Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vespa Trials

I spent the past couple of afternoons covering my hands in black grease, smelling like gasoline and giving my Labrador an inferiority complex. While Cheyenne napped under the house, ignored by the scooter mechanic, who twiddled with the carburettor settings and exchanged incredibly helpful messages with a group of enthusiasts on the Modern Vespa forum. I am such a nerd.

The Vespa was strangled. The factory said in 1979 that it was good for 63mph maybe more and this one wasn't breaking 50mph. Shit. In desperation I got online and worried I'd get contradictory advice from people who couldn't get down to my level. I was wrong they came down to the dirt and showed me the way out of the no-performance hole.

It should have been dreary, trying this and trying that and worrying about seizing the two stroke motor and stopping and burning my fingers to pull the spark plug and check its condition. Luckily the weather was lovely, breezy, low humidity and eighty degrees.

They told me to drill holes in the air filter box. "There's a heart shape..." they said in printed messages. Drill a seven millimeter and a five millimeter hole, to " allow proper airflow," they added. Of course I did as I was told and of course the spark plug color became correct all of a sudden. From black and oily to dry and brown. Well bugger.

I'm a silly bugger, I should have known some silly people put a PX200 filter box that lacks the holes, on a P200E like mine that needs the holes, seen under the really big hole in the picture above. Make sure all bits of aluminum swarf are washed out of the box, they said. I washed the air filter like a madman washing blood off his hands. Then I went for a test ride.

It was lonely out on Dorn Road on Big Torch Key. The road winds eight miles through the mangroves and by the end there aren't even telephone poles. Just me and the Vespa and the poorly maintained asphalt with ripples. There was a deer momentarily but it didn't like the popping of the two stroke motor. An iguana got confused by the sound and I was enjoying the ride so much I chose not to even try to kill the bright green, flower eating bastard. Besides the lizard was a long way from my house.

Actually I was a long way from my house and if the intermittent electrical short that stopped the lights occasionally also stopped the motor it would have been a long walk home. At 230 pounds the P200E is considered a lightweight. Maybe, but try pushing that for ten sea level miles. I liked the steady popping sound of the twelve horsepower two stroke motor.

I should have stopped and checked the spark plug and all that stuff but the ride was fun, the wind was in my face and the grim visages of passing snowbirds dressed in spandex on bicycles twice as expensive as my antique were unable to get me down. I rode Vespa-style puttering at 45 miles per hour, wobbling through the corners and admiring the views.

The engine isn't perfect yet and there is some fiddling left to do but the Vespa nerds have pointed me in the right direction. And that electrical short has to be fixed though I'm buggered if I know how. Perhaps someone on Modern Vespa's Not-So-Modern forum will have an idea. For now I just want to enjoy knowing I own and can ride a piece of actual history.

Yup. That's my Vespa.


RichardM said...

I'm glad you are enjoying the mechanical challenges of your new machine. I love the sound of the two-stroke scooters, too bad they are being legislated out of existence. Your smile is evident in this post!

Boating Community said...


bob skoot said...

Mr Conchscooter:

I also like the sound of that popping 2 stroke, but be warned that you have to "blip" your throttle once in a while to maintain lubrication. On long downhills, which you don't have in KW, most of the riders here, pull in their clutch. remember, no gas means no oil in the cylinder and it could seize

Riding the Wet Coast