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.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006
Two days running
I admit it. has not had many posts recently because I have been discouraged. I have come close to the point of just buying a new engine, but my budget can't take that right now. At the same time, Heebie has been very fussy and it just seemed like I would never get the bike to run.

Yesterday the beautiful redhead wondered if I was going to do any work on the Vespa. I could sense a little bit of veiled encouragement. Still, I didn't really want to do it. I was tired of disappointment. Why spend another afternoon just to end up frustrated?

I did stuff inside during the morning and after lunch I watched UNC beat Arizona. Not long after cheering the Heels to victory, I stuck my head out the door. Wow! It was almost like spring. Shoot, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to just go play around with the wiring.

It didn't appear that the new CDI unit was going to cooperate. The decision was made to go back to the old regulator and replace the connections that came with the unit when I received the Vespa. There done... Now try it again... Hey! It starts. The question is, will it keep running.

Whoa! Heebie seemed ready to go and we headed out of the drive onto the street. First... Second... Third... no hesitation... Fourth... here we go! I drove for several block and then into a parking lot to practice turns (a Vespa is no motorcycle - it does not have sharp turning radius and leaning into turns with leg shields can be an adventure!) for a bit.

Rats! In the parking lot the bike began to stall. I let it sit for just a moment and then started it again. It was firing on the second or third kick. I was able to ride for a short time and then the scooter would falter again. I made it home after stalling out about four times. It never failed, it would start up again on the second or third kick (with the choke open).

Back at home I did some more work on the wiring and then called it a day. It wasn't as frustrating as I thought it would be. I really felt I was making progress... though I wasn't exactly sure what I had done. I'm certain upgrading the wiring connections helped, but there was still an issue -- but at least the bike didn't die and not want to restart.

Today I went to church in the morning. Rain created a dreary prospect for the afternoon. Hopes that Heebie would receive some attention seemed to go out the window.

Lunch finished I changed my clothes and went outside. No rain. Just overcast and wet roads. I had always heard that Vespa's were great in these conditions because the leg shields kept the spray off your clothes. Hey, why not give it a test.

Heebie started up again on the second or third kick. He was idling quite happily as I coasted between the cars to get ready to shift into first. We were off. Again, the scooter launched and there we went! I only did a short ride around a couple of blocks. It seemed things were great and then... the same thing as before.

Oh well, it was raining anyway and I had to balance my bank accounts.

Sitting there downloading the information to Quicken, I was able to look out the front window. What was that? The sun was coming through the clouds and there was some blue sky. I heard Heebie calling!

Once again the scooter started up just great and we headed out. This time I was more ambitious. I set a course that would take me through Cleveland Park and on to Augusta Road. From Augusta Road I headed to the West End, Falls Park and then to Main Street. I made it all the way to the park before the bike stalled.

I discovered if I tried to start the bike immediately after the stall, it did not want to start as easily. If I let it sit for a bit, it would start right away. I also noticed that the longer I let the bike sit before starting it, the longer I could ride before needed to restart it again.

Hmmmmm, sure sounded like a fuel issue to me. I also noticed that when I would try to really wind the bike out when I got into the high end of each gear, the bike would want to stall. Finally in fourth when I would open the throttle, it would stall once again.

I made it home after multiple stalls and restarts. The great news was that unlike in times before, I could always restart and never had to push the bike. I also made experienced something that makes me think for sure I have a fuel flow problem.

I discovered that if the bike stalled while I was going down a hill I could just let off the throttle and coast for a little bit then the bike would sputter to life again. It happened consistently. I never noticed this before because I would always give up.

What I think is happening is that when I let the bike sit overnight, enough fuel feeds into the bowl that when I start it up the next time the bike runs great for a while on the fuel that has collected. As the fuel burns off and more fuel is needed from the tank, the engine starves. When I stop fuel flows into the bowl and there we go again... but it won't run as far because not as much fuel has collected.

The same thing happens coasting downhill. The question is, what is causing it? It would appear that there is a vacuum or something that kicks in at certain rpms. Checking the fuel line it seems to work just fine when I disconnect it. It has to have something to do with the engine running.

Anybody out there have any ideas? I'm certain that I am getting very close!
Monday, January 16, 2006
Celebrating too soon
The last post I made was from work on Thursday. I had gotten the Vespa running and drove it to work with no problems. What you don't know is that I went out to start it up for the drive home and kaput - nothing. I could not get it to start. I tried roll starting it and everything I could think of - nothing. I ended up pushing the bike back home. Thankfully, it is only a mile and some of it is downhill.

I am at a loss. I shortened the fuel line - I was afraid it might be too long. I played around with the wiring trying to see if there is a short. I took a look at the timing again to see if that might be the culprit. Nothing I did seemed to make a difference. I did get it running again - enough to take a short spin, but it just ends up dying or I get it back turn it off and then when I go out to crank it after sitting - nothing.

What to do...
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Man, what a relief! This Vespa business has been weighing me down. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever work again. Today, I was able to drive Heebie to work after lunch!

Earlier I posted that I thought that perhaps the problem was the condenser. Well, I decided to go ahead and "upgrade" the whole electrical system. In the process of attempting that, I learned that the upgrade did not fit my bike and that I had stripped the threads in the case where the stator is attached. Now I had multiple problems to deal with and not much time to get it done.

