This is the story of my '64 Vespa 150 - how it became mine and how it has given me a new vespatude.  I'll be recording the neat places I visit, the different things I do to make the Vespa my own, and - oh yeah - those reactions I get from both friends and strangers.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The unofficial parts supplier for
Since the local Vespa service dealer in my area does not service vintage Vespas, I have found the Internet to be a must in trying to restore my '64 150. I have used several sources: eBay,, and are a few I have tried for various parts.

However, my favorite source for parts -- and online advice -- is They have not only supplied me with parts at a good price, they have also helped me make sure that I was getting the right parts. The same people you talk with to order your parts are the ones who can tell you how those parts work on your bike.

Thanks, I hope you don't mind me making you the unofficial parts supplier for
Monday, November 28, 2005
The gears are here!
I'm not exactly sure when they arrived. I think it was after I got home from work this evening, but I never heard the doorbell ring. I had heard a truck outside the house earlier in the evening and saw what looked like a UPS truck heading down the street. I figured it must have been for a neighbor. Still, after dinnner, I thought I would take one more look. Sure enough! There was the box containing my four gears.

In just a couple of hours, I put the entire engine back together without adding gaskets or tightening the bolts. I wanted to make sure that I had all the parts I started out with and not any extras left over! The plan is that Mike will come over and help tear down what I have put back together and then we will inspect all the parts and put it together permanently (provided that there aren't any parts that Mike thinks will need to be replaced).

Maybe by this weekend, I will be able to take it out on a test drive. That would be nice -- provided the weather isn't like it is right now, rainy and cool.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Nothing but the engine left
How often do you think you have a real problem just to discover that the symptoms you see are caused by something insignificant? All those wiring problems I thought I was having were caused by a bulb that would not sit correctly in the bulb housing. All I had to do was get a new bulb.

I went to the local car parts store and found a similar 12 volt bulb. The bulb that was original was a 12 volt bulb, but it was very small. The bulb I bought was a little larger. All of the smaller bulbs were 7 volts. Not a problem, right? Well, the bulb would not fit through the headlamp reflector. I widened the hole with a drimel tool and then it fit through. Now the only bulb I can't buy at an auto parts store is the headlight.

Here is where I stand right now. You can see the engine in the foreground. The bike is pretty much put together. Today I ordered the leg shield chrome and a new regulator/rectifier. Wouldn't you know it, the regulator was not in stock. One more item put on back order.

Will I ever get this thing finished?
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Got my head on straight
Today I just did a little bit of work on the Vespa. This morning before we headed out to have Thanksgiving dinner with the beautiful red head's family, I finally got the headset on straight and tight as well as got the switch wiring run in the headset.

Now I just need to find a way to make sure it is working correctly. I have a sneaky suspicion that I don't have things set up. When I hook my battery up to test, I don't get anything. All of my wires are connected and carrying current. I just think I have something crossed up somewhere -- probably in the switch. I'll do a little more tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Let there be light!
Well, I have finished the wiring through the frame of the scooter. The only parts left for wiring are the wires for the handlebar switch and light, and the wiring for the junction box and engine. What a relief!

You can see that both the brake light and the running light is working. I still don't understand how the brake light works. All I know is that I hooked it up and pressed the rear brake lever and there she glows!

Wiring wasn't the hard part. The hard part was finding that the people who put together my bike did some pretty funky stuff. There are parts missing. Not parts like you can buy off the Internet. Parts like washers and stuff. Also, they put a reproduction headset on the scooter. It looks good, but it does not mate well with the steering column! You have to take aluminum and wrap it around the column in order to get the headset bolts to tighten enough to grip. It is that kind of thing that took most of the time today.

I do think I will be able to get the headset completed and all the wiring (except for the engine wiring) done this weekend. Then it will just be a matter of waiting for the gears to get here and tie up loose ends. I'm starting to see light at the end of the tunnel -- or is that light at the end of the Vespa?
Back at it
I took today off since all the kids will be home and my wife is off for Thanksgiving break. The plan is to spend some time attacking Heebie's wiring again. I have not set a goal because I don't want the project to consume my entire day. Can't do that anyway because it is 10 AM already!

Check out
this fun commercial I found on the Quiznos corporate site. This Vespa is very similar to my own - including the sidecar.

