Now let me tell you how I came by my current scooter and how I rekindled my love for all things Vespacious and Lambrettonian -and frankly, mod. I’ll tell you of my brush with the dark side first, for you must know that once, quite recently and for a year, I owned a Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive…nicknamed the Burgervan, unsurprisingly.
Now I certainly am not an executive of any description. I bought this beast to go the hundred miles to Wexford to visit my lovely mother without commandeering the car from my wife who needs it. This scooter was a beast. God knows how much it weighed but it surely was on the way to Goldwing territory. Something I never admitted to the chap from whom I bought it is that when I took it for a test ride around his estate, I actually dropped it while trying to turn in the street. I thought I’d never lift it back up and that I’d have to go and ask him to help. Fortunately, I did manage to haul it back up and return it. He must’ve wondered why I was all red-faced and sweaty. The point is -for all its power and comfort, it had no soul. It was just a massive hunk of metal and plastic that could go 120kph with no difficulty.
But I’ll get back to that; at the same time I had a Vespa ET4, which I really liked. Piaggio did a super job on styling, I think. Many Vespa aficionados don’t seem to like them and will not countenance them as true Vespas. I have a friend who is contemptuous of them, saying that Piaggio have departed from the original designer Corradino D’Ascanio’s vision. That’s true -they’re 4 stroke, you can’t change a wheel at the side of the road as there is no spare anyway, a puncture can’t be fixed with a bicycle repair kit and when something goes wrong with the electronics, you need a PHd-level mechanic with a computer to get them going again. But current emissions laws have to be satisfied and the vintage ones simply can’t do that.
Anyway, I think the industrial designers at Piaggio have done a brilliant job in making their scooters look like a natural progression of style -they’ve maintained the soul and in that sense, they’ve succeeded. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that D’Ascanio could never have dreamed that his machines built to be practical workhorses would turn out to be so iconic and so loved all over the world as icons of a particular style – with original early machines still highly sought after and cherished by their owners.
And on the other hand, there are many owners of original beautiful machines who have thoroughly departed from the vision -by turning them into choppers or Christmas trees. I always thought that the design was simple and elegant and never required modification beyond a paint job and a few other accessories.
But I digress; I was sitting in the pub one evening and a friend asked me if I wanted a scooter as another mutual friend had one sitting in his garden that he wanted to get rid of. Since space is limited in my garage and I already had one, I declined, with images of a rusty wreck in my mind. Furthermore, It could have been something like a Honda Vision, which has no redeeming features at all. A few months later, he brought the subject up again and I decided to take a look with the proviso that if I didn’t want it, I’d leave it there.
A few days later, I took a look and was surprised that it was a PX that seemed to be in pretty good order, despite having been left in a garden for nine years. I jumped at the chance to take it back home. There was no key (stolen apparently), and the steering lock was on so myself and a mate had to lift it onto a trailer.
Another friend who’s a locksmith genius made a key by feel alone. I’ve never seen that done before. (If you’re in Dublin, here are his details if you need to secure your home). I filled it with petrol and it started on the third kick. How’s that for robust engineering? That’s not to say there weren’t problems; there was an insect menagerie in the headset and there are various places where paint has started to peel. But that’s how I came by my lovely PX, a survivor with its spirit intact, like me. One day, when I h’ve sold many, many posters, I’ll have it resprayed and brought back to its shiny originality.
How did you come by yours? Any interesting stories I’ll publish here.*
*With the caveat that there’s no profanity or hate speech. We are, after all, people of style and integrity.
Let me tell you about my first scooter. It was a PX 150, a deep wine red, bought secondhand from Sutton Scooters in Northfields, west London. God knows how I got it home -I was nineteen and hadn’t ridden anything motorised before. Really; I can’t remember a thing; it must have been traumatic! I do remember the absolute and unadulterated joy I felt, waiting for the next day to take it out for a spin on the local streets. Freedom…It’s hard to remember such times; moments such as these become increasingly rare as you get older, don’t they? When you’re almost leaping with excitement.
Anyway, I did go out on it the very next day, and around the first corner I almost ran straight into a moving car because I blanked when it came to braking. I ended up out in the middle of the junction before I found how to stop. The driver screeched to a halt, got out and gave out yards to me. Turns out he was an official motorcycle instructor and he commanded me to appear at the instruction centre. How fortuitous was that? Angels must follow me.
So, here I am at 54, still striving for elegance, still chasing the dream of living la Dolce Vita, except now in the northern maritime climate of Dublin…I’ve been an independent artist and illustrator for more than twenty years, working for national papers all over the world, including the Wall Street Journal. Now I’m combining my love for Italian scooter design with my artistic skill -it had to happen eventually; they’re such design icons that they dovetail perfectly with anyone with an eye for jet-age lines and Italian style. I am blessed and very very lucky and I’m so grateful. Most of all to that very patient motorcycle instructor for me being here at all. He should’ve given me a thick ear…
Tell me about your Vespa or Lambretta* and include a pic. I’ll publish it here: email@example.com
*nothing offensive or abusive will be considered.