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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Friday, September 22, 2006
Clutching at cables
Time to order some cables. My engine issues seem to be working themselves out. I've been able to drive the Vespa to work without too many issues for the last several days. However, yesterday I ran into a problem.

I was going to kick start and noticed that when I put the lever down it just kind of "mushed." The gears weren't meshing. I then tried to move the clutch arm it wouldn't move.

I then checked the clutch lever on the headset. I noticed that it gave a little more than it should have. So, I depressed it and looked to see the status of the cable within the channel running through the headset. Sure enough the cable was fraying. This caused the cable to get stuck and it was holding the clutch engaged. Which, as you know, would not allow the engine to turn over -- thus the mush.

Chelsea at SCOMO had told me earlier she would credit me for the stator plate that I had to replace. I asked her if I would just get the credit towards some misc. parts that I need. I'm waiting to hear back, but I think I will go ahead and do a complete cable replacement -- cable housings and all -- for the entire cable set.

The thing I dread most about that is having to take the fuel tank out. The two things I hate about it are 1) fitting the fuel valve rod through the hole in the frame, and 2) running the fuel line between the frame and the carb box into the little grommet. Oh well, a small price to pay for better cable operation.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Answering a couple of Vespa questions
There have been a couple of comments posted for which I haven't given a response. I'll take a minute here to answer them. Thanks for the comments, by the way, and I am always open to suggestions and scooter stories.

DigitalDion asked about the sidecar. Yes, you will notice in the pictures that I don't have the sidecar on right now. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I am still making adjustments to the engine. When the sidecar is attached, it doesn't leave much room to get down and work on the engine. Until the adjustments are down to a minimum, I don't think I will be pulling the "pod" around.

That leads right to the second point about the sidecar which also leads to the second question I need to answer. Shok asks, "This is a new engine, are you watching the jetting and breaking it in properly? They may have ran it in some at Scomo but they are probably ata dif altitude." Yes, they did run it as SCOMO and I am trying to break it in -- that is the other reason why the sidecar isn't attached. I don't want to add that weight until I have run the engine in.

I have taken the bike and run it a low revs while it was parked and gradually increased the throttle to about 70%. I have also taken it on multiple short rides where I don't get out of third gear. HOWEVER, the statement about altitude and jetting is new to me. Can someone expound on that?

By the way, I think I have a theory about the reason that Heebie stalled while I was out driving to Sky Top but why he didn't give me any trouble coming back. When we started out on the trip, we went through a section of the city with lots of stop lights and hilly streets. I stalled the bike multiple times during this time. My guess is that I had way to much fuel build up in the bike and it just choked it and fouled the plug.

On the way back, the ride started without any stop and go. It was able to burn out all of the excess fuel and burn clean. I also took another route to my home that meant I didn't stop nearly as much. Not only did I make it home okay, but I haven't had any trouble since that time.

Thanks again for the comments, and again, I would appreciate some insight on the altitude/jetting issue. I'm not a professional Vespa mechanic and I have lots to learn!
Monday, September 18, 2006
An uneventful day
This morning, I dropped off the kids at school (which is about two blocks from our house) and then drove to home and traded my car for the Vespa. I switched on the gas, pulled the choke, and then attempted to kick start it. On the second kick, I got some life. On the third kick, Heebie started right up.

I drove him to work and then had to leave in a car pool to Atlanta for a crisis preparedness seminar. It was held at the Georgia Aquarium. As we walked through the parking garage, I saw a Vespa-like scooter parked against a wall. Sure enough, it was a Stella. I knew somewhere in the building was a kindred spirit.

On the way back to Greenville on I-85 I saw a scooter ahead of us. Something about it made me think it might be one of the new 200 retro Vespas. Then again, it didn't seem exactly right. I knew it wasn't a motorcycle. Then we pulled up beside it and I saw the Piaggio emblems. It was a Piaggio X9 Evolution 500. Having been tested at 110 mph, I don't think the driver was going to have much trouble staying with traffic.

