Dreaming of owning a scooter is one thing; buying it though is something completely different, as Dave (and his mother) found out.
Just like all his scooter mates, Dave dreamt one day of owning his own machine. The usual obstacle of parents wasn’t a problem, they’d already allowed his older brother to have a Yamaha Fizzy when he was 16. In fact, that was the only rule to adhere to, being the legal age required to ride one on the road. Oh, and that the money came from oneself and not borrowed. Negotiations with the old man sorted and with £60 in his pocket Dave set about the task in hand, buying one of Innocenti’s finest.
Although most of his friends had Vespas, for Dave it had to be a Lambretta. A picture of a Pacemaker (Li150 sSpecial) in a copy of Scootermania had made his mind up. The problem was the lack of Lambretta dealers as by the early 1980s most local dealers only stocked Vespas. There was of course no internet so it was a case of working his way through the Yellow Pages, but every dealer had the same reply: “Sorry, we haven’t had a Lambretta in here for years.” With all hope extinguished Dave tried the last number in the book, the answer there was no but there was a glimmer of hope. “Have you tried Swallow’s, I think they have some.” Dave quickly scribbled the telephone number down, hung up with a quick “thanks” and furiously dialled the shop.
Enjoy more Scootering reading in the monthly magazine.
Click here to subscribe & save.
It was an age before the phone was answered and gave the Dave an opportunity to ask again: “Do you sell Lambrettas?” The reply was completely unexpected. “Yes sir, we have about a hundred or so.” When Dave asked if there might be an Li150 Special among them the man on the other end muttered: “Yes, I think there are a few in stock.” Completely dumbfounded, Dave asked for directions and explained he would be there as quick as the number 11 bus could carry him. Sitting on the top deck his mind was racing away, still trying to fathom out how the hell a shop nearby not only had a pile of Lambrettas but the exact model he wanted when the rest of planet Earth seemed devoid of them.
It was a rainy day, the bus windows steamed up, so realising he was getting close Dave furiously wiped them clear with his coat trying to catch a glimpse of the showroom full of Lambrettas. The vision that greeted him didn’t quite live up to expectations; at first Dave explained this by presuming he was a stop too early. However, he wasn’t. Having exited the bus’s hissing doors the excitement of his journey quickly evaporated. The building, or the part that was still standing, wasn’t in the best shape and the hand-painted sign above the door hadn’t seen a brush in decades. There were two front windows, one with a pile of junk in it, the other with an assortment of Lambrettas separated by ancient gas cookers. It wasn’t the glossy showroom Dave had envisaged. If anything, it made Steptoe’s backyard look like Buckingham Palace.
Somewhat deflated, he opened the shop door, a battle in itself as it jammed halfway. A man appeared in grease-covered overalls and a blacked-out face, looking like an oily commando. “Can I help you?” he asked. Dave explained that he’d rung earlier about a Lambretta and the commando took him first outside into the rain and then into the next-door building. As they fought their way through an assortment of cookers and discarded Lambretta bits, the man explained where and where not to walk as the floor would fall in if you trod in the wrong place. Presumably the next stop if that happened was Hell.
Eventually they reached a dimly lit room full of Lambrettas, the remnants of Innocenti’s golden era. There was a strict price structure, £75 for a complete scooter, £50 for one without panels, and £30 for the real basket cases. With only a few pounds to spend Dave picked a basket case and together they dragged it to its freedom.
Daylight showed up the problem areas of the Special, which amounted to around 100% of its total sum. Having come this far, Dave wasn’t going to give up easily and after he’d been roped into shelling out a fiver for delivery and 50 pence for an old workshop manual, the scooter was loaded into the shop van for the journey to its new home. The clapped-out Datsun van chugged its way to Dave’s front drive, whereupon it was pushed out the back and wrestled to the ground.
The van sped off as quickly as it could, just in case Dave decided to change his mind. The driveway of his parents’ house was rather steep and as its tyres hadn’t seen air since the 1960s, pushing the scooter the last few feet was something of a battle.
Thankfully the rain, which by this time was pissing down, lubricated the concrete, making it easier for Dave to drag the hulk of a Lambretta up the drive while the crumbling tyres came off their rims.
Half way up the incline a window opened and Dave’s mother shouted: “You can take that back to whoever gave you it.” When she learned that Dave had actually paid good money for the wreck, his mother made her feelings on the matter very clear. The exchange of expletives continued as Dave pushed the Lambretta around the back of the house. Having calmed his mother down and shown her the oil-coated workshop manual, Dave explained how he was going to rebuild the battered machine and what the future would hold. His mother, now slightly calmer and ready to listen, felt happier as Dave announced: “Don’t worry mum, this is just the beginning.”
Enjoy more Scootering reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.