Pontypridd – a working class area where, in the early 80s, like similar towns and cities across the UK, there was a noticeable and growing interest in the then reviving scooter scene. This is Michelle Mantle’s story…
Michelle Mantle first encountered the scooter scene in Pontypridd in 1980. “It was a combination local lads in Ponty’, and the national Mod scene where I first became interested in scooters. My first scooter was a Primavera with a 100 sport engine, my parents didn’t want me to get one but I saved up a deposit and when it got to Christmas Eve it was a bit of a coup de gras. They had to pay for it! I did my first few rallies on it with my punk friend.
“We packed a toothbrush each and the absolute bare necessities strapped to my Primmy. Weston-super-Mare ’83 was my first rally, two-up on L-plates, I got pulled over on the motorway on the way there. I somehow managed to blag my way out of getting a ticket. The ride back was even more eventful as the plug cap kept jumping off. My punk friend ended up having to hold it on in place!”
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She’s got previous…
Michelle first appeared in Scootering way back in issue three as an entrant in a competition. At that time Scootering was owned by Myatt McFarlane, which was also responsible for Back Street Heroes and Scootering are these days part of the Mortons Media portfolio of titles. “To be honest, at the time I didn’t really know what the competition was all about. An ex of mine talked me into taking a pic of me next to a half-built PX in my bedroom, if I’d have known more about it at the time, I’d have made a bit more of an effort!”
Into the mid-80s and Michelle was pretty much living the scooter girl dream. “I lived in a flat above Taffspeed and when I wasn’t working, and it was busy downstairs, I’d end up helping out on the front counter. I’d often get send to get KFC bargain buckets to keep the Taffspeed boys going. I was a hairdresser at the time too and I’d get roped in to cut Terry Frankland’s hair for him. My scooter back then was a Taffspeed tuned 225 P2. In ’87 or ’88 I moved out of my flat above Taffspeed and went back to live in the Valleys.
“I had my son in 1990 and needless to say for some years I was much less active on the scene than I had been before. For quite a few years I can remember thinking to myself, ‘this year I’ll get another scooter’, helped no end by mates of mine letting me have a quick spin on theirs. After a few years of good intentions resulting in it not actually being the year, I got another scoot and 2013 was the year I got it.”
Modestly Michelle has neglected to mention her current business, Michelle’s Cafe on the outskirts of Cardiff. It’s scooter themed, and her Big Boy Breakfast has already reached legendary status, with Taffspeed’s Ian Frankland among the many scooterists who recommend that particular menu item as the best in Britain!
Back to the start
Michelle had decided that her first scooter after years without one would be a shiny new Vespa PX. Except, things didn’t quite pan out as expected! “I went to get a new PX in Port Talbot, though I had done a bit of research on Google first. While researching I had seen a concept version of the Piaggio Vespa 946; when I saw it I thought: I do like that! I got to Port Talbot with every intention of going home with a PX. Instead, I ended up signing on the line and spending about £5k on a then brand new Vespa 946.
“The salesman did me a really good deal and up to that point I’d only seen one 946 and that was on a rally. Even now there are still relatively few seen on the rallies. Since I got Trick and then a bit later Ghost, my 946 hasn’t moved for a while. That said, I have got plans to treat my 946 to a chrome wrap in the not too distant future. It’s super reliable and although the handbook says it delivers 57mph, I’ve managed to get an extra 10mph on top of that and it’ll sit comfortably at 60mph all day.”
Trick… or treat?
Until 2015 Michelle had been a Vespa girl. Her partner John Ricote had his eye on a Lambretta Series 2, with a view to building a radical auto powered Lammy hybrid. Except Michelle had her own thoughts on the subject: “I’d never even ridden a Lambretta of any kind, I’d always had Vespas. I was vaguely looking for some sort of auto engine scooter, with an interesting twist. Besides having been a monogamous Vespa girl all my life I was a bit wary of Lambretta engines and their unreliability in comparison to Vespas. John was going to buy this Lambretta S2 frame with the intention of fitting an auto engine and creating something different.
“After talking about it with John I said, no, I’m getting the money out, it’s going to be my project! I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for sportier, interesting cut-down scooters although, up until then I’d never owned one. My intention was to create something based on old style looks with a modern, reliable and contemporary twist. After buying the frame I took it to JBW Restorations in Twyning, Gloucestershire, nine months later Trick was ready to go. JBW did a superb job; there’s a bespoke one-off frame cradle which houses the water-cooled, tuned, ltaljet Formula 125 twin engine. As well as which there’s a removable one piece fibreglass tail section.
“It rides well, cruises at 60mph, has similar acceleration to a TS1 Lambretta, and gives a top speed of around 75mph. I’ve ridden to Tenby, the Isle of Wight, Weston-super-Mare and Abingdon rallies, though I tend not to venture too far on Trick, as it can give me a bit of a sore arse over longer distances. I decided on the name Trick because there are so many ‘trick’ parts in its makeup. A friend of mine initially thought I’d named the scooter after them, which I hadn’t! Everyone is unique in their own way and as scooters go Trick is unique, a genuine one-off.”
While Trick was undergoing a radical makeover, Michelle realised the scooter bug in her blood was back with a vengeance, and then some. “I’d noticed the rusty, patina look on trucks, vans and scooters. Then I saw a GS Vespa with that sort of look and thought I can do something like that. It just happened that a mate of mine was selling a PX, so I bought that and took it into my kitchen at home. First I tried an application of Nitromors to strip the paint off but it didn’t really do the job as I wanted. My cats are still, even now, recovering from that! They really didn’t like the smell of Nitromors. Time for Plan B, which was to rub it all down, pretty much by hand, but with a bit of mechanical help. I was going with an all over rust look when I first started, I tried things like applying salt water on all the surfaces overnight, and tried a few other approaches too.