Sure, it wasn't retro, but it was still pretty cool.

We arrived back with enough time for me to get some work done at the office and then it was time to go home. I went out to the parking lot and in two kicks I had the scooter running and ready to take me home. He did that just wonderfully.

Sometimes it is nice to have an uneventful day...
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Back in the stable
After lunch, I drove over to my friend Dan's house to pick him up. He was going to help me out by driving the car back after I got the Vespa started. Hey, might as well be confident about it!

The drive out was fun in and of itself. We drove over Paris Mountain to get to Buncombe. It was a beautifully clear day and you could see for miles from the top of Altamont. The drive through the rural areas of northern Greenville County was nice as well. It was awesome weather for having the top down.

After arriving at the house where the Vespa was being kept, we pulled it around to the driveway where I had my tools in the trunk. The first thing I did was pull the spark plug. This time when I looked at it, it wasn't white like before. It actually looked quite normal.

I went ahead and put in a new plug just to give try it. I starting and nothing happened. Dan and I then tried push starting it. Nothing doing. It sounded like there was no spark. Holding the plug up to a grounded screw, we tried to determine if there was a spark. It was hard to tell with the bike shaking every time we tried to crank it and with the bright light of the day masking any spark that might have been there.

I discovered we were getting spark when I grabbed the plug the wrong way. Man, I hate it when the happens! However, there was some spark. So, I thought it might be the timing. I traced the wires back to the CDI. The only odd thing there was that the red wire coming out of the stator appeared to be pulled from the connector. Not completely, it was still being held in there, but some of the naked wire could be seen. I adjusted that and we tried again.

Still, we could not get it to fire when I tried to crank it. Once again, Dan pushed me down the driveway and, yes, it fired and kept running! We buttoned everything back up and I tried to start it... failure. We pushed again. It fired and I started down the road.

I didn't open the bike up. I kept it at no more than 80% throttle. The scooter glided right along down those beautiful country roads. This is what I had imagined for yesterday. Better late than never. We had no problems at all.

The test was coming when we stopped at a station to put gas in the bimmer. It is a station that I had seen yesterday with fuel at $2.06. Today it was $2.09, but that was still cheaper than anywhere in town. The bigger question was, would the Vespa start up or would we have to push it again?

The answer was a satisfying pop of the exhaust as the engine roared to life on the first kick. We were off once again with the next stop being home. No stalls later, we arrived and I parked and didn't mess with the bike again until after the family finished dinner following evening church services.

I went outside to put a cover on the car and to straighten up some things before going inside for the night. I just had to try and see if the scooter would start. No go on the first kick, but a couple more later and the engine roared to life.

I'll sleep a lot better tonight.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I don't need to worry
I was just thinking the other day, "I don't know if people will even want my blog if the scooter starts working right." Well, I needn't have worried. Heebie is giving me plenty to write about.

Things had been going so well, I thought I would take a longer ride today. It would be about 45 miles up to an apple orchard. My family was coming along so they followed me in the Suburban.

Right off the bat, things did not go well. I couldn't kick start the bike. I had to roll start. Getting out of town I had to restart the bike numerous times as it stalled at intersections. I didn't worry about it too much because I knew I would get out of town and then things would be less stop and go.

I was right. However, that is when the worst thing happened. I was having a blast riding along and then all of a sudden the engine started sputtering. I was able to get it going again several times, but then it just would not start.

I pulled it over and tried to do something to make it work. It simply would not fire. I could tell that fuel was getting into the carb, but nothing would burn. Was it flooded? Typically when it is flooded, I can roll start it. No way this time.

My wife then convinced me to ask the folks whose house we had stopped at, if I could leave the scooter there to come back for it. So, I pulled it behind the house and got in the truck to go have some fun with my family at the orchard. We did have fun, by the way. I didn't let the scooter problems keep us from enjoying it.

On the way back, we stopped by to see if after cooling down, the scooter would start up and get home. It didn't work. I pulled the plug and took at look at it. The plug was white. Now, doesn't that mean that the plug is burning too hot? Is the engine running too lean? Help!