Well, I'm off to the basement...
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
This wiring frys my brain
Well, I started putting the wiring back in the bike last night. I started at the rear. The tail light is original issue so the parts are very old. The guys who restored it simply spliced the original wires into the harness for the 12 volt upgrade. I wanted to improve on this so I ended up soldering the new wires I added to the components. What I learned from that is that I need a new soldering gun!

The tail light upgrade actually went better than I anticipated. The brake lever switch is another story.

Getting the wires in the proper position was a chore. I wrapped the wires in a protective heat shrink wrapper and ran them through the body of the bike to the brake switch. That part was easy. However, I am using 16 gauge wire so it is a little larger than the original wiring. This made it somewhat of a tight fit up where the switch attaches to the frame. After fighting with that for some time, I got it all attached.

This is where I show my ignorance. How does this work? According to the wiring diagram, the wires for the brake switch junctions with the wires for the brake light AND the power source. I can't see how that would cause the switch to activate the brake light. It seems the switch would need to be between the source and the bulb.

I am confused.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Pulling out the nervous system
This weekend I became a neurosurgeon. It was time to pull Heebie's wiring. I can tell that the pulling it out was the easy part. The hard part is going to be putting it back in!

I had to pull everything off -- I mean everything. There isn't a piece left that isn't welded. So, this weekend was time to get the front "fork" off. This was necessary in order to get into the frame to effectively pull the wire.

This is the front "fork" -- it actually isn't a fork. The front suspension is basically an airplane's landing gear. This harkens back to the origins of Piaggio as an airplane manufacturer.

This is the Piaggio Aero Avanti. It is a pretty cool plane. I have flown on one a couple of times. It is the weirdest sounding plane from the outside. On the inside, it is pretty nice because the props are behind the primary passenger compartment.

Finally, I was at the store getting some wiring and the associate asked me what I was getting the wire for. I told him and that launched us into and extended coversation about scooters. Turns out he had one of the Harley Davidson scooters as well as a Cushman. He didn't have any bikes now, but...
Friday, November 18, 2005
A step forward and a step back
Last night I spent some time working on the body of the scooter. Not a lot of time since I had some other things to do. Here are some pics of the progress -- or in one case the digression.

When you ride your Vespa with something in the side glove box, you will hear it banging around. Some people will wrap whatever they have in there in foam so it won't rattle. I had some nice packing foam from my laptop restoration, so I decided to go ahead and line the inside of the box with the foam. I think it turned out pretty well. In the picture it doesn't look like there is much room, but the foam gives.

Unfortunately, I also had some bad news. The leg shield trim on the bike was old and wasn't lined up correctly. I am sure the people who rebuilt the bike used the trim from another bike instead of new trim. So the fittings were gapping and the trim was cutting into the paint. Well, once I got it off I found scratches along the edges of the leg shield. The picture above shows one side. The other side doesn't look quite as bad.

I had hoped I would be able to take the trim off completely. Looks like now I will have to order some more -- new this time -- and take the time to do it right. I think I will wait a little while before doing that though. Let's get it running first!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
A man with a vespatude
Renato Moncini retired to Greenville after a varied career that took him from the Piaggio factory in Pontadera, Italy, through the Italian air force, a stint with NASA, and finally Daniel Construction. In some ways, his life has come full circle. During his first years in the United States, he did not have a scooter. Now he has four of them in his basement after selling or giving away another four over the last few years.

I met him just the other day. Mike wanted me to meet him. So, we jumped in the little red car and headed over near Paris Mountain to Renato’s home. From the front it appears to be a typical ranch home. Once you go around the back you will notice arched columns for the parking area and iron scroll work along the basement windows and various gates.

A terraced brick walkway takes you around the rear of the home to the door of the basement. Part ways down you pass a small fountain. All of this was built by the man who lives here. “Wow” was the only thing I could think as we approached the door.

Above the door was an old sign that read, “Vespa Servizio.” We walked right in to find Renato working to raise some duct work up between the floor joists so it would no longer hang down into the basement. It was obvious by all the projects laying around that this was a man who was always into something!

He welcomed us with a smile and an Italian accent. We checked out his bikes and it didn’t take him long to start talking about his days in Italy at the Vespa factory. I noticed he enjoyed talking more about the people he has known than the bikes he has ridden. Every bike he talked of had a person connected with it.

He certainly knows the bikes though! One of the bikes is a 1950’s bicycle handle model. As you look at it you simply see a very well restored bike – all parts looking original. Mike told me that what is incredible is that some of the parts Renato made himself by melting down PVC and molding it into the various switches and trim pieces that were not readily available.

