Resurrecting the Vespa (again)

The Vespa scooter (a 1955 Vespa VL1, if you’re not familiar) has been parked in the hangar for several years now. I don’t really remember how long, exactly, but the license plate expired in 2018 so it was around then. I’d ridden it a couple of times around the airport, but several years ago it refused to start and I hadn’t figured out why. I knew it was ignition related, and I was holding off until I could find the CDI ignition kit I knew I’d bought and install that. In August of 2021 I cleaned out the gas tank (the gas had gone very bad) and carb, and got it running — but it refused to start more than once without taking the flywheel off. I eventually put it more-or-less back together and there it’s sat since.

Well, the day came when we got a letter from the airport authority demanding that we get a bunch of stuff out of the hangar – including the scooter. In the process I managed to find the CDI kit. Unfortunately, I then discovered that it’s a complete pile of shit from a horrible now-defunct Vietnamese supplier. They couldn’t even drill four holes in a square to fit the fan. I don’t think I’ll be using it.

On the bright side, I did discover the cause of the ignition problems — a broken wire on the condenser. A lot has changed in the marketplace since the last time I needed to buy scooter parts for this rare old scoot, and I ended up ordering a bunch of parts from Germany to fix the ignition as well as a bunch of other things that needed fixing. When the parts arrived, I replaced the points and condenser, but didn’t even bother to set timing or point gap before seeing if that made a difference. Miraculously, the gas was not bad enough to cause problems. I squirted a bit into the carb and the old gal started and ran on the first kick. There is a Santa Claus!

Now I’m going through doing some post-restoration work that has been deferred for far too long. I’ve installed new shift cables (the old ones were too short and hit the legshield when turning). I removed the grips, cleaned everything up, lubed and re-installed. I put in a new clutch inner cable and put on the new spare tire carrier I finally found (these didn’t exist a few years ago). I’m replacing the rubber bits that I bought from various places back when I first finished up the restoration; they were made from some horrible shitty rubber that either just dried out and crumbled, or turned into a mess of stuff that looked like someone had hit it with a torch. Some of the wiring has proven inadequate; I’m replacing the wires to the headlamp assembly. Along the way I also cleaned up the carb and fuel system again, replaced the gearbox oil (and the oil seal), and I’m about to see why the steering stops don’t appear to be working on either side.

SIP Scootershop has proven to be my new go-to source for a lot of things, though Scooter Mercato has some good stuff as well. Some of the old places I’ve used either don’t exist any more or have far less inventory available for the old widebody Vespas. I get it; there are a lot more 60s and 70s and later scoots out there than the ’46-’55 models. I’m just glad there are places picking up the slack, even if they are nearly all in Europe.