I'm going back tomorrow with some new spark plugs. I'm hoping that the plug is just burned out and I can at least get the scoot home so I can try to nail down the problem. I don't have a truck or trailer to haul it in. So, if I can't get it to roll home, I'll have to borrow one from somebody.

May, it felt sooooo good to be floating down the road in northern Greenville County. It is some beautiful country. Hope I'll be able to enjoy some more of it on my way home tomorrow.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Vespa at work
Things are pretty crowded on campus. One of the central parking lots is closed as a new parking garage is being built in that space. Like most college campuses traffic and parking was already quite interesting. Now it is a mess.

Enter the Vespa. I don't ever have to worry about a parking spot. There are numerous designated motorcycle parking spots on campus. Plus, because there are not many scooters on campus, they have been given a little more leeway on parking. In the picture you below, you can see Heebie joining a number of the bicycles parked near my office.

When it comes to parking in town, I'm not sure what the options are. I'll have to experiment. There are no designated parking areas for scooters or motorcycles. I have seen motorcycles parked in regular car spots. I have seen some scooters (very few of them, because there aren't that many around) parked in interesting places -- edges of sidewalks and it the left over spaces at the end of angled parking spaces.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I'm not alone
Yesterday, I was a Vespa wimp. The scooter is running fine, but I didn't drive it. It was raining and I just couldn't bring myself to ride through the rain in a suit. I don't have anything to keep me dry.

I'm glad to know that I am not alone. The following email came into my box from David in Australia. Do I ever empathize!
Hi Jonathan,

I've just read through most of your vespatude site, I can relate to a lot of. I too have an asian vespa however my story's a bit different. I actually lived in Thailand for a couple of years and soon after arriving there I wanted transport and saw lots of beat up vespa (often carrying unimaginable loads) zooming about everywhere - its the first time I actually discovered vespas and piaggio. So soon after arriving I bought one. I was told it was a 1966 150 sprint, it had been through the resto process about 5 years earlier and so the haphazard bodywork was starting to show, it still looked ok, it ran pretty well, and it was cheap.. so I bought it.

Apart from crashing it on day one (not my fault, and a story in itself), it was a great commuter through the busy Bangkok streets for two years with only a few minor mechanical problems (points, kick start, brakes and suspension). Now it was too hard for me to part with it so I arranged to ship it back to Australia with grand plans to fix up the bodywork and ride it over here.

Alas thats where the story gets interesting. I decided to strip it back to bare metal and repaint it - first mistake.. ignorance is bliss.... after sandblasting it I discovered welds all over it - it looked like pieces of 2 or 3 different frames were welded into one and the leg shield looked like it had been crushed and rehammered back into shape. Well what can you do... several layers of bog had hidden it from me originally so I just threw more bog back on and tried to forget what I had seen.

Fortunately the engine has been ok with few problems but I had dramas putting the bike together again - same deal as you, wrong or missing screws/bolts, no grommets etc.

So three years after I decided to rebuild it, its almost on the road. Currently getting the rear side panels painted and I have to sought out the electrics which are temperable at best and a real annoyance! - my problem is the lights are really dim (even with high revs), the headlight won't light up, and the horn doesn't work when the lights are on..?

But even though its cost me a lot of money and it bares the scars of spending most of its life in asia I don't think I could ever part with it.

anyway, good reading your website, your sidecar looks great too.


I wonder if he were to get his flywheel remagnatized he would find that his lights and horn would work better. Also, it probably is a six volt system. One thing is sure, the electrics can certainly a "real annoyance!"

I'll be driving the Vespa today. It is supposed to be sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Besides, the Bimmer has to go in the shop to get new rubber. Heebie will be fun and useful today!
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Happily scooting along!
Tonight I came home from work after a kind of frustrating day. I felt a huge load on my mind and I was just plain tired. My wife let me go off for a few minutes while she fixed dinner. The Vespa needed gas, so I put some 2 stroke oil in a bottle and headed out to the gas station.

