Thursday, October 13, 2011

One hundred Smiles to the Gallon.

   I have a new toy!

   I know, I know, why would I need another toy? Well this one is something I have been lusting after for about 4 years on and off, with some six or seven month periods when I never even thought about it at all.

   My new toy is a  VESPA scooter. Not just any Vespa scooter though, but an antique.  It is a 1966 Sears scooter (made by Vespa but sold through Sears stores in America). Whilst riding home from work one day I happened to pass a metal building that had all it's doors open, through the open doors I could see lots of old American cars. As most of you know, I am not shy about pulling over and talking to almost anyone about anything at the drop of a hat. That is how I got to meet a fellow called Bobby McClain. Bobby was an older fellow, sad to say he is gone now {summer of 2011} but not forgotten, and  he and I walked around his building talking cars and such for 2 or 3 hours. On this first visit I did not see his little scooter as it was being screened by a 57 Chevy and an old Harley Davidson  motorcycle. Anyway, 2 or 3 visits later I came across the wee beastie you see below.    Sophia, for that shall be her name from this moment hence, was all dusty and a bit bedraggled looking but I could see the potential for a cool looking ride under all the dust. Fortunately for me I live in an area where everyone wants to be seen in a truck or on a fast motorcycle so I was the only person making any serious noise about purchasing "Sophia".
                                                                                                                                                                       After being in a warehouse type building for 20 odd years she was a little rough around the edges. A few little bumps and bruises here and there, and a tank full of gas that had turned into a really thick furniture varnish/wood glue looking concoction. Honest....when we cleaned the gas out it actually hung from the cloth like honey or Elmers Glue!!I later found out from Bobbies wife Thelma, that Sophia had not been ridden in at least 6 years.Now for the really good bit.....for 46 years this scooter had hardly been driven AND still had the original tyres on it "CEAT Made in Italy" So, what, you might ask, is the mile-age? Take a look.

                                                      Yep that actually is 1700 miles..........
After the exchange of a sum of money which I later found out to be about a quarter of the actual value of this bike to most scooterists, I took Sophia home.Here she is at home with me pretending to ride her.                         

Fortunately I have a friend, Mark Cornell, who used to work as a BMW motorcycle mechanic. He cleaned the carburettor for me (I can do it myself now!), and we put fresh gas in the newly cleaned gas-tank, crossed our fingers and worked the kickstart. Miracle of miracles, she started up on the fifth kick, (Okay its not up there with turning water into wine but Mark is only human, just).  Massive humongous mucho thanks to the best Vespa Mechanic in Avery County North Carolina............Mr. Mark Cornell.  Of course I let Mark be the first person to ride my new toy, it was only right. He took it up his driveway and back and dismounted with a big grin. "Cool" he said. High praise coming from a man who drives Buells, BMWs and other fancy schmancy bikes!  Here is a pic of me with Sophia actually running (you can tell 'cos the light is on)

                                             Yes I do look a little bit over the moon don't I.
Now then, back to those 46 year old tyres. I was told by a Very nice fellow called Paul, who runs a website called  "Den of the Vespa" that the best insurance I could get if I was to ride "this old scoot" would be new tyres.  The obvious inference being that the dry rotted old tyres would just disintegrate under the strain of  the high speeds and heavy loads I was going to put on them.  Being the kind of guy who laughs in the face of danger, I proceeded to ride the heck out of those tyres. I put over 300 miles on them going at mad speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, and leaning daringly into curves and corners like a latter day Barry Sheen. (The only motorbike racer whose name I know. Plus, he is English) Eventually age and strain did get to the tyres and I had a nice gentle blow-out at 45 mph on a smooth straight stretch of road. Lucky me!
                                       Below......Old tyres and old wheels.

Front wheel.

Back wheel.
Well that is all for now folks, hope you enjoyed the pictures and story. There will be more to follow on the adventures of............. SUPERSCOOTER.


  1. Love that tail light!
    Greetings from good old Europe, the most northern parts.

  2. Looks like a grand scooter, the kind I was used to seeing around my hometown...
    What a beautiful part of the world you live in, I'm just outside of Nashville, but close enough to drive up to the Great Smokies in three hours !
    Thank you for stopping by and visiting.