Rare Li Special
Based on factory records, the Lambretta Li 125 Series 3 ended production in June 1966, but between September and November 1967, 1472 Lambretta Li 125 Series 4 scooters were produced. The frames of these scooters were stamped LI4 and while at first glance they looked like a standard Li finished in a pale blue paint, on closer inspection they featured clip on panels, push in fork buffers, a square Innocenti badge on the horncast with the SX type rear frame badge at the back, and most had the later plastic toolbox too. Our conclusion back in 2002 was that some country had probably placed an order for a number of basic Li model Lambrettas with Innocenti that consisted of enough units for them to dig out the old Li tooling, produce the new horncast and side panels to go on this scooter, create a new model (Li4) as well as obtain new homologation papers for part of the scooter. However, with just 1472 scooters produced, it seems reasonable to assume that this order was cancelled, and as no advertising or marketing for this new scooter has become apparent Innocenti probably sold them off within Europe to whichever concessionaires were interested.
Why the brief recap? Well it may well go some way to explaining how this Li Special came about.
The scooters accompanying this feature, the blue and white Lambrettas, look at first glance to be ordinary Series 3 Li models. But they’re not. They are in fact Li 150cc Special Lambrettas. No, not your common or garden LI 150 (which ended production in May 1967) or LIS Specials – as in Golden, Silver or Pacemaker – (which ended production in October 1966 when the SX150 was launched) but a different model entirely.
I first heard of these scooters a few years ago now when talking to the brothers Finn at a rally somewhere. Martyn was talking about his SX150 with Li bodywork that he was pretty sure was all original yet wasn’t sure why it was like that. Neither was I, so I did a little investigating and that’s when I turned up the dealer advert hereabouts. With the Super Starstream and the early Luna range models also featured, this dated it as 1968.
Earlier this year, by pure coincidence, two scooter shops turned up examples of these Li Specials. Disco Dez Scooters had an original condition one and another in for a service, while Nick at South West Scooters was offered the chance to buy a couple of old Lambrettas that had been left to the elements for a number of years.
While Dez and Nathan up in the West Midlands knew their scooters’ history, Nick was initially under the assumption the pair he’d been offered were standard Li models, one red and white the other blue and white. They looked virtually the same, and indeed the red and white one was a standard Series 3 Li. It was only when he took a closer look at the blue and white one however that he realised all wasn’t as it first seemed.
More than meets the eye
So what are these Li specials then? Well the three here are standard looking Li Series 3s with blue and white bodywork, the only immediately obvious difference being the ‘special’ badge on the legshields, and if you’re really keen the use of a ‘Lambretta Innocenti’ rear frame badge rather than a Li one. However underneath they have a frame stamped SX150 and matching engine. Not only that, but on these examples the frame numbers fall in line with regular SX150 numbers, 7751xx and 7753xx, suggesting they were produced around June 1968. This unfortunately suggests that it would be impossible to determine whether a
scooter is a SX150 or Li 150 Special by chassis number alone. It would also suggest that whether the production of this Li 150 Special was instigated by another special order from overseas that was cancelled, or general demand for the return of a budget model in Europe, that Innocenti didn’t want to go to the expense again of creating another ‘new’ model and so simply used what they had currently rolling off the production line.
Of course by this time Innocenti’s plan for the forthcoming new GP/DL Lambrettas was well under way, so it could have been that they had a stockpile of old body parts from the failed Li Series 4 that they simply wanted to get rid of before 1969 to make way for GP range spares.
So, like the Series 4, this Li’s horncast had the later, square Innocenti horn badge, the legshields are non-chrome ring, the side panels are clip-on, and underneath a plastic toolbox is fitted. The example unearthed by South West Scooters has forks with bolt-in buffers and while they look original there’s no guarantee of course. The other two have clip in buffers.
As for the engines, they are stamped SX150 too, and come with a SH1/20 Dellorto carburettor rather than the LI Series 3’s SH1/18, suggesting that Innocenti simply fitted the stock SX150 motor to keep things simple.
In the UK the Li 150 Special sat in the Lambretta range at £179.19s.6d in May of 1968 (according to Scooter World magazine), but by the time the advert hereabouts was published it has risen to £187.19s.6d, £28 more than a J125 Super Starstream, but £12 less than the SX 150 with which it shared engine and frame with, offering potential customers a more competitively priced large frame 150. By comparison in March 1968
Scooter World published prices of the Vespa 150cc Super at £174.10.0d and the 150 Sprint at £207.12s.6d.
Some British press of the time suggested that the Li 150 Special introduced here in 1968 was an “economy model based on the Pacemaker but with direct lighting and no battery” but the Pacemaker had the SH1/18 carb too.
Incidentally, this Li 150 Special model was produced by Innocenti in Italy and is not to be confused with the Spanish Li models that Lambretta Concessionaires imported from in the early 70s.
How Special? Talking to Dean at Rimini Lambretta Centre while researching this article, he revealed the only example of such a scooter he’s come across was one of those at Disco Dez’s pictured here.
Of course as the engine and frame are both stamped SX150 there’s a good chance that most of these Li Special models have simply disappeared over the years with subsequent owners innocently assuming the previous custodian had for one reason or another fitted incorrect body parts, and so the scooters have been transformed in to SX150 models that their VIN suggested. For this reason, unless any Innocenti record surface in the future it is unlikely we’ll ever know how many were made, the exact reason as to why, and because unlike the Li Series 4 there is no obvious marking on the frame to tell us what they are (or were), the chances of finding any today are getting slimmer. It’s also not known how long production lasted either, with the SX150 tailing off until the final batch of 167 were produced in January 1969. Did it continue until the end or had Innocenti run out of Li parts by then?
So if you’ve got a Li 150 Special and can fill in any more of the story, then please do get in touch. And if you’ve got one it’s also worth remembering that the chances are it is a rarer scooter than the GP 200, and it’s possible fewer were produced than even the Li Series 4 too. Whether this adds any value to a Li 150 Special I don’t know, but I think there’s certainly some kudos in having such a model, even if to all intents and purposes it looks like a standard blue and white Li 150. Just keep polishing that ‘Special’ badge on the leggies…
Above left: Granted the rear floorboard has rotted away on this example, but when Nick from SWS removed the side panel he did find the original keys!
Above right: Plastic toolbox is another sign this is a late model Lambretta. No battery tray either.
Above left: The SX150 engine prefix… Above middle: …and same frame prefix on the scooter at Disco Dez’s. Above right: SX150 frame number on the SWS scooter.
Above: No bolts indicates clip-in fork buffers on Dez’s Special. Below: Are the bolt-in buffered forks originals on the SWS scooter, or were they replaced a long time ago?
Above left: Rear frame badge of the SX models, not usually associated with Li Lambrettas. Above middle: Noemi-Rosa seat, as fitted to all these Li 150 Specials.
Above right: Additional Special badge on the legshields, and late Innocenti horncast badge.
Top left: 20mm carburettor of the SX range used on the SX150 fitted to this Li. Above: Spotted the missing panel handles yet? Right: Non chrome ring legshields, extra Special badge and late Innocenti badge on the horncast; all tell-tale signs on these original condition scooters.
Above: 70mph speedometers fitted as standard to these Li 150 Specials.