Many scooterists have the idea of building their dream scooter at one point or another. For Gareth Gadd, that dream has finally happened with his Custom GP ‘Atomic’ even if it has been 30 years in the making.
In 1985 Gareth first start attending national rallies with the Birmingham E-Types Scooter Club. This was at a time when the scooter scene was at its most intense and where some of the finest custom machines ever were built. It was at one of these rallies that as young and easily impressionable teenager Gareth first set eyes on ‘Dazzle’. This custom Lambretta not only blew everything else out of the water but also set a benchmark for quality which remains the envy of many even today. It left a strong impression in Gareth’s mind and he vowed one day to build his own custom Lambretta inspired by what he saw.
Going forward some thirty-odd years and that’s exactly what has happened with ‘Atomic’. Having left the scooter scene like so many at the end of the 1980s, Gareth returned a few years ago. He eased gently back into scooter ownership to start with by purchasing a metallic AF ‘S-type’. This rapidly escalated with the acquisition of a 1969 GP200 frame and engine which would provide the base for his custom project.
The inspiration for the idea started even further back in time, 1979 to be exact. A question so often asked is, what was the first record you bought? In Gareth’s case it was Heart of Glass by Blonde, apparently purchased for the princely sum of 70p from WHSmith. It was thinking about this record that gave him the idea to base the theme around Debbie Harry, and why not? I’m sure we all had a crush on her at one point or another. The final creative element would be with the name which ended up being ‘Atomic’ from the band’s biggest hit.
Paint a picture in your mind
Though the motivation for the project came from such 1980s custom scooters as Dazzle or Italian Stallion it was never going to be an exact copy of the style of custom machines produced during this era, more of an interpretation. The task of translating this into paint was given to not one but two different people.
It started off with, Matt Sutton from I-Paint laid down the iridescent blue flip base. Once this was completed it was handed over to Colin Fitzgerald at Garage Artwerks who produced a stunning set of murals on the overlay. Initially, Gareth had explained to Colin the vision he had in his mind regarding the theme and colours that he wanted. Colin then drew up a series of images on a Lambretta outline to give an exact idea what it would look like once finished. As soon as both were happy with the designs they stuck to the same format through the entire project.
Drawing up a set of images always helps when doing this kind of design and makes the finished article far better by using this method. With a total of six images and the subtle light purple band, they stand out perfectly against the base colour. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away when designing this type of scheme and clutter up the bodywork with too many murals that don’t flow.
Not in this case, using the ‘less is more’ mantra, each one has its own space in a specific area of the bodywork. By taking this approach, each mural has the chance to become more refined and to stand out in its own right. Once the artwork was finished it was returned back to Matt who completed the process of lacquering it.
Usually, custom scooters will have all the latest tuning innovations and extras that are available when it comes to building the engine. To keep in line with the 1980s inspired theme Gareth chose to go down the Classic TS1 route. Though the TS1 is more of a late-80s based choice it is nonetheless perfect for the era with its timeless design.
There is some mild porting work done by Scooterotica and a more up to date AF cassette clutch fitted. Breathing through a 30mm Dellorto and using a Franspeed race exhaust this all but accounts for the engine extras. Even with just this basic set up a top speed of 80mph is achievable; do you really need any more?
There is nothing to over the top with this engine so reliability should not be an issue which is a good thing as Gareth intends to ride it as much as he possibly can.
Etched in time
No custom scooter from the 1980s or one inspired by it could be complete without chrome and plenty of it. Most of the engine, cowls, forks, hubs and headset have been subject to such treatment. Getting the chrome to perfection was the job of Karl Russell at Quality Chrome whose work is of the highest standard. While chrome was a must have part of the project engraving was equally just as important.
If you ever mention engraving a scooter then there is always one name that crops up, Don Blocksidge. His name has been synonymous with countless creations dating back over the last 30 years. The final task of building the machine was left to Gary Dickenson. He was the one responsible if it got scratched. Not fazed by the job in hand, Gary’s finished work was exemplary in bringing the whole creation together.
All-ons are kept to a minimum. The disc brake is the original cable type, there are no uprated shocks, no dashboard full of gauges, rev counters and the like. The idea was to be inspired by the 80s custom scene and what was available at that specific period in time. This scooter works because it’s not trying to be something it isn’t.
There is no denying that Atomic is definitely a custom scooter which stands out from the crowd. Sometimes it’s not that easy trying to produce the highest standard possible within the guidelines set, without deviating from what was originally intended. Gareth has managed to do this in my opinion by sticking exactly with what he set out to do in the first place.