I put the fuel in the tank and dumped the oil in. Shaking the bike back and forth got it mixed up good and then it was time to hit the road. Because my time was limited, I headed downtown. I wanted to see how the scoot would do in the stop and go traffic of Main St.

The idle is still not right, so I did end up stalling at a couple of the red lights. If I don't hold the throttle open just slightly, the bike will choke. I have tried to tighten and loosen the idle screw to find the right adjustment and it just won't work. Any ideas what might be causing it?

Overall though, it was great! I went all the way down Main St. to Augusta Rd. I then turned onto Church St. to head home. I opened it up and sat back on the seat and cruised down the road. No problem feeling like I was in the way with my new 177cc purring beneath me.

As I neared the main part of downtown the rain began to fall. The few drops that were falling smacked my helmet and stung my face. I almost felt like laughing. It felt so good. The light was green at the sweeping intersection where Church turns into Wade Hampton. I leaned into the turn and headed up the boulevard to my street.

Oh, what a feeling. The wind and rain blew away the load. What a joy to be happily scooting along...
Monday, September 11, 2006
I'm almost afraid to post this. It could possibly jinx momentum that I've managed to pick up today. At least I left the Vespa in working condition.

Here it is. The rebuilt 177cc engine with a Sito plus exhaust is in the frame and is starting up on the first kick. It is loud! But, hey, it will get up and move. I was passing cars going up hill on East North Street.

The flywheel you see is the one off of the old 150 engine case. The flywheel cover is also off of the old case. The one that came with this SCOMO engine was pitted with rust. I mentioned this to Chelsea at SCOMO and she said that the reason was because she was trying to keep the price down on the engine.

I would have liked to have used the older kick start lever. However, you have to crack the case to pull that one off. I wasn't about to do that. I'll just hang onto the parts that I would need and I know the day will come when I'll have to go inside. I'll make the alterations then. As it is, I at least have a nice shiney new P series style lever. The one that came on it was also pitted with rust and had some worn teeth.

The new stator and flywheel fixed the electrical issues I was having. You can see the setup in this picture. The harness comes to the junction box. The junction box connects the frame power and ground to the wiring from the stator. The junction box also directs the timing wiring from the stator to the CDI.

The last issue I had to get the bike riding properly was the gearing. I get the impression that the headset is not a standard type. I can't find the parts I need to get it working anywhere online. All of the gear cables I order have ends that are too large to fit in the sockets of the control arm.

I ended up running the cables through the holes without open ends. It ain't right, but it works. I think I am going to have to order new cables with the protective lining. The ones I have are starting to come apart and are beginning to bind the cables. It keeps the shifting from being as smooth as it could be. I'll probably collect the cables and things I need over time and then remove the gas tank to get it blasted and repainted. When I do that, I'll go ahead and replace the all of the cables with new.

At least now I am just working on the "little things." Maybe I'll actually get to post something other than just problems for a few days.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I came home this evening and I just couldn't help it. I had to try and see if I could find out a way around this problem with the Vespa. So, I switched out the new engine's stator plate with the one that came with the Scooterworks harness that I have in my bike.

No go.

Then I decided to put the flywheel that was on the old engine. Sure enough, I was able to roll crank the bike and off I went -- lights and all! I have headlights, taillight, brake light, and horn. The taillight and brake light are both brighter than when I had it running with the newest stator and flywheel.

Now, I know that the flywheel shouldn't have made the difference. However, it was when I made that change that things started working. Could it be that the "newest" flywheel was not magnetized enough? The older one certainly had more magnetic pull than the one that SCOMO had on there.

It got to dark outside and started raining, so I had to stop. I closed things up having replaced the stator plate, flywheel, flywheel cover, and gear cables. I also fixed the clutch to be a little better.

I still cannot start the bike by kickstarting. I can only get it running by rolling down the hill and shifting into second gear. You can't start it by shifting into first. If you try it, it just stops with the rear wheel chirping.

