuned but showed that it was possible to improve the performance of the Lambretta engine.
➽ LAMBRETTA & VES SPA STREET RACERS
ABOVE AND RIGHT: Two views of a modiﬁed Series 1 Lambretta adapted for scooter scrambling. Though the engine remained relatively standard its chassis was heavily altered.
has been the dominant force in scooter tuning in the main. Even so, the Vespa has played an important role in how it all evolved and at certain times over the last 50 odd years has been the main player. To try and establish where it all started we need to go right back to the beginning of the 1960s. Tuning Lambretta and Vespa engines at the beginning of the 1960s was virtually unheard of in Britain. There were certainly no shops offering aftermarket performance products and there is very little evidence, if any, of owners carrying out such work themselves. Track competition didn’t exist and scooter racing as we know it was almost a decade away from commencing. There had been a brief attempt at producing an aluminium
cylinder for the Lambretta by a company called Ajax who made aftermarket barrels for Villiers engines but it was a far cry from tuning or performance upgrading as we know it. It should be remembered that the scooter was in its heyday of popularity and at the time was seen more as a vehicle of transport – not one of racing or performance. If you wanted to go faster, at that time the simple answer was to go and buy a motorbike instead. Also it is worth bearing in mind that people were buying scooters brand new and under warranty – which would be voided if the engine was modiﬁed in any way, shape or form. This was something owners were constantly reminded of by the manufacturers. For this reason alone,
the idea of any sort of engine upgrade wasn’t given any consideration by the majority of those who purchased either the Lambretta or Vespa. Probably the ﬁrst real step in to the performance-orientated market was actually taken by a manufacturer, or rather, its subsidiary: Lambretta Concessionaires. In 1961 the company launched its own unique version of the upgraded Series 2 named the Rallymaster. In all honesty, it was no racing thoroughbred – more of a trials or off-road competition machine. It did have a slightly upgraded engine with what was classed as a ‘Stage 2 conversion’ to the cylinder which was carried out at the Trojan works facility.
The ﬁrst real step in the performance orientated market was actually taken by a manufacturer
LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
âž½ LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
ABOVE: Scooter scrambling was probably the ﬁrst sport in Britain where scooter riders raced each other competitively on a track circuit.
The Lambretta engine had the potential to be upgraded for performance. With a slightly bigger carburettor and improved exhaust, bhp was slightly increased, but it was still no sports machine. However, this did highlight the fact that the Lambretta engine had the potential to be upgraded for performance with increased speed and acceleration. The attention generated by this conversion slowly tempted one or two other dealers
LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
into the same way of thinking. The Rallymaster had probably been created to cater for the growing trend of regularity and off-road trials run by some of the bigger scooter clubs. These trials had started to become popular as competition between clubs had started to grow. The ﬁrst real track sport, even though it was on grass rather
than Tarmac, was scooter scrambling. Machines were heavily modiﬁed around the chassis to give more ground clearance but the engine remained almost standard.
Arthur Francis ‘S Type’ L ambretta The Arthur Francis ‘S Type’ Lambretta was ﬁrst introduced in late 1963 and was originally based around the Lambretta TV 200. Arthur Francis was an ofﬁcial Lambretta dealer in Watford and had been offering tuning services since the early 1960s. He was regarded as the ﬁrst business to cater for the performance market and his name is still legendary to this day in the Lambretta world. When introduced, the ‘S Type’ offered much more than a tuned engine. There were a whole host of extras including 12V lighting, front leg shield mounted spot lights and rev counter among other things. By 1967 the ‘S Type’ was based around the Lambretta SX 200 and in that same year offered the ﬁrst 250cc conversion. The conversion involved a Bultaco barrel being grafted on to a Lambretta casing but this was never going to be commercially viable. It nevertheless showed that Arthur Francis was way ahead of the competition when it came to development. The ‘S Type’ and all the extras that were available were a great way of luring potential customers into the dealership, even if they were only curious to see what was on offer. It was a great marketing ploy as the mainstay of the business was selling standard scooters. This business model would be copied by many others as they too saw what beneﬁts it had to offer. In later years it would be taken over by a young employee by the name of Ray Kemp who would continue to keep the business at the forefront of Lambretta tuning.
