Words & Photographs: Sarge
The dictionary definition of the word customise is to change, alter, modify, personalise, to suit individual taste or requirements. This scooter has certainly been accessorised!
Fitting genuine, as well as after-market accessories are a way to personalise any vehicle. Scooter manufacturers, along with every other sort of vehicle manufacturer, weren’t slow in realising the financial benefits of offering extras.
Nor for that matter were entrepreneurial types, who saw there was the potential to cash in with their own items, intended to enhance, embellish and accentuate the appearance as well as functionality with all manner of vastly differing accessories marketed for either specific models, or in some cases more generally for a range of two-wheeled machines.
James King owns and rides a 1957 Lambretta LD 150 Mark 3. In the eight years he has owned his shaft drive classic, James has amassed an absolute multitude of genuine and aftermarket accessories and extras, including many rare, hard to find items, which now adorn his stock LD.
James is something of an avid collector of scooter memorabilia, specifically Lambretta. He’s at his happiest when riding one of his four Lambrettas, and rummaging through autojumbles tracking down anything Lambretta related – sales leaflets from all around the world, owner’s manuals, catalogues, dealers’ order forms, signs and similar, old rally memorabilia of all shapes and sizes, and much, much more.
If it exists, James is interested. One of the accessory manuals from the mid-late 50s proved to be his own personal bible for the duration of his quest to acquire LD accessories and extras for his Mark 3.
For James, owning and riding a LD Lambretta is a family tradition as well as being something of a return to his personal first experiences of riding a Lambretta in his misspent youth. James’ dad purchased a brand new LD Mark 3 from Kings’ flagship head office shop, based in an Art Deco building on Park End Street, Oxford.
Kings had a chain of outlets in England, offering new and second-hand motorcycles, and later scooters for sale. During the 1970s Kings sold up, and all that remains from those glory days is part of the building’s shell. The entrance has a cracked and worn,large Art Deco star set into the marble floor at the doorway proclaiming ‘Kings’.
After a few years’ riding his LD, James’ father went back to Kings to part exchange his LD for a then brand new TV175. Regretfully, there aren’t any photographs of his father’s two Lambrettas, even though both machines were ridden all over the UK while under his dad’s ownership.
James’ own first experiences of riding a Lambretta were as a youngster with a bunch of mates blatting round waste ground near to where he lived at the time on a rather battered, but nonetheless reliably resilient LD I50 that was communally used as a pit bike.
James hasn’t followed the usual, quasi-traditional path to the scooter scene, which for many of a similar age invariably involves Quadrophenia and/or music of The Jam/The Who/Mod revival/Two Tone etcetera, nor was his first scooter a Vespa 50.
He has always been a Lambretta man, his first legal, on the road scooter being quite a rare machine in its own right, a Cento 50, aka, via its legshield badge, Baby. “It was three-speed, and I can remember it being very slow. I was regularly overtaken by milk floats and cyclists.”
Full dresser tourer
There’s a description applied to motorcycles adorned with accessories that is of American origin, and is applicable to James King’s accessorised LD, which is ‘Full Dresser’. The term is an abbreviation of Full Dresser Tourer, in reference to motorcycles fitted with all manner of extras to enhance and aid the experience of touring.
James King’s LD Lambretta certainly fits the criteria to qualify as a Full Dresser. Not only has he fitted many rare extras, embellishers and all manner of accessories, but the vast majority are also genuine original items. He has amassed alternative options so he can change some of them around.
An anti-aerodynamic Avon windscreen, along with all the brackets, plus an as yet unfitted ’screen rear view mirror, were sourced via one of the UK’s leading Lambretta Shaft model gurus, Howard Chambers.
Much midnight oil was burnt tracking down the ultra-rare Selection Columba twin legshield bags, complete with matching single seat and spare-wheel covers, which are a seriously rare set of extras.
Equally scarce is the set of tartan Lycett matching travel panniers and suitcase, mounted on their own brackets and stabilising bar, designed to bolt to the spare-wheel/rear carrier and, in effect, surround either side of the LD back end and which frames the currently fitted, single reflector, Catalux rear light lens.
Being a bit of an obsessive collector, James also has a Super Catalux rear LD lens with twin reflectors which he can switch to, should the mood take him. Other accessory options James has to literally swap around on his LD Full Dresser are listed in his extensive list accompanying his spec sheet replies.
Looking over James’ extensive list of accessories and there is an abundance of Vigano bars, embellishers and other items. To those with a similar outlook as James, the very mention of Vigano can invoke all manner of involuntary physical reactions, such is the desirability, rarity and necessity to acquire certain extras with the intention of tastefully adorning their steed.
Prices commanded for both second-hand, as well as new old stock, are at an all-time high, with no indication of the bubble bursting on the very lucrative market of original period accessories. This equates to the initial outlay by James for his LD which has been already exceeded, in fiscal terms, in comparison, by the rare items his Mark 3 LD is clothed in. There have been long nights trawling through internet sales and auction sites worldwide, coupled with equally long days meticulously sifting through box after box at auto-jumble events, car boot sales and even visiting old-fashioned scrap merchants, as well as old two-wheel machine outlets, searching for elusive must-haves.
Even when successful in sourcing a find, with the amount of knowledge available at the touch of a keyboard button, proper bargains are as rare as the items being hunted. Authenticity and originality are of course (er) King for James, as well as other enthusiasts like him. There is a brace of parts currently fitted to his LD that he intends to replace when he eventually tracks down the genuine items, namely the re-made rear bumper bar and a re-made copy of an Arbath exhaust system.
The latter sports a rare, genuine badge retrospectively added to the silencer by James. One extra that so far has proved too elusive for James’ detective skills, and bank balance, is a genuine late 50s Faras radio. In today’s digital and FM world, the radios are unlikely to pick up any active radio station.
Nevertheless, for the time being, and albeit being purely decorative, the acquisition of a Faras radio, which were available from roadside petrol stations when they were new, has become a Holy Grail-like quest for James.
“I’ve only seen one Faras radio for sale on a well-known internet auction site, but sadly my maximum bid was way below the final sum it sold for. I’ve never been much of a drinker, and it follows that I’m not much of a party animal, so I’m more than happy pottering aut on a 50-150 mile ride on my own, on one of my four Lambrettas, all of which are more or less standard. When I do get along to a gathering of scooters, local-ish rallies, custom shows, and my favourite, part fairs, I like to have a good look at the different scooters there.
“Although choppers, cutdowns and radically engineered scooters are not to my personal taste, I do appreciate any scooter that’s had a lot of thought and effort put into it. Also, I enjoy chatting to the owners, especially about how certain things were achieved. Riding my accessorised LD isn’t to do with top speed performance; the opposite applies for me.
“I like nothing better than tootling around, often on B-roads, enjoying the scenery, as well as the many smiles, glances and waves I get. It transports me back to a time when Innocenti-made scooters were becoming an internationally known and appreciated form of transport. With the Avon screen fitted, my LD manages around 40mph, 45mph on a good day, which is more than enough for me on a 50s shaft-driven Lambretta.”
To me, the amount of time and effort James has so far, and undoubtedly will continue to invest in his Mark 3 LD150 Full Dresser, is at least on an equal footing with full-blown custom scooters. If the hours spent by James, finding and fitting the many rare accessories, were to be compared to the hours spent engraving, plating and painting a full-blown custom, I’d hazard a guess that this LD Full Dresser would just about shade it.
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