I've made some progress, but tomorrow will hopefully see me able to get the bike to start when I kick it and I'll be able to shift through all four gears correctly. I'll post the results tomorrow evening.
Is it a sin to hate an inanimate object?
That was the question I was asking myself as I sweated over the Vespa yesterday.

Friday, I had played around with the gears to try to get them working correctly. I'm almost positive that I am going to have to replace the cables. The gears will shift but there is some binding that keeps it from happening smoothly. Still, the gears are the least of my worries.

Saturday, I turned my attention to the electrical. That morning the engine ran. However, the lights did not work. By the end of the day, the lights nor the engine worked. I'm hoping that it is simply a matter of the engine flooding and I will be able to go out this morning and turn it over.

I absolutely could not get the bike to start by trying to kick it. I then tried multiple times to roll start it. The engine would fire and then sputter, sputter, and then jerk to a stop. I actually started to think it was not getting fuel. So, I exposed the carb and then tried cranking. There was the mist from the fuel spraying up. So, I then got to thinking it was flooded. Taking out the spark plug and seeing the dark fuel on the bottom of the plug seemed to confirm this.

Back to the electrical... Going back and forth with the folks at SCOMO, it is concluded that the problem MAY be the stator. So, I have been instructed to remove the stator plate and replace it with the one that was on my old engine. It isn't an old plate. It is pretty much a brand new one from Scooterworks that came with the Scooterworks harness.

This approach would make sense seeing how I know the electrical system was working just fine when I had the old engine in there. I guess I'll turn my attention that direction this week. I really didn't want to go switching parts out on the new engine, but hey, that is how it goes sometime.

I came very close to giving up yesterday. Can you imagine how frustrating this is? I guess I shouldn't have thought that a new engine would be the end of my woes. It seems you can't expect to get a new engine, plug it in and then expect to hit the road. I would have sold the thing yesterday if I had known it would be possible to sell it.

A good night of sleep helps me wake up with a new perspective. I guess I'm willing to give it another try.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Can you see electricity?
What are the two things I hate most about vintage Vespas?

1. The gear mechanism (cable control)
2. The electrical system

I pulled the Vespa up out of the garage (I guess I should take a picture of it someday so you all can know why I call it a garage and yet you can't just drive the Vespa out of it). I got everything all setup and made sure there as plenty of oil in the case. I even got the engine to consistently start up on the first kick.

Sounds great, right?


I am having a bear of a time getting the gears to work correctly. At least now it isn't dropping in and out of fourth gear like the old engine was. I'm just haivng a hard time getting the cables adjusted to get the selector into fourth. There has to be something more wrong because there seems to be some tension when I move the handle. It is almost as though the cables are binding somewhere.

Now, not to be too negative. Man, that engine has some power! When I was able to get the bike up into fourth it was really moving. I didn't even put the throttle wide open (I didn't want to stress the engine and I also was at the end of my comfort level for speed).

The electrical is even worse, because I just don't know what the problem might be. It started getting too dark for me to start trying to test things with my meter. I guess I'll have to do that tomorrow. It just seems strange that the brake light works but the headlight and horn don't. They all feed off of the same power source. It must have something to do with the switch. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to spend some time finding that gremlin.
Two things
First, to answer the questions of those people who have asked why I didn't just roll start the Vespa.

There are a couple of reasons. One, the Vespa is down in my basement garage where I am working on it. I actually have to roll the bike down stairs to get it down there and obviously up stairs to get it out. I'm not very interested in doing that very many times. Two, I wasn't wanting to run it. I only wanted to get some spark and test out some things with the electrical. Once I had that done, then I would get it running and begin adjusting the gears.

Second, GOOD NEWS!

The kick start did come yesterday and before I headed out to a meeting I had last night, I was able to put it on. I opened the garage door and aimed the tail pipe that direction. I kicked to test the spark. It was there. I kicked a couple more times and it turned over slightly. I kicked again and fired up! I didn't let it run long at all, but it did run!

