Most motorcyclists only make modifications to their motorcycles cosmetically for practical reasons. Superbikes, tourers and adventure bikes are enhanced to improve performance or rider comfort. A windscreen may be added for wind protection or heated grips installed to help protect the fingers from that intense, unabating pain we have all experienced on a winter ride; even with the most insulated gloves. Additional lights may be added to assist with night vision. The obvious exception is the cruiser market where the installation of unnecessary accessories is the rule rather than the exception. This over the counter customising is an attempt by the owner to reflect his or her individuality. Bolt on customisation is not a new phenomenon. Harley Davidson created this trend a hundred years ago by providing accessories purely for personalisation purposes and are still the undoubted leader in this very lucrative market. Very few cruisers are not personalised by their owners. Everything from controls to paint sets can be changed to suit the owner’s taste, without actually changing the physical nature of the motorcycle. One may think this form of customisation is reserved only for the cruisers but there is one other type of motorcycle which also gets the same treatment. We call these motorcycles scooters!
Perhaps it is because they originated in Italy, land of the flair: perhaps it is because of their colourful history from the time they were first sold in the late 1940s; perhaps it is their sexy step through shape or the colourful characters that ride them; whatever the reason, this supposedly humble form of transport holds its own with any cruiser when it comes to being personalised by their owners. Even the most perfectly restored classic Vespa or Lambretta is bound to have some period accessories, such as chromed front and rear racks or a spare wheel holder fitted. Personalisation escalates from these basic accessories to the full blown Mod scooter with all its extra lights, mirrors and attitude.
Our featured scooter is a 1962 registered Lambretta TV 175 Series 2. Its owner, Jim, who is now forty eight years old, bought his first Lambretta, in boxes, when he was sixteen. Apparently the 1979 movie Quadrophenia, about the 1960’s rivalry between the scooter riding mods and the Brit bike riding rockers, influenced many teenagers into a lifestyle which embraced scooters. British born Jim also cites this movie as a major influence and it has been a reason for him to have owned in excess of ten Vespas and Lambrettas so far. In 2005 Jim and his family emigrated from England to South Africa, the best place in the world to ride any motorcycle. He too believes a scooter’s appearance should be a reflection of its owner personality.
The Lambretta Turismo Veloce 175 Series 2 was available from October 1959 until September 1961. Its 110kg mass is propelled by an 8.6 hp,175cc two stroke engine via a four speed gearbox. A total of 34 928 of these scooters were produced in the standard pale blue or ivory colour schemes. Jim bought this scooter five years ago in tatty but original condition. The scooter was originally painted the plain blue option but Jim restored it to new condition in the ivory colour scheme. All the badges, most of the aluminium parts and the wheel rims were rechromed by Buff King in Pretoria.
Although the restoration to original condition was a great success, Jim felt that he would prefer the scooter to reflect more of his own style and taste with more than a little inspiration from the swinging ’60s and the ’80s. In December 2012 he did a complete makeover which took two months. Lynx Customs from Benoni painted the scooter. Two different metallic greys and a red metallic paint were used. The large TV logo on the leg shield and the writing on the cubby were all airbrushed. Very pricey Mirraflake was used in the clear coat to add the overall metal flake sparkle. This was similar to the effect Jim had used on a Vespa he had owned in the mid ’80s. Lynx re-upholstered the original saddle and added extra padding to make the ride more plush. The end result is spectacular!
The engine of this scooter is basically standard. A Jetex 22mm carburettor and a Series 3 exhaust help maximise performance. The electrics have been converted to 12v electronic, enabling Jim to see when riding at night! With the cover removed, one can see how wonderfully simple and clean scooter mechanical design is. The big difference between Vespa and Lambretta was that Vespa used its fabricated panelling as the frame whilst Lambretta made use of an actual frame which was clad with fabricated panelling.
Jim bought this Lambretta from a retired gentleman who had owned the scooter for twenty years. He had ridden the motorcycle to Kyalami for many years to do duty as a marshall. It is for this reason that Jim felt it was appropriate to take these photos at a scooter racing event at Kyalami as a tribute to this TV175’s past. I think I am going to buy myself a copy of Quadrophenia!