It was a short encounter – though I hope the first of more to follow. The thing I walked away with most was not the impressive knowledge of the bike, but rather that focus on relationships. The love of the bike is best used when it leads to a love for the people who ride them.

My favorite Moncini quotation? “Driving automatics is like having a beautiful plate of pasta and someone else chew it for you!”
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Hitting a snag with the rebuild
Okay, now that I've got the engine disassembled, it is time to start thinking about putting it back together again. Unfortunately, I have to get my gears before I can do that. I learned today that the gears will not be available until the day before Thanksgiving. I'm in a holding pattern on the engine until then.

However, I'm still able to do some work on the bike. I've moved it from the carport into the basement garage. I now have the frame in the same location as the engine. Tonight I moved it down here (I'm typing this in the finished part of the basement where my office is) and removed the seats and gas tank.

I'm doing this because today I went up with Mike to meet a new friend. He is a gentlemen who lives near me who worked in the Vespa factory in Italy (I hope to write more about him later). Well, they convinced me that I should go ahead and make sure everything is just so, so they want me to rewire the entire bike as well as disassemble the steering assembly (you really can't call it a fork -- because it isn't. It is more like airplane landing gear).

So, even though the engine isn't ready to be put back together, I'll have plenty to keep me busy! Also, I want to catalog all the seals and grommets that I am still missing so that I can make sure I can order them and have them here by the time of the final assembly.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Biopsy was a success!

Here is the bottom of the disassembly. Things went relatively smooth except ONE nut and bolt combination on the case was stripped. I couldn't get it off until I cut through the nut with a metal bit. What did I find inside?

Yep, the cruciform -- or shifting cross as it is also known -- has worn edges. That is not good. Thankfully, I have already purchased a replacement. You can see the new one on the left and the damaged one on the right. But, it didn't stop there...

The reason the shifting cross was messed up was because the inside teeth of the gears were also worn. First, second and third gears had obvious damage. Only gear four seemed to be fine.

Well, I reckon I had better place my order! The good news is that what we thought was the problem was indeed the problem. More good news is that these Vespa parts are not very expensive.
Monday, November 14, 2005
A couple of pictures of the surgery

Heebie loses his engine. The shock hanging down in the rear holds the rear part of the engine which also contains the axle and wheel. The front of the engine is held onto the frame by a pinion located at the rear of the floorboard.

This is what the sidecar looks like when it isn't attached to the scooter. I am hoping to have a special frame machined so that I can more easily attach and detach the car. It took me a couple of hours to get it off as is. You have to remove the kickstand and muffler as well as go into the body to remove the electrical connection for the sidecar lamp.

Here we are looking at the flywheel side of the engine. You can see the piston hanging out to the right. Right in the center of the flywheel is where the piece is that requires a special tool. I received word from Mike this morning that he has what I need. We just have to arrange the pickup.

I'll try to get some more pictures up as I go along.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
More than the engine is messed up...
Check out my entry at where I tell how my Vespa lead to damage to my Apple PowerBook G4.
The surgery is under way
Thursday: removed the side car from the main body so that I can drop the engine.

Friday: didn't have much time, so I basically just removed a couple of cables and began draining the oil.

Saturday: spent the morning dropping the engine from the bike. That evening I placed it on an engine stand and began disassembly.

Current status: cylinder housing removed, carb removed, rear brake housing removed, clutch cover removed.

I am stuck trying to remove the flywheel and the clutch. I can't find exactly what I am dealing with but I think I need special tools. Now, if only Mike can help me...

Wow, you should see the piston! It is caked with soot. Obviously too much fuel was getting into a very hot chamber. The only other thing I discovered that seemed to be wrong was that one of the cable tensioners on the gear shift mechanism was broken. That could explain why the shifting was inexact. However, it doesn't explain why the bike would drop out of gear. I'll have to crack open the case to do find out why.

I have been taking pictures of each step as I so along. All the pieces I place in a plastic zip lock bag corresponding to that part of the engine. I don't think I'll have any trouble getting things back together.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Open heart surgery
I didn't take the time to point out all the things that happened yesterday. I'll take a moment to bring it up now.

Mike told me to come on by his shop in the afternoon and he would help me set up the gear cables. I was a little hesitant because that would mean I would either have to take the scooter out on the main highway or cut through some very hilly neighborhoods. I chose the hilly neighborhoods.

