The History of Lambretta’s in India (sort of).

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In the UK, we tend to think of the Lambretta as a fashionable, aspirational brand, associated with youth culture. Arguably, the hey-day of the scooter was before the days of the mod – when post-war austerity and a fuel shortage exacerbated by the Suez Crisis prompted the trend away from cars – well, big, thirsty ones anyway – and onto scooters. But the one era most people identify with Lambrettas is, of course, the Mod days of the 60’s. At least in the UK.

It’s very different in other parts of the world. In the late 60’s and into the 70’s the Lambretta was very much a workhorse scooter. Although glamourized to some extent by Bollywood,  and initially appealing to the growing middle class – the appeal to the masses was very much more practical than prestigious.

For a lot of Indians, the Lambretta was seen as family transport – able to transport four(!) in relative comfort – ” It could accommodate 4 people easily. A family of four including two children. One would stand in the front portion ahead of the seat and face the wind. The two elders would sit on the seat and the second child on the spare tyre at the rear of the Lambretta scooter.”

Lambretta’s were produced in India from the 1950’s by API – initially assembling parts shipped from Italy, and then manufacturing them from scratch in their own factories. They produced a variant of the Series 1 LI150, and then moved on to produce the Series 2. For most Indians, the Series 2 is the Lambretta.  In 1972, however, the State-owned SIL (Scooters India Limited) acquired the rights to the Lambretta name, and all API Lambrettas after that were sold under the name “Lamby”. These continued in production for many years, and in vast numbers – but, as mentioned, there was a new player in SIL.

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SIL didn’t mess around with old models. After making a few 100cc Centos, they swiftly moved on to the model they are known best for – The GP. Although, rather confusingly, after acquiring the sole rights to the Lambretta name in India, the GP was sold under a number of different names, including the Vijai Super, Vijai Vulcan, Vijai Deluxe and the Allwyn Pushpak. There’s some great vintage footage (starting about 04:56) of these ‘Super Scooters’ in the video below.

As time went on, and with less and less access to original Italian GP’s the export market for ‘made in India’ Lambrettas grew. Initially slagged off as second-rate ‘curry burners’ (sorry if that sounds racist, but that’s what everybody called them, back in the day), their reputation grew to that close to their Italian forefathers. Ok. Not quite, but you certainly wouldn’t be embarrassed to ride an Indian GP these days.

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Domestically, the Lambretta was far from the only game in town. Where there’s a Lambretta, there’s usually a Vespa a little way behind. Or in front. It depends on your preference – you know mine. Anyway, an Indian company called Bajaj had been importing Vespa’s since the late 40’s – and in 1958, started manufacturing under their own steam both two-wheelers and rickshaws, both based (I think) on the Vespa Sprint.

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It wasn’t all over for API though… and their trusty Lamby 150 (based on a Series 2, remember), had one last throw of the dice in the late ’80s. Although a very dated (or should we say ‘classic’) design next to the GP based offerings of SIL, it had still sold pretty well domestically. With optimism you’ve got to admire, and a fresh new design out of Miyazu, Japan, they launched their final Lamby model – The Polo. With redesigned legshields, headset and headlight, sidepanels, a horrible PX style horn casing it came with 12 volt electrics and mod cons such as indicators. Although it was basically a Series 2 under the skin, there was a lot of late 80’s Vespa about it – and it was none the better for it. The last one rolled off the API production line in 1992… although with a nod to it’s Series 2 toughness, and the Indian owners creative ability to keep them running, they stayed a staple of Indian transportation for many years after that.

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I wrote about the Polo, rather disparagingly back in 2013 https://lambrettista.net/2013/06/09/does-your-scooter-smell-of-mint/ – perhaps I’ve mellowed a little. Perhaps not.

The Lambretta still has a strong following in India, and a lot of people still remember their dad’s, or uncle’s Lambretta fondly as the key means of transport for the family. India, with it’s vast population, may just be the most important market for the new models being produced by Lambretta today.

Anyway, if you’re reading this in India, or you’ve got a better knowledge of the story of Lambrettas in India, please get in touch or leave a comment below. And if you’ve got pictures of your Lambretta – wherever you are in the world, and would like to share it with the world – I’d be more than happy to feature it on the blog.

 

 

Swiss Racing D

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
  • Aftermarket headlight
  • 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 mrlambrettista@gmail.com and I’ll get it up on the bog.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Scooterboys – The Lost Review!

Scooterboys – The Lost Tribe

by Martin ‘Sticky’ Round

Introduction

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.

A bit about the Author

So who’s Sticky why should you read his book? Well, for most of his life Martin “Sticky” Round has written about scooters. If you own a Lambretta you probably have his ultimate workshop manual – Stickies “Complete Spanner’s Manual: Lambretta Scooters (If you don’t, you should). You may also have read his “Frankensteins Scooters to Dracula’s Castle” – a great read – reviewed here.