A £10,000 price tag may raise a few eyebrows, but in all honesty it’s not that expensive in today’s world of scooter customisation. It just goes to show what you can achieve if you plan everything carefully down to the last detail. Maybe that’s why Gareth doesn’t intend to change anything on the machine as he feels he got it right the first time.
As each year goes by it becomes harder and harder to come up with new ideas when building a custom scooter. Sometimes the only choice is to interpret an idea from the past and bring it up to the modern day. Atomic does exactly that in its own clever way. With the rejuvenation of the original Dazzle custom scooter last year maybe there is a resurgence in the 1980s custom scene. I for one hope there is.
Name: Gareth Gadd
Scooter club & town: Formerly Birmingham E-Types SC.
How and when did you first become interested in scooters: Impossible not to I guess when as a lad, all your mates were Mods! Friday night was the ‘Alan Price Roadshow’ disco at the youth club playing among other things The Snake, various Jam and the odd northern soul track and the older lads ‘faces’ turned up on their 50 Specials, oh and of course there was Quadrophenia, watched till the VHS tape wore out!
What was your first scooter: Vespa PX125E.
What is your favourite scooter model: It has to be a GP200.
What is your favourite style of custom scooter: I’m very open minded on custom scooters, anything from a well-engineered chop to a Series 1 with period and/or tasteful enhancements and preferably ridden.
First rally or event: Morecambe ’85.
How did you get there: On my PX125E, not sure I’d do it on one now, A-roads all the way then!
Favourite rally/event: Favourite would have to be Great Yarmouth back in the 80s, a great ride there and back as a club and memories of the sea front packed full of what seemed like 1000s of scooters!
Funniest experience with a scooter: A slightly larger pal being frog marched out of Hipshaker at the IOW rally a few years ago after he’d scaled the garden wall to get in having been told he’d never get over it because of his size!
What’s the furthest you’ve ever ridden on a scooter: Nothing spectacular compared to many of the guys I know and the mileage they do now but 600 mile round trip to Dunbar in ’85.
What do you like about rallies/events: The ride there, meeting up with mates, it’s the ride and the people you go with and meet that make it.
What do you dislike about rallies/events: The ride home cold and wet.
What’s your favourite Scootering magazine feature: Rally reports and the tech features. Your favourite custom/featured scooter of all time: Impossible to choose but it would definitely be one of the following: Italian Stallion, Little Rascal or Sign of the Snake.
If you had to recommend one scooter part or item of riding kit what would it be: I would say good protective waterproofs, I think some of my mates would say the one litre petrol can (full) in my toolbox!
Name of scooter & reason: Atomic. From the Blondie single of the same name — made sense with the theme.
Scooter model: GP200.
Date purchased & cost: March 2012 — £2000.
Inspiration for project: Dazzle in the 80s — loved it the first time I saw it, always wanted do my own custom GP to a similar style.
Time to build & by who: Gary Dickenson, build time has been about two months but the project’s been ongoing for about four years.
Engine spec: Kit: TS1 230. Crank: SI L with Jap 116 conrod. Carb: Del’Orto 30mm. Exhaust: Franspeed race. Clutch: AF race cassette clutch. Gearbox: GP200
Porting work by: Ported & matched by Scooterotica.
Dyno done by: To be done by Jerome at Reedspeed.
Top speed & cruising speed: Waiting for ice free days, cruising should be around 65-70mph. Top speed: Around 75mph.
Is the scooter reliable: Fingers crossed!
Paintwork & murals done by: Col Fitzgerald at Garage Artwerks.
Is there any engraving done by: Don Blocksidge.
Is there any chrome: Karl Russell at Quality Chrome.
Overall cost: Around £10.000 spread over the four years.
What was the hardest part of the project: Sourcing quality bodywork.
Do you have any advice or tech tips for anyone starting a project: Have a plan, stick to it and take your time and try and be patient. It will all come good in the end.
Is there anything still to add to the scoot: Nothing I can think of right now. There’s a couple of things may change but for now I’m going to enjoy showing and riding it!
Is there anyone you wish to thank: Col Fitzgerald at Garage Artwerks, Matt at I-Paint.net, Karl – Mr Quality Chrome. Don Blocksidge, Corky and Gary Dickenson for the expert build.
Words: Stu Owen
Photographs: Gary Chapman
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