Having just completed his ‘father and son’ trilogy Stu was delighted when, by chance, he discovered the detail for his ‘father and daughter’ story…
At Kev Walsh’s Bradford Parts Fair in January 2018 we met 14-year-old Elly Phelan who was busy helping her Dad with his ‘jumblers’ stand. The stand in question was run by Bob Phelan of the West Riding Scooter Club (Bradford) who now lives in Bridlington.
In between Bob and Elly helping the customers at their stand we were able to spend a few moments with them…
“I got interested in the scooter scene through my dad. He’s had dozens of scooters over the years. I really liked the look of them and I liked the whole image which came along with them,” Elly explained.
Bob Phelan’s been into scootering since the early 80s. He was brought up on the Buttershaw estate in Bradford, and he explained that his interest in scooters started from when he used to see the lads riding round the estate on their scooters.
Bob also used to be a regular visitor to the Buttershaw Youth Club and the Sedburg Youth Club, both of which had music nights with Northern Soul sections in them. “There used to be some lads who came across especially for the northern soul music and their dancing was something else.
The whole northern soul music scene encapsulated me and I caught the infection,” said Bob. Since Elly was a little girl, Bob and her mum used to play northern soul music in the house. “I loved it,” Elly said, “And now I regularly go to northern soul nights with my mum and dad.”
At the time, Bob’s older brother Shaun owned a scooter and it wasn’t long before Bob went to his first scooter rally, Scarborough, as a teenager in 1981. Later he bought his first scooter, a Lambretta Li150 Series 3, and joined the West Riding Scooter Club.
Bob currently rides ‘Forever Young’, which is a custom Vespa PX125 and was inspired when Bob lost his very close friend, Marcus Wilson.
Growing up in Bradford, Bob didn’t live far away from Len’s of Shipley. “I always had a passion for the ‘Len’s Specials’.” Bob explained. “The theme of the Len’s Specials artwork was based on silhouette style and looked fantastic.”
Bob bought the scooter, which he developed into ‘Forever Young’ in 2004 as a general restoration project. Around the same time Bob’s pal Andy McGee was riding a Vespa T5.
Towards the end of 2006 Andy passed the T5 over to Bertie Carr for a yellow and purple metal flake paint job, which he got back at the end of 2007. During that time Bob had decided on the theme for his scooter, ‘Forever Young’, which would be in a ‘Len’s Special’ style and he sent it over to Dave Dickinson for the artwork to be completed.
At that time Andy McGee was living in West Yorkshire and Bob had since moved to Bridlington. In early 2008, Bob and Andy met at Stamford Bridge, North Yorkshire, for an ‘East meets West’ meeting.
The two scooters looked fantastic together and the next part of their plan was to ride them together to the Scarborough Easter Rally. However; the plan never came to fruition because in the meantime unfortunately Andy decided to sell his T5.
“There were no issues, and I always thought Andy’s scooter looked fantastic. I also had a connection to it, and because I knew it so well I knew it would make the perfect scooter for Eily, I just had to track it down,” Bob said.
The T5 kept appearing on auction sites like eBay and Gumtree, Bob kept chasing it but it constantly kept eluding him, until 2014 when Bob’s pal, John Oldfield contacted him out of the blue and said: “It’s on eBay, again. Now!”
Time for action
Bob immediately contacted the seller and told him he’d give him the asking price. The seller explained that he had someone coming to see it at tea time that day. “It was like Wacky Races!” Bob laughed.
“I went straight to the bank, got the cash, got in my van and set off over to Bradford to buy the scooter. In the meantime John went round to stand guard at the fella’s house to fend off any other potential buyers who might arrive before I got there!”
Over the six years, which had passed since Bob had last seen the scooter it’d been through approximately 20 owners and it was in need of some TLC.
“When I got it, it wasn’t anything like the last time I’d seen it. It was going to be Elly’s first scooter and I wanted it to be restored back to its former glory.” Bob explained.
He carried out fixes to the areas of mechanical neglect and in the meantime he passed the bodywork over to Dave Dickinson to complete upgrades to the paintwork. Dave managed to find perfect paint matches for the job and made it ready for Elly.
