I spotted this unique Lambretta Racer on The Bonhams auction site. Scooters have been raced since their earliest days, not the least in Italy – with an especially intense rivalry between Lambretta and Vespa of course!
This particular Lambretta has a unique heritage. Built by Giancarlo Morbidelli (the name behind some of the greatest bikes in smaller-capacity GP racing, who died in February this year in his hometown of Pesaro, Italy). It was put together specifically to compete in the 1994 historical rerunning of the famous Milan-Taranto long-distance road race. Starting life as a Series 1 LI 125, The modifications aren’t listed on the Bonhams site, but they are obviously pretty extensive, just from a quick look at the pictures! If you want a pretty standard machine ‘dressed up’ as a racer, this aint it!
One of four machines entered by the Binova-Cucine team, it was ridden by Giampiero Findanno. He led the race into the final day only to be delayed by an engine seizure; even so, he managed to finish 1st in class and 2nd overall. The Morbidelli-prepared Lambretta was the most talked-about machine in the field, much admired for its technical innovation.
It’s being auctioned with an estimate of £5,000–£10,000 – still carrying its Milan-Taranto competitor’s plates and with a selection of contemporary press cuttings and photographs.
The auction is on 16th August, just a couple of days from when this post is first published.
I connected with the Michelangelo (now there’s an Italian name for you!), the owner of these two fantastic Model A’s on Reddit – where he posted the picture above. The model A – or Lambretta 125m as was the official designation – it only really became the ‘A’ when the model ‘B’ came along – is where the Lambretta story all began. Documented elsewhere on this site, and around the web, I won’t repeat that all here.
There were only about 9,000 model A’s made, so to have one is pretty special. To have two, is amazing. But to have one as special as Michelangelo’s second one, is very special indeed. No ‘ordinary’ A, this one (an Mk1) features some wonderful period features that elevate it from the standard model to ‘Sport’ or GT spec…
Like something out of a time capsule – some of the differences between a standard A are immediately obvious – such as the elegant long-distance fuel tank. Slightly trickier to spot is the rear suspension – a feature that was felt ‘unnecessary’ on the original model. But not only did this scooter have a rear spring, it appears to height adjustable.
Fitted with a pillion seat – and on this bike you’d need one, as it would be sure to attract admiring glances from pretty young signorinas that you’d want to give a lift to. The aluminum grab rail would give her something to hold on to!
The forks are also ‘specials’ and original to the machine – and give a glimpse of the elegant ‘design language’ of future Lambrettas models. Another contemporaneous modification – made when the scooter was new, or shortly after – is the hand gear change – remember, the A was the only Lambretta model to feature a foot change. So perhaps – who knows – this very scooter helped shape the future of all later Lambrettas?
Scooters like Michelangelo’s A Sport are the reason i do this blog – there is always something new to discover, and interesting people to meet. I love it when people are passionate and knowledgeable about their passion – so if you have pictures of your Lambretta – and it can be any model – and a story to tell about it – I’d love to hear it. You can get in touch here.
A big thank you to Michelangelo Merisi, aka @ilbreizh on Instagram (or Reddit) for sharing these pictures and an important bit of Lambretta history. Michelangelo is currently engaged in another fascinating restoration of another old Lambretta, that I hope to feature on the blog one day. Stay tuned!
Firstly, I hope everybody is keeping well, and safe in these strangest of days.
Changed personal circumstances have meant the Lambrettista blog has been put on the back-burner for a while, but hopefully, it’s back, back, back, and I’m going to get some new content posted up on a more regular basis.
I got a fantastic email from Dan, from Switzerland far too long ago – sharing some fantastic pictures of his 1955 Lambretta 150 D Racing Replica. Dan has recently become webmaster of the Swiss Lambretta Club site (check out their site here). He found the D Racer in Piemonte, Italy, while taking part in the Milano Taranto Rally last summer.
The scooter is now going through a full restoration and Dan has a list of period add-ons to enhance the scooter – and plans to tune her to achieve 100 km/h.
The scooter already has some really nice ‘special features’ including;
A unique handmade 15-litre racing fuel tank
Nicely cut and shaped front and rear mudguards, and slimstyle legshields
Slim racing handlebars
Handmade racing seat
All of which adds up to a unique, and rather special scooter – no wonder Dan looks so happy astride it!
So, that’s the first post, after a rather long hiatus. The next post won’t be so long, I promise.
If you’ve got images, an event – (post social distancing of course), a story or – importantly these days – some news you want to share, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get it up on the bog.
I’m going to start this review with a recommendation and an apology then get into the meat of the review. But you don’t need to know any more than “Just get your hands on a copy” Jump to the end of the review to find out where to buy – or –just check here.
Secondly, an apology to Sticky of the delay in writing this, and my Lambrettista blog readers for depriving you of this book – if you haven’t had it on your radar already.
As well as that Sticky contributed for many years to Scootering Magazine– pretty much in establishing the writing style and tone of voice. More recently Sticky’s written extensively on ScooterLab. But more importantly Sticky has not only written about the scene is also lived it – and this is why his words truly jumps off of the page of Scooterboys.
