Words: Sarge | Photographs: Gary Chapman
Special, Chopdown, Skelly, Bonedown, Chicken Chaser and Cutdown are just some of the many terms that are used to describe a specific style of modified scooter.
There are a number of terms applied to Lambrettas that have had items of bodywork removed. Cutdown, and to a lesser extent Chopdown, both came into popular usage during the 1980s when referring to both Lambrettas and Vespas that had bodywork, panels, and even sections of the frame removed.
Some modifications were tastefully carried out to create custom scooters. Others were less neatly executed and often had a coat of matt black paint applied.
During the early part of the ’80s, factions of the Mod scene elevated themselves to such elitist levels, to the exclusion of all but a mere handful of individuals.
The move provoked an anti-Mod backlash on the scooter scene. What could be more anti-Mod than a scruffily dressed scooterist, albeit practically attired, riding long distances to rallies and staying on a wasteground campsite for the weekend? And especially those riding matt black rat scoots that had been hacked about with a handheld grinder?
Cutdown scooters, alongside heavily modified, engineered chopper scooters, have always invoked controversy. As well as polarising opinions, it’s fair to say that cutdowns are far less popular today than they were in the past. A bit like Marmite, really, because you either love the style or hate it.
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you
An appreciation of all genres of customised, modified scooters is an outlook which some, but far from all, scooterists have.
With a wide and varied personal taste for all types of scooters, Andrew Randell is amongst those people. Ranking at the top of his list of scooter variations is the cutdown.
Andrew first got into the scooter scene in ’88, the same year he experienced his first National Rally, which took him quite a while to get to on his PK 50 chop, although it wasn’t much more than a 25-mile ride from Norwich.
As a wide-eyed youngster, what impressed him most was the variety of cutdown scooters he saw at his inaugural rally. He had toyed with the idea of building his own cutdown Lammy, inspired by those ’80s machines that had made such a lasting impact on his young and impressionable mind all those years ago.
At the beginning of 2017, he took ownership of a LI125 Lambretta, which came with the legshields already trimmed, but with little else in the way of frame or body modifications.
“Once I’d got the scooter, I went to work with a jigsaw, grinder and drill, cutting, grinding and trimming until I’d got the ’80s cutdown appearance I was aiming for.
“My mate Stuart, who’s an engineer, designed and made the brackets, and helped out no end with some of the other bits and pieces to do with modifying the bodywork and frame. It took me about six months to complete, although I have been adding and changing one or two things ever since.”
Three, four, better lock your door
Deciding on both a name and a theme were relatively straightforward for Andrew. He’d always had a liking for the first in the marathon series of horror/slasher films based around the exploits of child killer Freddy Kruger.
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was released in 1984. Its popularity spawned many sequels, and was what prompted Andrew to go with the movie theme for his cutdown. The film had been written and directed by Wes Craven.
In box office terms, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was to become the third most successful series in the horror genre. That first film also marked the big screen debut of Hollywood A-lister, Johnny Depp.
Such was the popularity of the Elm Street films, that they spawned a four-hour long documentary entitled ‘Never Sleep Again’. Made in 2010, it included in-depth interviews with key people involved in the series. Scenes from the films and the name of the doumentary were adopted by Andrew for his cutdown.
The scoot’s artwork was created by Darren at AirFX, with murals gracing almost every conceivable body surface, thereby perfectly depicting the theme used by Andrew. AirFX also copied artwork for his helmet.
As to the scoot, there’s a one-off replica of Freddy Kruger’s bladed metal glove as seen in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, protruding from the rear of the left-hand panel. It was an idea Andrew had toyed with for a while.
“Basically, I wanted a way to hide the electrics. After talking through the practicalities of fabricating Freddy’s glove, it was an easy decision to go ahead with it. I can remove it in a couple of minutes, should I need to access the electrics.”
Five, six, grab a crucifix
Never Sleep Again was powered by a LI125 engine, which was more or less standard, apart from a larger Dellorto carb and a replica DJ Pipe.
Plans were already in motion for providing extra horsepower, in order to offer a considerable boost to the engine’s cubic capacity. The intention was to overhaul and upgrade his 125 motor to a Mugello 198cc setup.
During the interim, Andrew’s ’80s-inspired cutdown Lammy went to SG Engineering for the conversion to be carried out. Taking back possession of the scooter after the power unit had been upgraded, how was he finding the performance?
“It feels good, really good. I’m still running it in, and there are still a few miles to clock up before I’ll feel comfortable opening it right up. It runs as smothly now as it did when it had the 125 motor, and doesn’t miss a beat. I’d recommend a Mugello conversion, and SG Engineering, too!”
Now the engine’s been uprated, is there anything else to come? “I have a one-off headlight grill on its way, which reads ‘Never Sleep Again’.
After that has been fitted, there’s not much else I’ve got planned to change, although I belive that custom scooters are a work in progress, when ideas for improvements can crop up at any time. Actually, the grill apart, there is something else to add… miles on the clock!
“Myself and Mike, who owns and rides the custom Vespa, Amazon Warrior, are planning on attending all the Nationals this year. I know some custom scooters turn up to rallies in vans. To each their own, although that isn’t for me. Never Sleep Again has been built to be ridden, not hidden. Half the fun of rallies is the ride there and seeing if you can make it without any hitches.”
Given that building scooters can be addictive, Andrew is already considering other projects. “I’m actively looking for a T5 Vespa at the right price. I haven’t decided if I’ll be doing a street racer or full custom Vespa, but I’ll have plenty of thinking time while riding to the Nationals this year!”
Enjoy more Scootering reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.