A The Troubles – custom scooter
Some scooters create discussion because of their stunning artwork, others because of their controversial subject matter. The Troubles is set to be talked about for both reasons.
Controversial custom Lambretta.
Irish politics are among the most complicated and intractable in the world, so why would anyone even attempt to portray them on a custom scooter? Like most soldiers of his generation The Troubles’ owner, Aaron Mitchell (‘Mitch’), is a veteran of Operation Banner, the British military deployment to Northern Ireland. Having joined up as a boy soldier Mitch found himself in Belfast at the tender age of 17 and the Army’s 18th birthday present to him was his first operational patrol.
Unsurprisingly this, and subsequent tours, made a lasting impression on him. Although he’s a serial builder of custom scooters it’s taken a while for him to find the focus he needed to bring this idea to light. “I wanted to reflect my own experiences in Northern Ireland but in a non-judgmental way. Each side of the troubles gets equal coverage with the British Army running as a thread between the two.”
That, basically, was the intent of Operation Banner but of course intent rarely reflects reality and
Scootering has no intention of getting drawn into a debate that’s confounded some of the world’s greatest diplomats. For Mitch, using his personal experiences to try and present a neutral portrayal is commendable and ironically, given the strength of feeling on all sides, probably controversial in itself.
The base machine was a rather neglected Series 2 and its panel work beyond salvation, which Mitch replaced with a full fibreglass set from Leicesterbased GRP Scooter Parts. GRP has featured in a recent edition of Scootering and Mitch is a big fan of their products: “Fibreglass has come a long way from the ropey copies of years ago. I’ve used it a lot on previous builds and it’s proven very practical.
I’ve had a couple of ‘offs’ with no damage at all, it seems to absorb the impact and bounce back.”
The frame required some loving care and this, together with the panels was dispatched to Frazer at Envy Custom Paint, who is also based locally in Leicester, to work his magic. Mitch has used Frazer for previous customs and is a big fan of his work. “Frazer is not only a great artist he’s also reliable and sticks to time constraints. Unlike other custom painters he’s also happy to take a rough frame and get that right before starting. Much easier than messing around with various bodyshops. Before an airbrush went anywhere near the scooter he’d already worked miracles with the frame.”
The artwork on The Troubles is nothing less than stunning and extremely well thought out. Running along the scooter’s centre line, front to rear are tributes to the 31 Field Battery, Royal Artillery, Mitch’s former unit. The front mudguard is painted to represent a combat jacket with the zip forming the centre line. The horncast’s colours are those of the Campaign Service Medal awarded for service in Northern Ireland, with the medal clasp above the horn grille. Here lies a stroke of genius, imperceptible until pointed out but obvious once you’re told it’s there. The horn grille is painted to represent the medal and although the slots aren’t really wide enough to show it clearly, the Queen’s effigy is definitely there. That’s proof of the painstaking attention to detail in this build. The coloured stripes represent Mitch’s uniform stable belt, the buckles of which are so convincing that it’s hard to accept that they aren’t securing the toolbox lid in place. A screaming rat in army camo brandishing a rifle bursts through a Union flag on the leg shield toolbox. This is Mitch’s own unit deployment badge and is taken from a tattoo on his arm. Finally a beautiful depiction of the Royal Artillery crest has been tooled into the bespoke seat covering.
Each side of the scooter depicts iconic figures from both Unionist and Nationalist politics together with their symbolism. The legshields are particularly hard-hitting, showing that Mitch wasn’t afraid to tackle the more unsettling aspects of this period. Anyone who’s visited Belfast will recognise
this style as, intentionally or not, they are very reminiscent of the huge murals to be found adorning walls in both communities.
If the murals weren’t enough, plating by Quality Chrome sets off engraving by Adi Clarke and the whole ensemble is propelled by a RT230 unit from Mark Broadhurst.
Debuting at this year’s Bridlington show, The Troubles may provoke strong feelings but it deserves to be recognised first and foremost for what it is – a truly remarkable custom Lambretta. Words: Stan
Photgraphs: Gary Chapman
Series 2 curves provide the perfect canvas.
1-4 : Not afraid to tackle complex issues.
Not the obvious choice for a custom scheme.