Tonight I actually have a free night and I plan to see if I can get the headlight to work. The taillight and brake light work, but the headlight doesn't. That leads me to believe I have a connection problem somewhere. It is probably in the switch.

Then I'll pull it up out of the garage and start working on adjusting the gear cables. Wow! I am so close, I can smell the 2 stroke oil!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Today could be the day...
I have everything hooked up except for the gear selector cables. Gas line: check. Brake cable: check. Clutch cable: check. Throttle cable: check. Choke cable: check. Air rubber: check. Wiring: check. Kick start: Oh, I need that too. It is supposed to arrive today.

My hope is that I will be able to get a moment or two this evening to get that lever on the bike, get it out of my garage, put some fuel in it, and then try to start Heebie up. I've even got the old center stand back on. I'm thinking that is going to be a temporary thing. I had someone cut off the offending piece of metal that caused the center stand to hit the exhaust. It is still a little narrow, but it will work until I can get something better.

So, I hope by the end of this day, I will be able to post that I got the engine to start. I don't expect I will ride it today, but getting it to start would be a wonderful goal.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Will I join them?
I came across this story when checking out Drudge this morning. Do a Google News search of "Vespa" and you'll see plenty more.

US drivers hop on scooters to dodge rising gas prices

I wonder if I will be able to join them? Things continue to drag out. I wonder what else will go wrong?
Monday, September 04, 2006
I wonder if my wiring is correct...
I'm a little discouraged right now. I haven't had much time to work on the Vespa over the last several days. I grab a minute here and a minute there. I'm hoping that I have the wiring set up right. Why do I not know if it works? Keep reading...

Best I can tell, this is correct. The "black" wire coming from the stator (which isn't really black) should go to the black wire of my harness. The "blue" wire (which appears to be violet) should connect to the blue wire of my harness. The green wire you see coming from the CDI to the green wire in the harness, is the kill engine wire.

This is a broader view. You can see the wires coming from the stator to the CDI. I have the wires running into the corresponding slots on the CDI unit. I have the ground wire from the CDI connected to the engine case.

Here is the reason that I can't test the electrical. The kick start lever is old. I noticed that the "teeth" were kind of stripped and the bolt used to hold the lever on was the Home Depot variety. Well, I put it on and tightened it as best I could. I then tried to turn the engine over -- not to start it, but to see if I got any spark. The teeth stripped completely. I couldn't kick it anymore. Now I've got to wait until I can get a new one before I can make any progress.

Errrr. I didn't expect to get something like this.
Friday, September 01, 2006
September has come
It had been my wish to get the engine in and running in August - since that is the anniversary of my eBay mishap that brought this scooter into my life. Well, I'm not there quite yet. The engine is almost in, but I'm having some problems and not a lot of time to deal with them.

Here is a picture of the old engine just after I took it out and the new engine being fitted into the frame. The reason it isn't in completely is I am having trouble getting the pivot arm to line up correctly with the frame. I think it will just take a little patience.

Here is a closer shot of the new engine. Again, it isn't very pretty. The flywheel cover isn't new -- nor any of the other cosmetic pieces. However, I am pleased with the workmanship so far. I can always replace the cosmetic pieces later.

One of the concerns is that the Indonesian "restorers" had drilled new center stand holes and moved the stand's position farther back on the bike. As best I can tell, they did not. Here is a shot of the bolts holding the center stand on the bike. That isn't rust by the seam in the frame, by the way. It is fuel residue. Do the bolts look in the right place to you all?

Here is the last picture of the day. I had thought I would not be able to get the exhaust on without removing the center stand. However, I was able to get it lined up pretty well though I still can't get the pivot bolt through. I did this with the center stand open. However, when I try to retract it the metal piece (with the arrow pointing at it) hits the exhaust. While I could probably cut that piece off (I can't see what the point of it is) I would prefer to get a new and less bulky center stand. This one seems to be more narrow and larger diameter pipe.

I'm open to suggestions on getting the engine to line up properly. I made some headway last night, but I am being extra careful not to put to much force on things. Also, what about that center stand?


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