Things started out pretty well, but at one point I was going up a pretty steep residential street and the Vespa began to backfire. It backfires because 1. the timing is off and 2. when the gears slip while the bike is under a load it causes the engine to over rev. Well, after a couple of backfires I heard a very loud POP! I thought, "Man, I've blown a gasket!" Thankfully, it turns out I had just blown the muffler off.

I alternated between pushing the scooter and riding it in the places where it was too hard to push. I didn't want to run it too much because it sounded like "Son of Harley." Heebie finally came to rest at the shop and the first thing we did was get the muffler back on.

It didn't take us very long to get the cables adjusted. Turns out I wasn't so far off with the work I had done. That made me glad. What made me sad was the fact that it didn't solve the problem. Turns out the gears would slip even with the cables correctly adjusted. So, we looked at other issues.
  1. The throttle cable was not adjusted correctly. That is why the bike didn't want to idle.
  2. Most of the grommets and rubber gaskets were missing from the bike. We replaced some of these and I went online to get the other ones we'll need. These are important because the scooter uses the frame and engine casing for air flow. If there are a bunch of holes in the frame you lose the flow of air.
  3. We think the gear slipping is due to a worn cruciform. This is a little cross looking piece that engages and holds the selector to the right gear. Sometimes the square edges get rounded (or someone puts it in backward) and it causes the cruciform to "lose its grip" on the gear leading to... you guessed it... the transmission dropping out of gear.
  4. When you push the throttle to get some high rpms, the engine bogs down. It is really like there is a rev limiter on the thing. I've noticed this when I have been riding the bike. When I have managed to get it in 4th, I can't get over 35 mph because the engine just says, "I'm not giving you anymore. I could... but I'm not."
All this (and a few more things - like the voltage regulator isn't working causing the bulbs to burn out when you reach high rpms) has gotten Mike and I to wonder what else it happening inside the heart of my little guy. So, we are planning on open heart surgery. I must admit this is kind of exciting because I would like to have the knowledge to be able to rebuild the engine.

So, that is where things stand. I will try to chronicle the surgery as I go along. Just don't get impatient... this could take a while.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Today didn't get any better
Looks like I'm going to have to rebuild the engine. The bad news is that I won't be able to enjoy riding the scooter as soon as I wished. The good news is that I will get to tear into the thing (guided by an experienced Vespa mechanic) and find out how it works...just like I did with my toys when I was a kid!

I did limp it into work today. When I came out to go home I found the following note stuck to the bike.

I can't wait to get Heebie running!
My gears are starting to drive me crazy. I can't get the Vespa up to speed without the gears slipping. It is hard to get a grip on how well the engine is running when you can't get a sustained acceleration.

A friend was supposed to come over last night to help me with it, but he was unable to make it. I went on line to see what needed to be done. Yep, you need to have two people to pull this off. Because you have to keep tension on two cables at the rear of the bike while holding the shifter at the front of the bike all the while tightening some nuts at the rear, you need two people -- really it wouldn't hurt to have three!

I'm also having trouble with my lighting system. The front headlight keeps blowing. Somewhere there must be a short. The problem is that when the headlight blows it has a tendency to blow all the other bulbs. To make matters worse, I can't find any bulbs! There appears to be a shortage of these 12v bulbs. I've tried several online sources and while they are very quick to try to help me, they simply don't have them in stock. I'm tempted to convert the headlight housing into something that can handle a bulb readily available at your local auto shop.

Because of the issues, I didn't drive the Vespa to work yesterday. However, I still had several people stop me to talk about it. Sure enough there was someone who said, "You know I have a scooter at home. I bought it from a friend of my son who needed some money. I've never even started it -- but that looks like fun. I think I'll give it a try."

Hopefully, Mike will be able to come by this evening and help me get those gears fixed. The weather is just so beautiful here. I hate to have it just sitting there.
Monday, November 07, 2005
The smile machine strikes again
Someone warned me that when I got the Vespa -- especially with a sidecar -- people would stop me all the time to comment. Yep. That's the case. I got stopped several times by people I didn't know. One guy commented to me how his father owned a Cushman when he was a child and he used to ride it when he was 7 or so. Based on the age of the guy, he was probably 7 in the early seventies.

