Starting classic scootering – on a budget

I bought my first scooter on the money I earned in my Saturday job. I was 16, and worked two evenings a week, plus Saturdays, for a local supermarket. Somehow I managed to save up £600 – which was lucky because there was a Serveta LI 150 Special with something like 36 miles on the clock, for sale in my local free newspaper. It sat in the garage at my mum & dad’s until I was old enough to ride it on my 17th birthday. It was a bargain, even back in 1982. Sadly the days of a £600 Lambretta are long gone. Or are they? Read on…

So, what are your options if you’re a 16 year old these days, and you’ve got the good taste to want a classic scooter?

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The holy grail – the affordable Lambretta 

With even ‘standard’ Lambretta models like LI’s going for premium prices, and the more sought after models such as TV’s and SX’s going for silly money, there’s no easy answer.

Or maybe there is. Maybe it’s the unloved, ‘ugly ducking’ of the Lambretta family… the J range.
Developed in the mid sixties as a smaller, lighter and cheaper Lambretta, (let’s be honest here – it was a scooter for girls) the J range lacked the power and frankly the good looks, of it’s larger siblings. Despite the best interests of the Innocenti marketing machine, including commissioning the services of one Ms Shrimpton – the J range failed to take off, in Britain at least. 

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So. The J range has been traditionally unpopular with the British Lambretta fan. To be honest, it still is. The good news though, is it IS a proper Lambretta, and it’s very unpopularity means you can pick ’em up cheap. In the past getting hold of parts may have been a bit of a problem, but it’s much less so these days, the internet making it much easier to track down most bits. So how cheap is this “entry level” Lambretta? Well, you can pick up very nicely restored examples for under a grand, sometimes well under. And you could pick up a good runner that may be a little tatty for half that.

The J range came in a variety of engine sizes 50cc – 100cc (The “Cento”) and 125 (the J125, Starstream, and Super Starstream; depending on date of manufacture and trim). Personally, I think bigger is better, and a Starstream would probably do 55mph… not going to win you any land speed records, but fast enough for modern A roads.

So with bargain basement prices (for a Lambretta), maybe the J ranges time has finally come. In fact their looks are starting to grow on me. Slightly.

The other Lambretta option you may wish to consider is the Luna range… Lui, Vega and Cometa respectively. I LOVE their ahead-of-their-time space age looks, but I’ll admit they are even farther in looks from the class Lambretta shape than even the J -Range. So the Luna range is going to be a whole different post.

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The dark side
The “V” word. It’s got to be mentioned. If you want a classic scoot and you can’t stretch to a Lambretta, a Vespa is clearly an option. Who knows, you might strike it lucky and find a classic smallframe Vespa for not too much money. The ones to look for (probably, I know naff all about Vespa’s really) are 50 Specials and Primavera’s. These models are however getting more and more desirable and hence expensive. 80’s models such as the T5, PK’s and PX’s, once derided by Vespa purists are now regarded as classics in their own right – although you can still find half decent examples for the £500 – £900 mark. And they are very rideable scooters on todays roads. Apparently.

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The third way
While both 80’s Vespa’s and J range Lambretta’s are both good buys, there is possibly a third option. Innocenti (Lambretta) and Piaggio (Vespa) were the best known, and most succsessful makers of scooters, but they were far from the only game in town. A marque that I’ve always admired is the Agrati Capri… A scooter that in my ever so humble opinion is much prettier than a J range, and in fact “up there” with the best of Lambretta. They come up regularly on the likes of eBay, but be a bit careful that all the ‘bits” are there, as spares can be tricky to source.

So, where do you look for when buying your first classic scooter? I’ll cover that in part deux… coming up soon.

If you disagree with anything in this post, or just have some knowledge to share – great – I’d love your contributions in the comments section. Go on!

Photo credit: Pictures nicked off eBay.