“Then it occurred to me if rust really takes a hold how am I going to stop it rusting right through? I decided to aim for the ‘down to bare metal’ look. Firstly I tried WD-40 on the bare metal, which didn’t really work, next, after getting rid of all traces of WD-40, I’ve had the bare metal surfaces lacquered, which is the coating Ghost has now.
“Though I’m still unsure if the lacquer is the best way to preserve the surfaces. I’ve been told by a few people that Anchor Wax is worth a try, I’ll see how well the lacquer does and if I need to maybe give Anchor Wax a go over the winter. During that rubbing down stage of the build, I obtained a set of earlier, (than P Range), side panels and horncasting to enhance an older appearance.
“I also wanted an engine that was quick off the mark so I bought a Malossi 166 kit and took the engine to 10 times BSSO champion Mark Green for a complete rebuild and tune. Got to say that towards the end of that particular project, I did feel sorry for both John (Ricote) who was in effect project manager, and Steve Allen who was tasked with the final build, as I kept changing my mind, sometimes quite drastically. There were more evolving changes, and changes to changes, that I decided on the closer Ghost got to completion.
“To finish the project I added a front number plate and number on one of the panels (and frame), then gave them a weathered look, with the intention of making the scooter look as if it had been neglected… in hibernation, in a damp shed for many years. I named it Ghost after one of my all-time favourite Motown records, R Dean Taylor, There’s A Ghost In My House. Ghost is still very much evolving. I think that it’s going to be one of those machines that is never completely finished, especially with me as the owner. First time out proper for Ghost was the Weston-super-Mare rally earlier this year, I was amazed by all the attention when we parked up!”
Name: Michelle Mantle
Job: Owner/slave – Michelle’s Café, South Wales (Scooter Themed Café).
Scooter club & town: The Old-S-Cool SC/Cardiff.
How and when did you first become interested in scooters: Local lads in Pontypridd riding scooters in 1980 and the whole Mod Scene.
What was your first scooter: Vespa Primavera with a 100 sport engine.
What is your favourite scooter model: Currently… probably the Lambretta LD.
First rally or event: Weston-super-Mare 1983.
How did you get there: On my Primavera – two-up – on the motorway! I got stopped by the police but managed to blag out of it and on the return journey my pillion had to hold onto the plug cap as it kept jumping off.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever ridden on a scooter: Newport to IoW via several towns… it was a week on the road.
What do you like about rallies/events: Getting together with friends that you only see from time to time, enjoy looking at the scooters, but it’s gotta be the constant smell of two-stroke!
What do you dislike about rallies/events: I can’t do the drinking.
What’s your favourite Scootering magazine feature: I like it all… I flick through it all including the adverts.
Your favourite custom/featured scooter of all time: A few stick in my mind from back in the 80s more than today such as Clockwork Orange, Exile… however, I have tended to prefer the more cutdown/sporty/race type scoots.
If you had to recommend one scooter part or item of riding kit, what would it be: Waterproofs, good gloves and a good crash helmet.
Most useless part you’ve ever bought: A rusty clamp from an antiques shop in Lyme Regis… I thought it would look good on Ghost.
Name of scooter and reason: Ghost – one of my favourite songs… that simple really!
Scooter model: Vespa PX.
Date purchased and cost: July 2016 – £800.
Inspiration for project: I had seen the rusty/patina look on trucks, vans etc. and wanted to do the same on a scooter.
Engine spec: Malossi 166, Crank: Gas Flow Mazzucchelli, Carb: Standard, Exhaust: TSR Stainless Steel, Clutch: 4-plate Newfren, Gearbox: Standard.
Is the scooter reliable: Fingers crossed… so far it’s been running very well. Starts first/second kick and runs very smoothly through the gears with great acceleration.
Paintwork and murals done by: I rubbed it down completely and created a patina look then added a front number plate and rear race plate with an aged look… it’s meant to look like it’s just been found in a shed after many years in hibernation!
Overall cost: Circa £3000.
What was the hardest part of the project: Stabilising the rust… it got kinda carried away.
Do you have any advice or tech tips for anyone starting a project: I don’t believe in second best… it took a lot of time and money to make it look so bad!
In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently: I guess I originally wanted Faro Baso type bars or a GS headset but stuck to the PS as that’s what I was most comfortable with.
Is there anyone you wish to thank: Mark Green for the Engine Porting and Rebuild, Steve Allen for putting all back together again, John for project managing the build and the constant change requests!
Name of scooter and reason: Trick – because there’s lots of ‘Trick’ parts on it… although a friend thought I was naming it after them!
Scooter model: Lambretta LI Series 2 with Italjet Formual 125 twin auto engine.
Inspiration for project: Wanted an old skool Lambretta look with a modern twist (and go!).
Time to build and by who: Circa nine months JBW Restorations – Twyning, Gloucestershire.
Any frame modifications: Frame cradle developed by JBW and fiberglass bodywork fabricated around it.
Engine spec: Italjet Formula 125cc (water-cooled) with some additional porting and modified exhaust system.
Is the scooter reliable: Yes… so far! You got to look after this machine. A replacement crank costs several hundred pounds. Runs on 2% mix of Silkolene Fully Synth.
Is there anyone you wish to thank: JBW Restorations for putting his heart and soul into this one-off build.
Photographs: Gary Chapman
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