Who who are Scooterboys?
Often, when you tell people you ride a classic scooter, they’ll say something like “Oh, you’re a Mod!” or “Where’s your fishtail parka?” and, while the whole Mod thing has greatly influenced my life, it’s not how I describe or defined myself. I’ve never take it as an insult but never felt I quite measured up to the high sartorial standards of the whole Mod thing. I’ve tried, but I’m a naturally scruffy git who occasionally scrubs up well – and, to be honest I was always happier in a flight jacket, a pair of combat trousers over my Levi’s, DM’S or paratrooper boots. A clothing choice that’s much more practical when riding a classic scooter than a tonic suit!
Scooterboys took the snobbery of Mod and inverted it. Sticky takes time to set up the fact that while the great British public could easily identify Mods Punks, Goths and Skinheads (and many others) they are oddly blind when identifying the Scooterboy. As with the rest of this review, I can’t say better than Sticky himself when setting up this book…
“As a truly conscious lifestyle choice existed in small pockets around the country since the 1970s many unaware of each others existence. However the cult only blossomed into a massive national movement in the early ‘80s.
Countless acres of print and endless TV airtime has been givien to documenting all those other tribes yet to the man in the street and the red-top newspapers we were simply Mods.
To this day that ignorance persists. Tens of thousands of people all around the world who identified themselves as Scooterboys, Scootergirls or simply Scooterists have never had much formal recognition. Only cultural mislabelling by Muppets who can’t tell a MA1 flight jacket from a mohair suit
As such, Scooteboys remain the hidden tribe of Britain’s youth culture jungle. We are undiscovered and uncelebrated but pure as a result.
Perhaps it’s better that way.”
Sticky documents the rise of Scooterboy – from it’s root in (amongst other things Mod) and how it grew apart from it’s forebears – something that often happened to individuals over the space of a single Scooter Run. In Britain – for Scooterboys is unashamedly a British based book – most weekends between March and October there’s a Scooter Rally – with the month’s between hosting a bunch of ‘do’s, part pairs and Custom Shows. Being a Scooterboy (or Scootergirl) involved a) having a classic scooter – and b) attending as many of these events as your life / budget allowed.
One of the biggest issues are having when writing about this book is writing around Stickies words – I simply can’t put it better than he can – so I won’t i’ll quote him! (as sparingly as possible). Don’t worry there are plenty of other great words in this book! Sicky answers the Why Scooters question with the “Are you far are you fucking blind can’t you see is what so great about scooters?” and follows up with “in truth all appreciation of art is personal if you put someone in front of Michelangelo’s David Ferrari 488 Spider or the Rialto Bridge in Venice and all they do is shrug well there’s no hope – they are Philistine is stoning them to death is just waste of good gear!”
There is a concise history of both the marks that dominated the initial scooter boom and survived until today – the Vespa and Lambretta of course –and is well as the undisputed style of both marques is the fact that ‘back in the day’ you could pick up classic scooters incredibly cheaply – something that sadly isn’t true today.
Scooterboys goes on to document in words and some truly evocative imagery both the scooters, and how they were increasingly personalised and customised with accessories, paint and often hacksaws. To quote Sticky again “customisation wasn’t an option – it was essential if you wanted any sort of credibility. Standard scooters were for commuters”.
Customisation, of course, could run the gamut between the sublime and frankly ridiculous. iI’s all documented here with some wonderful pictures of Lambrettas and Vespas modified with different degrees of success but alter their owner’s requirements – taking inspiration from everywhere from music to culture.
The books also covers the trouble experienced by the lost tribe at the hands of the Old Billl, Non-scooterist and even between clubs or factions within the scene. At the time this was all part of the fun… and resulted in some great “war stories”.
So, sum up…
All this and much more is documented in this fantastic book. If you’re not much of a reader, Sticky’s fantastic turn of phrase may convert you – but if they don’t, it’s worth buying for the pictures alone. The book has been beautifully put together, and the design reflects the subject matter. My crappy pics don’t really do it justice. I also firmly believe it’s a culturally important book – documenting a ‘lost’ British subculture that hasn’t had much mainstream attention. Sociologists take note!
If you haven’t already will copy why not treat yourself – or someone who would appreciate it. There is still just about time to get one delivered before Christmas!
We try and stay away from politics here at the Lambrettista blog. But this is something that affects all Lambrettisti! Rumours have reached Lambrettista Towers that after seeing some archive footage of a Lambretta Amphi-Scooter on this very blog (see original post here), HM Government are buying up vintage Lambrettas at a premium, and converting them to amphibious capabilities.
Jacob Rees-Mogg testing a modified Lambretta scooter
Although not the obvious choice as a sea-going vessel, a converted Lambretta is seen as being more than capable of the short Dover to Calais route, and is being touted as “Just the sort of forward-facing, out-of-the-box innovative thinking this country needs”. A breakaway faction of the government is said to be carrying out experiments in converting Triumph Tigress scooters, claiming the British build scooters are better suited to the task than any ‘Italian Rubbish’. Rumours that the mastermind behind this project is the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris “failing” Graying have yet to be substantiated.