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.

Why Scooters?

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!

Get it on Amazon Here.

New for 2020 – New Lambretta News…

I’ve had this image leaked to me by a trusted source within Lambretta – apparently, it’s one of the first images of the rumoured new Lambretta – with a ‘ghost light’ feature – when you approach the scooter, it projects a Lambretta logo onto the ground! Pretty cool!

The rumour is of a pretty powerful power unit too – up to 325cc!! Expect a few tweaks to the look of the scooter too – an evolution of the current “V Special” design.

Expect more to be revealed at EICMA in November!

Something for the weekend – April 13th & 14th

Morecambe Pre-Season Scooter Rally

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Facebook Event Page


Encuentro Vespa & Lambretta de Driebes

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Facebook Events Page


BSSO Scooter Racing – Mallory Park
Championship – BHR

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BSSO Site


 

Sammy Davis Junior. On a Lambretta.

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Just Sammy Davis Junior. On a Lambretta. But sometimes that’s all you need. Trying to collect the set. Somewhere in London by the look of it. Nicked from this blog.

Skelly style

A proper “Skelly” out of Thailand, from the YouTube channel of Motosyndrome Area 755. I don’t know much about the shop, but from this video it looks like they know their Lambrettas, and do quality custom work.

While not to everbody’s taste – when a skelly is done properly, they are a thing of rare beauty, and a real head-turner. With the custom headlight an chopper bars, chopped legshields, sidewinder seat to the twin megaphone exhausts, plus lots of other little touches – this one ticks all the boxes for me. Good job.

EV’s in E17

P1210966I got down to the Retrospective Scooters open day at their workshop/showroom in Walthamstow – London E17. The event was well attended with some nice Vespas, Lambrettas and even a Heinkel Trojan in attendance.

P1210955The theme of the day was ‘beating the (forthcoming) Ultra Low Emission Zone’ and there were lots of Electric scooters on display, both from the world leader in electric scooters, NUI, and with a couple of classic demonstrators – a Vespa and a Lambretta, both converted by Retrospective to run clean and green on electricity.

P1210956Both machines look very assured, and ‘sit’ like the classic scooters they are. Retrospective had a range of Royal Alloy scooters in attendance too… a modern auto clearly modelled on the classic GP (by way of the Scomadi of course), but The Electric GP next to them looked just like any other classic Lammy.

 

So what does an electric Lambretta ride like? Full disclosure, I didn’t ride one myself, but I spoke to a couple of people who did. The overall impression of everybody I spoke to was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone that rode one dismounted with a massive smile on their face. I was told that power comes on extremely smoothly, acceleration is fantastic and the whole ride feels very ‘natural’. From a bystanders point of view, it’s bizarre to see a Lambretta startup, move off, and accelerate away all without any noise, smoke or smell. Some might think these are key elements of the whole Lambretta experience – but I’ve seen the future, and it doesn’t smell of 2stroke! There is something really weird about a Lambretta zooming past you in almost complete silence – all you can hear is the noise of the tyres on the road. One issue that as a rider you’ll have to be even more aware than ever of pedestrians stepping out in front of you – as they won’t hear you coming! Retrospective are investigating including a noise generator as part of the conversion.

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There is going to be a huge majority of Lambretta owners who will always prefer the traditional 2-stroke powered internal combustion engine of the classic Lambretta. And while the ‘nostalgic side of me sympathises, and agrees, I can see the way the world is changing. There are more and more places where we won’t be allowed to ride a traditionally powered scooter. Or, if we are, we’re going to have to pay handsomely for the privilege. An electric conversion for your Lambretta (or Vespa) isn’t exactly a cheap option, but I for one have started saving up!

Something for the Weekend, April 6th –7th

So, I’m going to try and keep this running as a regular feature. Here’s a couple of things to keep you occupied this Saturday and Sunday…

Gingers Easter Egg run weekender – 5/6/7 April

22688338_382560102174473_1209654975486460933_nLeigh Miners,  Kirby Road, Leigh WN7 4EF, Ride out to Manchester Children’s Hospital at 13 00 hours, Music and fun Friday night till late, cheap beer, food, Saturday morning from 08 00 stalls refreshments, Saturday night from 19:00 music fun raffle food til very late. Don’t forget your Easter eggs!

Facebook Event Page


Retrospective Scooters Open Day – 6th

I did a big post about this yesterday, so I won’t repeat myself – here’s the link, or just scroll back 🙂


Vintage Motor Scooters Extravaganza – 7th

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Facebook Event Page


Run To The Island 15 – 7th

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Facebook Event Page


If you’re planning further ahead, check out the EVENTS page for a more comprehensive list.