At first, I was kind of hesitant because I work on a college campus and you're not exactly sure what response you are going to get. I needn't have worried. I overheard several young students say, "Cool." I had a girl come up and ask if she could take a picture of the bike with a soccer ball on top (don't ask... I didn't).

The older people got into it as well. Most commented on how much they liked it. More than one asked where I got it from and a couple commented on how they had thought of getting a Vespa or scooter themselves.

Only one may a negative comment about safety. However, this guy is always saying something negative, so I discount that one.

The only problem is the fact that I can't get the gears to work correctly. A friend is coming by tomorrow evening to help me get that straightened out. I'm also afraid that I'm going to need to have the timing set on the thing. Tonight I also learned that the bulbs keep getting blown.

I did get a chance to take my children for a ride in the sidecar. That was lots of fun. I wanted Child Two to be the first person to ride in the sidecar, so I was glad to give him that opportunity...even if it was a pretty rough ride.

I won't be able to take the bike into work tomorrow. Hopefully the work we do on it tomorrow will make a difference and I'll have some fun this weekend.
Looking for time
It has been kind of frustrating to have the scooter parked in my car port and not be able to anything with it. I was out of town for much of the weekend and have only had snatches of a few minutes to work on getting it tuned up. Because of that, I don't have much to report.

I am starting to call my Vespa a "smile machine." The little I have been able to limp the bike around, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback. At one instance, I had the scooter parked in a spot at my office. I watched a couple of people walk by. As they did, they would slow to look it over and a smile would come across their face.

Can't wait to get a smile on my own face. Right now I am having trouble getting the gears dialed in. The engine is running pretty well now. However, as I go up the hill near my house, the gears slip out when I go from first to second. It causes the bike to lose momentum. I have to down shift and that puts the bike under a load on the hill and ends up stalling out.

I hope to report more good news this evening.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Just sitting in my driveway
First, the good news.

The Vespa is here! It is seems to be in really great condition after being shipped halfway around the world. It was secured in the crate to survive an earthquake. It took the guys at Forward Air some time to get it out. Basically, the whole crate had to be taken apart.

Now, for the bad news.

It won't start. The engine has great compression and fuel is getting to the carb. The only thing I can't get is a spark for the spark plug. Since I didn't get it home until just before dark, I have not had a chance to work much on it. I plan to start by replacing the spark plug wire and then move back from there.

Everything is very simple. There aren't that many moving parts. However, electrical issues are always the hardest things to figure out -- on any kind of engine.

I'll get some pictures up later. Hopefully, I'll have some good news about the bike as well.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
So close and yet so far
The Vespa is in Greenville! Technically, it is in Greer, but who cares about technicalities right now? The point is I know where the scooter is and know it can only be a matter of days before I have it parked in my driveway.

I received word at around 4:30 p.m. today that the Vespa arrived at the warehouse. I was told to contact the warehouse for more information. When I called them, they confirmed that the crate was there but it had not yet been cleared by the shipping company. Arrggghhhh! So, why did the shipping company have me call him?

So, I have to wait for the shipping company to clear it. The warehouse will call me once that it done and then I will call the customs guys to let them know it is there. They will go do their thing and then call me to come down to the customs department to sign the final forms. Then I go over to the warehouse and pick the bike up.

How long will all this take? I'll let you know...but don't hold your breath.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Today was not the day
My question has been answered. Today was not the day. Okay, it is starting to get to me. I know that the scooter was in the United States on the 12th of October. It is now November. It should not be taking this long to get it across the country.

If it does not come this week, I am going to have to start looking into taking some other steps. Starting with calling the shipping company at least twice a day asking them to find the location of the shipment. They tell me they can't track it, but I bet if something worried them enough, they could find it.

Wow, August 31 (the day I purchased the Vespa) seems a very long time ago.
Will today be the day?
This will be a short post, because I don't want to think about it too much. Today is supposed to be the day the Vespa arrives. It will be a beautiful day - the high is supposed to be 74 degrees with partly cloudy skies. It would be a nice day to see it arrive...

One hopeful sign: a check I had to send to the shipping company in order for them to release the shipment was cleared yesterday. Maybe that means that they know it is nearing its destination.

Hey, a man can hope, can't he?


August 2005  
September 2005  
October 2005  
November 2005  
December 2005  
January 2006  
February 2006  
March 2006  
April 2006  
May 2006  
June 2006  
July 2006  
August 2006  
September 2006  
October 2006