Although the storage capacity of these machines is somewhat limited, it’s thought that with enough converted Lambrettas, the UK can avoid shortages of Camembert, Brie, and several other European kinds of cheese. With the addition of front and rear racks, baguettes and croissants can also be accommodated.
Looking forward to this – Scooterboys – the Lost Tribe. I’ve enjoyed Martin “Sticky” Round’s writing for years. After all, this is the guy who can make a workshop manual entertaining! Due for release on 28th May, it’s one worth pre-ordering. (If you’ve already ordered an advance signed copy via SLUK, then that will be shipped at the end of April).
Here’s the blurb; “Scooterboys are the lost tribe of British youth culture. Unrecognised, uncelebrated and unwanted; misunderstood by a general public who mistook us for Mods. We weren’t Mods though. By the 1980s myself and tens of thousands of scooter riders collectively rejected that label. Instead, we took the roadmap of British youth disaffection and carved a new bypass. This route took us beyond the UK’s faded seaside resorts, allowing us to spread our creed across the continents. Tuned and customised Vespa and Lambretta scooters gave us freedom to roam; transport to live for the weekend. Shared experiences of riots, local hostility and police harassment built strong fraternal bonds that endure to this day. Despite decades of two-wheeled rebellion our threat level was never high enough to put us on the national security radar. This low profile has its benefits. We aren’t doomed to follow the same cycle as Mods. First feared, then pilloried, accepted and finally adopted as part of UK’s rich culture. As British as a vindaloo. The cult of Scooterboy has escaped death-by-public-acceptance, simply by remaining too underground. Too difficult to distinguish from what came before. And that’s just perfect. You’ll never see Scooterboys parodied in TV insurance adverts or low budget fly-on-the-wall. The poorly-rendered caricature is always some cliché Mod on a ‘Christmas Tree’ scooter. If you rode to rallies in the 80s and 90s then this book will mirror your experiences. If you’ve never had a scooter then it offers a rare glimpse of life inside the lost tribe of two-stroke terrorists.”
Available at all good bookshops, no doubt a few bad ones, and on Amazon, here
I’ll be getting a copy, and post a full review when I’ve read it. For more recommendations, see my reading list.
In another first for the Lambrettista Blog – here’s the first – leaked* videos of the New ELECTRIC Lambretta Vendetta!
It seems that Lambretta have teamed up with electric scooter pioneers (and Red Dot Design Award winners) NIU – There’s not a lot of data to share at the moment – although it’s rumoured that Token Hu – Vice president of NIU (and formerly of Frog Design and Microsoft) is heading up the project personally. I expect that as much as an electric powertrain they will be bringing their innovative Smart technology to the project.
I’ve posted a few times about electric vehicles (EV) on the blog before – and firmly believe they are the future of transportation – on two wheels or more. So, what you see here is truly the next generation of Lambretta – a brand that is going to be as relevant and innovative in the 21st century as the 20th. Exciting times!
This is the next step in the evolution of the Lambretta. Remember where you saw it first! Stay tuned, and I’ll share more information when I can.
*Feel free to share – but please don’t ask where I got these videos – I have to protect my sources!
People have done amazing things on Lambrettas – pushing these machines to their limits across many miles. This family road trip – 12,000 miles from Sydney to Paris – and then on to Margate – has got to be up their with one of the most ambitious and adventurous.
The trip took over two months – starting 3,000 miles across Australia – through Pakistan, Persia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey – then into Greece, and across Europe (Yugoslavia and Italy) to France. An ambitious enough trip for a rider with a support crew – but dad Guy took his wife Beryl (originally from Margate) and his children Charles (4) and Yvonne (2). Wow!
Guy custom built a cabin of marine plywood and canvas that could transport the four of them and their kit – and transform into a sleeping unit. Cosy! The ‘base scooter’ was a Lambretta Lambro 150 FD, with a top speed of just 25mph.
The trip included heatwaves, floods, frosts, dust-storms, monsoon rain. The scooter suffered punctures, over-heating and wet petrol – but their ‘put-put’ got them there in the end!
For the full story, I’d highly recommend visiting the website that chronicles the journey – www.montin.fr/lambretta – where there’s a wealth of original newspaper clippings and photos from the trip.
A big thank you to Charles (the then four year-old boy in the pictures!) for permission to use the imagery featured in this post.
I’ve also got another amazing Lambretta adventure story to tell – this time an ‘escape across Africa’ – stay tuned for that one!
Apologies for the lack of updates, things have been a bit hectic, and the blog has taken an bit of a ‘back seat’. I’ve got a bit of a backlog of posts to get up, but in the meantime, here’s one of American actress and model Carol Wayne, in a leotard, with a Cento.
EDIT: It’s NOT Carol Wayne… apparently it’s her sister, NINA Wayne. Good spot Corey.