This took into account the rider’s ability to win a race through skill rather than the power of their engine. Even so, this was a signiﬁcant step in moving towards machine modiﬁcation by individuals and proved to be the beginning of street racer evolution. One of the ﬁrst shops to advertise any type of performance enhancing changes to a scooter, most notably the Lambretta, was Francis and Woodhead of Watford. It was only basic cylinder porting and tuning – nothing too fancy. With virtually nowhere else available to get work like this done, it was almost guaranteed that once your Lambretta left Francis and Woodhead it would be faster on the road than any other
Lambretta, or other type of scooter for that matter. This was the beginning of a new era, the era of scooter tuning, and it was ready to spread across the country. Francis and Woodhead would change name to Arthur Francis Limited around the same time as Innocenti launched the Series 3 Slimstyle. This new, sleeker, more modern-looking scooter would be the catalyst to take Lambretta and probably Vespa tuning to a new level. What started to really change people’s way of thinking in terms of speed and acceleration was the introduction in 1963 of the Lambretta TV 200. Though it was created by Innocenti, it was prompted
by a request from Peter Agg the owner of Lambretta Concessionaires. He had demanded a 200cc Lambretta to sell in Britain as he saw a gap in the market place for it. As the decade moved on most vehicle manufacturers, whether they produced two or four wheeled vehicles, became more obsessed with power and speed as the most effective marketing tool. Peter Agg’s thinking was that the same could be done with the Lambretta – and he was right. Not only was the TV 200 more powerful and capable of speeds up to 70mph, but it also came ﬁtted with a disc brake, the ﬁrst production twowheeled vehicle in the world to do so.
➽ LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
ABOVE: Don Noys on one of his record breaking runs using a modiﬁed GT 200 in 1965. LEFT: Francis and Woodhead was one of the ﬁrst businesses to offer scooter tuning. Later it would change its name to Arthur Francis Ltd and produce the Legendary ‘S Type’ Lambretta.
The promise of greater speeds was always going to have genuine appeal.
Rebranded the GT 200 by Petter Agg, it not only had sports type perforrmance but sounded like it did too, thank ks to the
LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREE ET RACERS
name change. Even though it was the most expensive Lambretta to date, that didn’t matter as power hungryy enthusiasts snapped them up. Though sco ooter tuning was still in its infancy it was a manufacturer that probably kic ck-started demand by producing what, in n real terms, was the ﬁrst sports-orientated d scooter. Arthur Francis, who o had now struck out on his own, was keen to market the machine’s potential by producing the ‘S Type’ Lambretta. Based around the
GT 200 it would ha ave upgrad des that would allegedly givve a top sp peed approaching 80mp ph, althoug gh this was probably only likelyy when rid ding downhill. As scooters slowlyy became the vehicle of choice for young g adults, th he promise of greater speeds was alwayys going to have genuine appe eal. In the ‘S S Type’, Arthur Fra ancis knew he had a product that would attract cusstomers who wante ed extra performan nce. As a main Lam mbretta dealer,
r o tt e r u b r a C 1 . k M l a m A The
ABOVE: The original advert by Amal Ltd announcing the new Mk.1 concentric carburettor ﬁrst used on the Lambretta in 1967.
The Amal Mk.1 carburettor was launched in 1967 and was made by Amal Ltd in Witton, Birmingham, a subsidiary of the vast Imperial Metal Industries company. Amal carburettors were standard equipment on many British-built motorcycles, most notably BSA, Triumph and Norton. When the Amal Mk.1 was launched it was hailed as the modern choice to replace many of the older cruder carburettors that graced thousands of old motorcycles throughout Britain. Its simplistic design, consisting of only a pilot, main and needle jet, combined with a three position needle, made it easy to set up. The two-stroke version was ideal for the Lambretta and it was the ﬁrst time anything like this had been made available. Quickly several businesses had their own manifold cast, designed speciﬁcally to ﬁt the Amal Mk.1 onto 200cc Lambretta engines. One of the beneﬁts was that the carburettor would sit perfectly upright and not in an angled position, giving the ﬂoat bowl chance to ﬁll completely up. The down side to being in this position was it meant that the mouth would sit almost ﬂush against the side panel, greatly restricting air ﬂow. The solution was to cut a hole in the side panel to allow the carburettor to breathe more easily and this would quickly become a fashion among tuned Lambretta owners. There was no choke jet ﬁtted as standard, only an internal slide that blocked off air ﬂow similar to putting your hand over the mouth to richen the mixture. There was another option, however, a prime jet ﬁtting which ﬁlled the ﬂoat bowl right up, allowing more fuel in initially for starting. Though this was the best method, it would not be uncommon to see petrol
ABOVE: Directly bolted to the purposely-made manifold the carburettor sits in a perfect upright position.
