1955 Vespa VL1 Restoration

When I was a kid I remember visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  My uncle had a large double lot, with the house on one side and the other devoted to a garden, lawn and trees.  It also made a great place to ride his garden tractor (big thrill for a nine year old!!) and the even cooler motor scooter!

The old scooter was a white (or grey) 1955 Vespa 150cc scooter.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time, it was just the coolest thing in the world.  I never got to be the driver, but I did ride on the back while my older cousins or sisters drove around a dirt path that lapped the garden and trees.  It was old then, and got older as we all did.  Eventually the scooter rides came to an end, and the scooter was no longer running.  My uncle died in the late 70s, and the scooter was parked beside the garage.  I always dreamed about fixing it up, but lacked even a means of transporting it to a place to work on it – which I also didn’t have.  Eventually I just assumed it had been sold or scrapped.

Fast forward 20 years or so…  and I get a call about the scooter.  My aunt is moving from the house and my cousins are cleaning out the house, garage, shed and lot.  The scooter is still there, it’s rusty and all, but do I still want it?  Of course I answer yes without even much thought about it.  It’s finally time to bring the old ride back to life.  Talk about your once in a lifetime nostalgia trips!  So with a borrowed pickup truck I made the trip down to Kansas City to pick up the scooter.  It was worse off than I remembered, but not much worse looking than I expected.  At least I didn’t think so, until I got a little further into things.  The tires were flat and crumbling, and there was rust everywhere.  The motor wouldn’t turn.  The wheels wouldn’t turn – making it tough to move, of course.  The last license plate was still in place, a ’67 Kansas tag.  If it weren’t for the family history, I would have declared it a basket case, parted out the engine and called it quits.  Any sane person would have walked away, quickly.  But into the pickup it went, and home it came, with the occasional question at the gas stations – “Hey, is that an old Cushman?”  No, it’s a Vespa…  followed by puzzled looks.  Everyone has heard of Cushman, but no one remembers Vespas.  Strange, considering Vespas probably outnumber Cushman scooters about a thousand to one, but who hasn’t seen long lines of Shriners putt-putting along on their Cushman scooters?  Of course some of those were actually Vespas anyway!

So into the garage went the sad remains of the little white scooter.  Even in its advanced stage of decay the lines were still very pretty.  There was a really nice looking little scooter in there somewhere, but I guess you had to look deep.  Spiders were everywhere, along with dirt, rust, some vines, and more spiders.  And still more spiders!!  It took months to get them out of all the nooks and crannies.  

I have split the project into pages for the body and engine, and will add more as time permits.