A wider knowledge
Although Elly’s only 14 years old she has a good understanding of scooters and the workings of a scooter. “My dad’s been a scooter ‘jumbler’ for about eight years and from being about six years old I’ve been going on scooter ‘road trips’ to buy scooters and scooter parts with him,” she said.
“Elly’s got the ‘eyes’ on my stall. She’s got a good idea if someone’s genuinely interested in buying a part or a scooter and helps with the sale,” Bob said. “She helps out and does her bit; she’s not a skiver. I don’t have sales targets but if she has a good day then she’ll get a bit extra pocket money,” Bob laughed.
While Elly’s helping Bob out with the scootering side of things she’s also studying hard at school to follow her passion to become a veterinary nurse. It’s fair to say that Elly still has a few years to go before she can ride her T5.
Bob explained that his plan for Elly is for her to miss out having a 50cc scooter so she can stay focused on her studies, and for her to complete her CBT when she’s 17 and then start riding the T5. We asked Bob about how he would introduce Elly to the more complex side of riding a scooter.
“I don’t want her starting off on the same road as me, it wouldn’t be a good example!” Bob laughed.
“My plan is for Elly to start riding independently first and then to get used to riding in a group. When she’s confident with that, her first ride out will probably a group ‘ride-out’ or multi-meet.
Once she’s familiar with riding in a group I’ll start looking towards her moving onto doing a longer distance ride to a rally and with more riders,” he said.
In the meantime, Elly intends to constantly improve her scooter knowledge by observing Bob’s current scooter builds, going to scooter rallies and events and helping her dad at the parts fairs.
Bob explained that providing Elly with a comprehensive understanding of scooters is of paramount importance as it will help her with her competence on the open road and keep her riding safe. Elly agreed and added: “I know it’s a while off yet, but I’m hoping that my first scooter rally will be the ‘Cheeky Northern Monkeys’ Rally in 2021!”
DAD AND MACHINE
Name: Bob Phelan
Job: Bus driver.
Scooter club & town: WRSC (West Riding Scooter Club) Bradford. Now live in Bridlington.
How and when did you first become interested in scooters: Seeing the scooters and the lads from the Buttershaw estate (‘Jelly’, ‘Macca’ and ‘Kipper’) all looked so cool. I was hooked! Also going to the Buttershaw Youth Club. Hearing northern soul music and watching the older ones dancing.
First scooter: Lambretta Li150 Series 3.
What is your favourite scooter model: S-Type ‘AF Rayspeed’ and 80s ‘Dyrospeed’.
First rally or even: Scarborough 1981.
How did you get there: Got there on my Li150, broke down on my way home. My brother Shaun got our dad to pick me and Marcus up in his Cortina estate!
Any stories: Loose lips sink ships!
Favourite rally/event: Cheeky Northern Monkeys, it’s a top weekend (‘Stubby’, Trev and the lads). I also get time to spend with the lads ‘n’ lasses from my home town. John, Paula, Brendan, Paul, Stuart and Clayton SC.
Funniest experience with a scooter: Seeing a GTS burnt to the grounds. Sorry, it made me smile.
Favourite Scootering magazine feature: ‘Show us your Scoots’. Still waiting to see Steve Tkatschuk’s photo, he sent it in six years ago and it’s still not appeared! (Sorry, private joke).
Favourite custom/featured scooter of all time: Too many to choose from, although a Vespa chop that always made me smile was ‘Little Rascal’.
Name of scooter: ‘Forever Young’. Built in memory of Marcus Wilson. I went to school with him, he was a club member and died young.
Other themes considered: A copy of my brother’s Len’s Special. It was stolen, but myself and my brother Shaun had some great times on that scooter. Talking it through with Dave Dickinson and we decided on an up to date version.
Scooter model: Vespa PX125E ‘02’.
Date purchased & cost: 2004 – £1000.
Inspiration for project and theme: Len’s of Shipley; ‘Len’s Specials’. I always wanted one.
Time to build: Approximately 12 months.
Engine kit: Pinasco 225, Crank: 200 cut and polished, Carb: 24mm with bell mouth, drilled and up jetted, Exhaust: Pinasco Mk1, Clutch: Re-enforced banded, Gearbox: T5 4th.