running all the way down the fan cowl and onto the ﬂoor before the engine ﬁred up. Though starting the engine was a pain, once it was running the Amal Mk.1 greatly improved acceleration and speed. It quickly became the popular choice of most scooter tuning businesses and being British-made it was easy to source spares quickly and affordably. Some shops would ﬁt them to engines that were prepared for the customer or there would be the option to purchase a full kit of carburettor, manifold and choke lever for the more discerning owner. Whichever way, the Amal Mk.1 was in reality the ﬁrst performance oriented carburettor for tuned Lambrettas in Britain.
ABOVE: The only down side was it caused the mouth to sit too close to the side panel. The solution was to cut a hole in the panel to allow the carburettor to breathe. This impressive looking modiﬁcation soon become a craze among owners.
➽ LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
The L ambretta Big Bore Exhaust
offering tuning and bigger performance machines gave him an advantage over his rivals. Providing a choice of different packages in terms of extras allowed customers to choose how much more they spent on top of the cost of the Lambretta they were about to purchase. It was a clever way to sell more machines and for a while one that was almost exclusive to Arthur Francis Ltd. The only other mainstream scooter at that time was the Vespa. The two brands commanded the lion’s share of scooter sales in Britain between them. The problem with the Vespa in the mid 1960s was its aging model line-up. The GS, which had been the ﬂagship model for several years, was becoming outdated. However, it was superseded by the 180 SS, which was more powerful and modern in appearance. This again would appeal to the performance hungry enthusiast as demand for more powerful machines continue to grow. With the introduction of the 180 SS, the scooter buying public could now go
to either of the two main manufacturers if they wanted a powerful scooter. However, Piaggio would stun the market in 1966 with a smaller but even more sports focused scooter: the 90 SS. This was a beautifully designed machine based around the ﬁrm’s small frame chassis design, launched a couple of years previously. Not only would the small 90cc engine provide decent performance due to its high state of tune, but the narrowed leg shields and drop handlebars made its handling ﬁrst class. While the likes of Arthur Francis were producing aftermarket sports scooters with the ‘S Type’, Piaggio was producing them straight from the factory with the 90 SS. While it was good that these scooters were being built there were still limitations concerning where you could actually use them to their full potential. The ﬁrst real opportunity a rider had to legally ﬁnd out what they were capable of in terms of speed was the annual Isle of Man scooter holiday week. With several events taking place both on and off road by the later
RIGHT: Advertising the Grimstead Imperial Vespa in 1967, one of the ﬁrst tuned Vespas that was made available.
Piaggio would stun the market in 1966 with a smaller but even more sports focused scooter.
LAMBRETTA & VESPA STREET RACERS
The Lambretta big bore exhaust was ﬁrst introduced by Arthur Francis Ltd in the mid 1960s under the guise of the ‘Clubman’ exhaust. It was also called the reverse cone by some. With a slightly larger bore on the down pipe of 42mm from the standard 38mm, it now entered the box section by means of a much wider cone. The idea was to allow the engine to rev higher while at the same time improving mid-range performance. Not long after Arthur Francis introduced the exhaust, a similar version was branded by Nannucci called the Ancillotti Big Bore. One version boasted a ridiculously oversize 50mm down pipe which was more commonly known as the drainpipe exhaust it was so large. Over the decades there have been many versions and formulas of the big bore exhaust and it still sells well to this day.
1960s, the new breed of more powerful scooters could ﬁnally be showcased not only to other riders but also to the vast crowds watching. At the same time scooter sprinting as a sport was slowly gathering pace. The regularity trials held at different circuits around the country were becoming more commonplace too. There was always the natural alternative to try and exploit the potential of a scooter out on the road but this was, of course, heavily frowned upon by the authorities. Even so there where many cases of this type of activity regularly occurring, certainly from owners of the more powerful models. Scooter sprinting at that time was slowly beginning to gain momentum
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