Fast scooters… There was a time here in Holland that everybody had one. Tunes machines with 50 or even 70cc to ride (or better) race the open streets. Since regulations about speeding got a lot tighter, and youngster can get their car drivers license on the age of 17, it seems that the scooter died a quit dead here. So I was glad to see custom bike builders sometimes put their hands on an old Vespa or even better, a Lambretta.
Thinking of Lambretta as having demonic performances is something that only a limited number of enthusiasts can. Imagine joining the knowledge of a 1950s motorcycle champion, a designer from the new millennium, whose features are quite extravagant but at the same time conventional and try to guess the final result. For the spec lovers: this Lambretta has a TS1 performance kit with 225cc (stock is 200cc) and puts out a smashing 37hp. On a 70kg scooter!! The project has a long history and took almost three years to complete. Words by Tomás:
Lambretta has always been linked to the world of scooters, but far away is the year 1947, when Innocenti presented the model A. At the time the aim was only to provide an easy to use means of transportation which only needed basic maintenance. But like everything that has engines and wheels – and is born in Italy – the phenomenon has grown rapidly and the interest for competition has developed in the most diverse forms. Only two years after the introduction of the pioneering model of the Italian house, there was already a huge legion of fans to compete in the competition of the famous Lambretta. This came to be seen throughout the history of the constructor of Milan, first with private pilots, then with the entrance of the factory itself in official competitions, whether in tests of speed in the circuit, records of pure speed or even tests outside of the road.
Portugal did not escape this rule and perhaps one of the most striking names ever associated with Lambretta was Alfredo Baptista Rodrigues. After starting out in motorsport in 1954 on motocross with a 250cc BSA, the rider went on to the races reserved for scooters. These races were quite fashionable in the early 60’s and late 50’s and clubs like Sporting Clube de Portugal, Sport Lisboa e Benfica and even the Club 100 à Hora were just some of the organizers of major motorsports events that attracted huge numbers of fans. Alfredo soon began to look at the commands of a Lambretta 125, having gained evidence as the Tour of Portugal and signed an excellent performance in Lisbon-Porto-Lisbon, and these last races were already disputed when he was official pilot of the Lambretta. Later, he joined the brand Gilera, since the company Moto Lambretta Portuguesa, Lda was representative of the two brands. But the heart of Alfredo continued to be connected to the brand created by Inocentti and many years later, he was one of the great responsible for the creation of the Lambretta Clube de Portugal. That’s where he meets Tomás Da Costa Lima, a brand enthusiast who dreamed of building a Lambretta “unlike any other around.”
Tomás began to pressure Alfredo a few years before 1999. He went several times to Belém, where Alfredo had his boat business and his motorcycles of choice, to try to persuade him to move forward with the project. It should be noted that the project at this time was the same project, on paper and everything, and perhaps it was the enthusiasm of Tomás and his model of the future Lambretta that awakened the keen mind of Alfredo, who after a short time later decided to get to work. The tasks for the development of the bold project were thus launched: Tomás was in charge of the aesthetic part, while Alfredo was responsible for the technical part of the most daring Lambretta in Portugal. To that end, they commissioned various material from England, a country where the cult of scooters and transformations was at a fairly high level.
After the project had taken its first step and the material ordered had arrived in Lisbon, it was time to start “getting to work”. For this, three Lambretta’s built between the years of 1963 and 67 were necessary. The chassis chosen for the prototype was that of a Lambretta 150 DL, while from Li, the headlight was removed, as well as the handlebar and the side covers, and this last item served also to make the fuel tank caps. The front fork came from the more modern SX200 and the front fender came from a Luna which also helps to cool the radiator. As for the engine used, the base was a block of a Lambretta made in Spain. These machines were given the designation of Servetta and the chosen was one of the propellant units manufactured with 200cc of capacity. All other material was purposefully made for the prototype.
The handlebar was shortened and received a hydraulic front brake pump. It should be noted that the two steering dampers came from a Suzuki. As for the mudguards, this one was created from scratch. The frame is built from aluminum, while in the rear of this Lambretta was created from fiberglass and can be removed to access the fuel tank and engine. In order to get the rear suspension the way they were looking for, Alfredo was confronted with some setbacks. He had to manufacture three types of springs until they hit the one that is currently mounted on this machine. It’s made in Portugal by APV.
Another important item was the exhaust, an important component on this machine since it could help improve the performance significantly. In a first phase, it was installed on the right side of the engine, but it was no ideal position since it was on the same side as the kick starter. So they’ve changed the entire system in order to place the exhaust on the left side. They’ve also explored the possibility to mount a disc brake, but this was abandoned since it gave too much complexity to the machine and it would mess up the aesthetics of the bike.
Meanwhile, Alfredo passed away and Tomás found himself ready to finish the ambitious project. After a photo shoot in the studio, he decided that it was time to explore the potentialities of his machine. By the irony of fate, the Vespa Clube de Lisboa took a party to take two rounds to the Autodromo do Estoril, integrated into the races of the National Classic Motorcycle Trophy. The occasion could not be better and after having taken the Lambretta from a third floor without an elevator, it is finally time to put it in operation on a stage of excellence. With the feeling of a kid who would finally test his toy. After fitting the fuel tank properly, and after a few kicks on the kick pedal, the engine with 37 bhp gave a signal of itself, attracting the attention of all those who were at the race track. We even went so far as to say that the Lambretta captivated more attention than the Yamaha TZ there.
At the end of the day, Tomás revealed the audience with a smile from ear to ear: “It’s amazing! 37 bhp to about 70 kg, which is revealed in a great driving sensation. From 4,000 rpm, the engine does not stop evolving and it does not feel like I’m on top of a scooter. I have been in the 160-170 km/h at the end of the straight but I did not force the progress because as this is an unfinished work, could easily ruin everything in case of unforeseen events. It’s really amazing this Lambretta and I bet Alfredo would like to be here to try out his machine”.