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High-Performance Scooters – 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

Chapter one

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


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: Reprographics: Jonathan Schofield and Paul Fincham Publisher: Steve O’Hara Advertising manager: Sue Keily 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



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.



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






1 960s

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




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.



1 960s

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



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.



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.




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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