Top & cruising speed: 65-70mph no problems.
Is the scooter reliable: Yes, very.
Paintwork & murals done by: DDK, Dave Dickinson. I think it’s a fantastic job.
Overall cost: We don’t talk about the war.
What was the hardest part of the project: Trying not to scratch the paintwork.
Is there anyone you wish to thank: WRSC. Dave Dickinson. Elly and Davina. Brian and Ivan. Lads ‘n’ lasses from Hereford and Ross on Wye. The Oldfield Arms, Bradford. Jim Moore. Chris Gowland of Gowland’s Motorcycles. Scott and Elaine Parker from the Forum, Bridlington.
LASS AND MACHINE
Name: Elly Phelan
Job: High school student.
Scooter club & town: No club, home town Bridlington.
How and when did you first become interested in scooters: My dad and his mates and the music, mainly northern soul.
What was your first scooter: Vespa T5 Mk1.
What is your favourite style of custom scooter: Too many to choose from.
First rally or event: Bridlington 2007.
Favourite event: Cheeky Northern Monkeys. (‘Stubby’ and Trev and the lads put on a fantastic weekend!)
What do you like about events: The Oldfield Arms. Always a great night before the Bradford Parts Fair with Paula and John.
What’s your favourite Scootering magazine feature: ‘Show us your Scoots’.
Your favourite custom/featured scooter of all time: My dad’s ‘Forever Young’.
If you had to recommend one scooter part or item of riding kit what would it be: My days says; a good helmet and gloves.
Name of scooter: ‘Little Bit’.
Scooter model: Vespa T5 Mk1.
Date purchased & cost: My dad tried to buy the scooter several times as it passed through so many owners in such a short time. It was in a poor state when we got it.
Time to build & by who: About a year by Bertie Carr and Sons.
Any specialised parts or frame mods: Driver screen. Painted the same as the scooter by Dave Dickinson and is yet to be fitted. Mickek Mk1 exhaust.
Top & cruising speed: 65-70mph, no problem.
Is the scooter reliable: Yes, very.
Paintwork & murals done by: Bertie Carr originally and we had the sidepanels redone by Dave Dickinson.
Overall cost: Lots of rumours about the cost of the build. A small fortune.
Is there anything still to add to the scoot: Driver screen, new seat and a flip-over backrest.
Is there anyone you wish to thank: Bertie Carr for a quality build. DDK. Dave Dickinson for matching the paint for the sidepanels and driver screen. A big thank you to my dad for taking me to all the parts fairs and scooter rallies through the years and many more to come.
The WRSC used to meet at the Furnace Inn on Halifax Road, Bradford. In early 1981, Scooter Mania contacted the WRSC and explained that they were going to do a feature on the club and the surrounding clubs in the area. The WRSC knew that there’d be a lot of interested and so with the intention of making sure they’d get pride of place in the photos they arrived there early and parked in what they thought were the best positions. In accordance with their plan the other scooters were forced to park behind them, but this then actually gave them pride of place in the feature because the photos which were used were taken from over the road!
The murals on ‘Forever Young’ are taken from a set of photographs which Bob took. To get the images Bob was looking for, and to support the Len’s Special artwork style, he made contact with two local scooterists who agreed to get up at the crack of dawn and pose with their scooters to capture the images. The Manhattan skyline mural across the front of Bob’s legshields is a tribute to Bob’s brother, Shaun’s scooter, which had a similar mural.
Bob is an avid collector of scooter club shields and has his WRSC shield proudly on display on the back-rest of ‘Forever Young’. The WRSC shields are for club members only, but as a youngster Bob’s favourite scooter shield was that belonging to the Yorkshire Wildcats SC. As a result, Bob commissioned Dave Dickinson to complete a replica Yorkshire Wildcats shield, which will feature on the back-rest of Elly’s T5.
Words: Stu Smith
Photographs: Gary Chapman
P.S: We would like to say a personal thank you to Bob and Elly’s pal, Ivan Pinkney, who helped out with the movement and logistics of Bob and Elly’s scooters throughout the day during the photoshoot. Also, a big thank you to Scott and Elaine who allowed us the use of a section of the Forum in Bridlington to complete part of the shoot.
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