New geared scooter
Q: Why do dogs lick their testicles? A: Because they can!
In the Eighties the aftermarket for scooter accessories in Western Europe grew fast, particularly in the sector of performance equipment. While it was relatively easy for anybody with some basic tools and a Dave Webster tuning manual to make piston ported Lambrettas go faster it was a whole different story with Vespas. Their rotary valve induced engines require a bit more skill and effort, which created a vacuum for tuning kits. Italian companies like Polini, Pinasco, D.R, Malossi and others jumped on the bandwagon and produced bolt-on cylinder kits for small and large frames. If you combined these with an appropriate expansion chamber, carb, air filter/bellmouth, matched cases and modified inlet you were able to squeeze up to around 25 brake out of a 200cc large frame engine.
Then the next bandwagon came along; the exploding auto-scooter market of the Nineties. The manufacturers and many dealers (at least on the continent) couldn’t drop geared scooters fast enough to sell 70cc kits and variator rollers. And they did well! Every supermarket car park had spotty youths in tracksuits wheelying up down on a Piaggio Typhoon... until the relatively sudden demise of that trend. What’s to blame is not entirely clear but conjectures are it was a combination of cheap Chinese replicas flooding the market plus youngsters losing interest in burning fuel for pleasure. That coincided with the arrival of smartphones so now they could communicate with friends without the need of a transport.
Les burettes du chien At the same time the demand in the geared scooter segment started to grow again; throughout Europe many people who rode them in the Eighties and Nineties now returned in a quest to recapture a piece of their youth and scooters were an important part of it. No cigars for guessing what the manufacturers and the trade did next! However, the irony of this development is that a lot of businesses that tried to only specialize in geared scooters and gave autos a miss have died. And many of those who switched to autos but did not revert back to geared scoots have also vanished today.
So what does this demonstrate? Firstly, it is a prime example of the importance of adapting to changes in market places. Secondly, one can employ a ridiculously long-winded way to elaborate the simple and basic fact that Vespa tuning is undergoing a revival. To wit, in recent years Italian manufacturers such as Quattrini, Parmakit, Falc or Malossi developed kits that produce 25 ponies out of the box. With some fettling and the addition of the right components you’ll end up with an air-cooled, road going 40hp+ Vespa, no matter if it’s a small or large frame. To summarize, the wet dreams of any Vespisti lunatic have come true!
Markus Blau from the Rhineland in Germany is the owner of this PX you see pictured before you. He started his scootering career in the Eighties on a PK 50, which makes him a prime representative for the above scenario with the exception that, unlike others, he never had a break from it. Even his appetite for performance tuning is still alive: “I always wanted to ride a liquid-cooled scooter so three years ago I decided to start my own project. I prefer to take my time and do things thoroughly.”
La coglioni del cane
Marcus’s job as a safety technician in power stations not only gives him the skills for such a project but also caters for getting specialized tasks done. For instance, welding an aluminium jacket around an old style Malossi 210 barrel. However, the majority of work was completed by the man himself; the engine built, the liquid cooling system, the frame modifications and, most of all, the wiring and trick electrical gadgets. Today custom bike builders can buy almost any electrical component and electronic gizmo straight off the shelf but it was important to him to make use of his sphere of competence and make his own parts – because he can.
The subtlety of this scooter only reveals the extent of work at second glance. The chassis modifications are a good example. At closer inspection you’ll find the frame has been completely de-seamed, there are no visible pipes or tubes, the radiator and the rest of the cooling system are nicely tucked away inside the toolbox and under the spare wheel panel. The cut-outs and grilles for the airstream cooling look like they came straight from the factory. Even the section behind the number plate has been removed and welded back in place just a tiny bit deeper. It even features an invisible LED that illuminates the number plate.
Los cojones del perro
It was at the German SRFM rally where I spotted the freshly finished bike in its flesh and ended up chatting to Markus: “So does it work alright then?” He frowned: “Everything’s okay except the crank had to be replaced and the radiator squirted water out at 90mph. But I am still at the testing stage so it’ll only be a matter of getting the temperature control sorted.” Knowing him for many years I am sure this last obstacle will only be a minor issue for him.
However, as far as the inevitable question was concerned – “Why the hell did you do it the hard way and not just simply use any of the modern kits?” – the answer was almost predictable: “I could have done that and just whacked a more powerful air-cooled barrel on. But the objective was to create a liquid-cooled bike with that extra bit of grunt that’ll take me to a rally at travelling pace. I would have easily got the 30hp that it’s making at the wheel out of any of today’s kits. But that’s defeating the point… I simply wanted to prove to myself that I can do it.”
Well, that sounds reasonable to me and it looks like Markus managed to create a scooter that not only suits his needs but also his personality; unobtrusive, while its true capabilities lie in its intrinsic values.
Everything’s okay except the crank had to be replaced and the radiator squirted water out at 90 miles an hour
There are lots of subtle touches on this Vespa, like the cleanly mounted electrical components under the left panel (above) and the trick back lights (left).
Above left: This Vespa features fully hydraulic disc brakes front and rear.
Above right: Radiator, hosing, brake fluid reservoir are all in the toolbox.