That is why I have not been posting much - nothing was happening. I worked on it just a little bit on Saturday before getting frustrated and quiting. Monday and Tuesday evening I tried a little more. Since the bike is outside, I don't have much light. Working by flashlight can get frustrating - especially when you are trying fix stripped bolt holes!

Monday night I decided to use tap screws to create threads as I bolted the stator on. Worked great until one of the screws broke off! So I spent Tuesday trying to find a solution. Finally, in frustration, I just drilled a hole in the broken screw and used another tap screw to affix the stator. Now, I just needed to get all the wiring back together.

I used the condenser from the upgrade and attached it to the old regulator and stator. I got the wiring back together at lunch today and then gave the bike a kick. Nothing. But it did sound like the plug was sparking. I held the plug up to something grounded...was that a spark? It was hard to tell in the sunshine. Then I stood up and when I did, I pushed the kick lever down. Whoah! There was spark, I felt it coming from the plug in my hand.

I put it back and started kicking a few times more. Ah, it turned over and then died. It did that a couple more times and then it started running a little more smoothly. Finally, I was able to leave it idling as I ran to tell the wonderful red head that the Vespa was finally running!

I took it for a spin and then decided I would drive it back to work. Everything worked just fine. Only this time I did not forget my tools (I learned that lesson a couple of weeks ago when I got stranded at my in-laws). What might run now might not run later.

I look at this as a temporary fix. I think the engine casing has really seen some of its better days. At some point in the near future, I believe I will get a new engine.

Until then, I'm just glad it is running for now. What a blast to have my tie flying over my shoulder as I tooled down the road in the 64 degree weather. It was tempting to drive on past the office.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Another step backward...
The electrical upgrade arrived last week. Friday was COLD and darkness comes so fast it is hard to find time to work on something outside. I did look at some of the parts to see what I might need to purchase to put it all together.

In the process of doing it, I noticed that the stator and flywheel did not fit!

I couldn't believe it! On top of that, with all the adjustments and removal/reattachment of the stator, the threads that hold the stator to the case stripped. Now not only do I have a problem with the electrical system, I have to find a way to get the holes rethreaded.

Right now, I am so disgusted I am not even going to work on it any more today. Anything mechanical I can take. I can be patient when I can see the problem and make the changes necessary. When it comes to electrical stuff, it is VERY frustrating. I don't understanding how to fix something that is just a black box.

I'll get my patience back sometime soon. I am determined to get this thing running this year.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
We'll see what tomorrow holds...
My new electrical system has shipped. According to UPS it should arrive tomorrow (1/5). It would be great if I could put it in tomorrow evening. Friday is supposed to be a cold rainy day... even possibly snow. So, Thursday is my best chance since the Vespa is currently under the carport and not in the basement.

My only other fear is that I didn't get all the parts I needed and I'll be stuck with the bike partially upgraded while waiting for one small piece to arrive. I also wonder if I will get the correct instructions. Sometimes I have ordered things from and then I had to discover what to do with it. Surely, an UPGRADE kit would come with instructions.

We shall see...
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Happy New Year!
A lot has been going on since Christmas. My family was out of town for over a week and I really didn't think that much about the Vespa while we were gone. Upon returning, I tried to do as much work on it as possible to get it running before I start back to work. I start back tomorrow. Unfortunately, the Vespa is not running. My New Year resolution is to get the thing running before 2007!

Here is a list of all that I have done since I got the bike in September.

I have replaced:

- leg shield trim
- wiring harness
- all bulbs (with an upgrade to a car grade bulb in the head lamp)
- fuel tap in the fuel tank
- all gaskets and grommets
- gear cables

I have also:

- rebuilt the engine
- machined the piston pinion hole in the crankshaft
- painted the engine red :-)
- removed and improved the steering column

Things I have planned to do:

- replace the current stator system
- have a "quick release" frame designed for the sidecar

The scooter actually got started and I was able to drive it - but it would not run consistently. I chronicled some of the problems I was having in earlier posts. It was such a frustrating grimlin! I was about to put Heebie up for sale on ebay!

However, as it is with many of those types of things, you stumbled across the solution - at least what I think is the solution...

The problem was that the engine would flatline when it reached a certain rpm. I checked for air leaks, looked for fuel constrictions, had the carb rebuilt, checked the timing and who knows what else. Sometimes it seemed that things I did helped and then at other times the problem came back.

Then on Saturday, I was about to give up. Finally, I just could not get it to start period. No matter how I tried. So, I checked for spark. Nothing. Hmmmmm, now how could that have happened? So, I traced the wiring back from the spark and found that there was a break in the circuit in the condenser.

Then I remembered when I first got the scooter and we were trying to get it to run. I had pulled on the sparkplug cable on the condenser end. I didn't realize that it was one piece. The cable came out abruptly. I then pressed it back in and things seemed to work okay.

Now I realize that I had broken the sparkplug cable and I was just lucky that it was making any contact. Depending on the connection as the wire would be moved or jostled, I would run okay or not at all. I believe that the flatlining was due to the face that the cable was not connected well enough to handle the current when the rpms reached a certain point.

I am now waiting for a new electrical system from scooterworks. Because of some problems I had with the stator (a story for another day) and my unfamiliarity with the regulator currently on the bike, I think it would be best just to go ahead and make the change.

We'll see what the new year holds!


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