Sunday, December 20, 2009

Portuguese Citroen Club Rally 20 September 2009

Viva la Citroen 2CV! We encountered the ubiquitous little French 'garden shed on wheels' so often in Europe that it became like an unofficial mascot of our travels. I've always held a soft spot for the Citroens - the Traction-Avant, the magnificent DS and the quaint 2CV. When I first began looking for a car the only car I could think of that I actually liked was the Citroen DS. I never found one however.

In Porto on Sunday 20 September 2009 we came across a rally organized by the Portuguese Citroen club. The rally started at the town hall where all the cars were displayed. A drive through the city followed. There were so many Citroens that the whole centre of the city was shut down - much to the frustration of other drivers. Here are some photos.

Citroen Ami

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ariel - Great Success!

The Ariel comes to life

I bought the Ariel on the understanding that it was running, but of course the term 'running' is often used with a great deal of flexibility. I mean, I was told the Troll was 'running' when I bought it and she was pretty far from running. Maybe they meant the wheels went around?

After the first once over I installed the battery and tested the electrics. They all worked, which was great news. The next weekend (the Piaggio weekend) I removed the side panels and examined the engine. It all looked in pretty good condition. Someone had recently replaced the oil in the gearbox and I refreshed the oil in the drive train. I gave the petrol tap, carby and air filter a quick clean. When I was satisfied, I poured some petrol in the tank, switched on the ignition and ... nothing. Shelly gave me that dubious look that said "well, you will buy these things."

I went back and rechecked the electrics. While they were fully working a week ago, now they were stone cold dead. When I tested the headlight it lit up for a minute then quickly faded. The ammeter on the dash also said it clear - no charge. I tried kick starting on the EMERGENCY start setting but I couldn't even get a spark. I couldn't have been less surprised actually. This was like the Troll all over again.

Here's a couple of shots of the engine just after I removed the side panels. The user guide says the side panels are easily removed by unscrewing six large screws. Yes, there are six large screws but you also need to remove the gear change and kickstart and then jiggle the panels over and around the footrests all the while trying not to damage any of the paintwork. The carby and its tickler is completely inaccessible without the panels removed. Someone really didn't think all this through when they designed this.

Monday morning I contacted Barry and asked his advice. Barry was adamant the bike was running and gave me a couple of tips to try. So on Saturday I started again.

After re-cleaning the petrol tap of more sludge the tap developed a fairly dramatic leak (obviously the sludge was performing some service!). Although I didn't have an appropriate gasket, I jury rigged a seal that did the trick. For the next couple of hours I fiddled with the fuel, the electrics and periodically gave the engine a spin. Despite my best efforts it would cough and splutter but just wouldn't catch. I knew I was close though.

On Sunday I tried again. I'd seen footage of a vintage Crocker being fired up on You-Tube and it gave me an idea. The engine had to be primed four times before the ignition was switched on. Then it jumped into life the first kick. New, the Ariel should only require two priming kicks before starting on the first 'live' kick. I wasn't expecting anything like that but thought I would try it anyway, so before each 'live' kick I did two soft prime kicks. Initially it made no real difference. For the first 10 minutes I sweated over the kickstarter and the engine sounded as lifeless as ever. But then it began to cough. It spluttered out after one or two revolutions for probably the next 10 minutes so I replaced the spark plugs and then ... Bang! She started. I was quite surprised at the sound of the engine - it was quiet and smooth.

After that first start the engine stalled a couple of times but it was never hard to restart. Sometimes it would even fire up on a 'soft' priming kick. I ran the engine for about 15 minutes before it was time to put her away. Here's a quick video of her running.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Piaggio Picnic Day

On Sunday 29 November 2009, Piaggio Australia organised a 'Piaggio Scooter Run and Picnic' around Perth. The ride was co-ordinated by Ace Scooters, Joondalup and the Perth Scooter Club and was promoted through various websites, scooter forums and by word of mouth. Although it was a Piaggio event, other makes and classic machines were also welcome.

The official ride started at Subiaco oval, ran around the foreshore, along Canning Highway and ended up in South Perth for a picnic. The turnout was excellent with some 50-60 scooters and riders attending. Modern Vespas predominated but there were also a pleasing number of old VBBs and PXs in attendance. It was great to see such a diverse group of scooters on the road at once. Unfortunately, there were roadworks on our chosen route and the group got separated and broke up, but most of the riders eventually made it to South Perth.

Sadly, Shelly and I was amongst the last of the riders to arrive. The Troll decided to be extremely temperamental and broke down twice on the way to Subiaco. Then it stalled repeatedly on the way to South Perth and to top it all off we got lost. Although there were times when I felt like throwing in the towel we finally made it!! And it was worth it. I finally got to meet several people that I know only via the forums and email and we got to talk scooter sh*t.

Of course everyone had helpful suggestions about what was going wrong with the Troll. Let's say it's a problem with a leaking / flooding carburetter (Ivo warned me about that a week ago and I've now ordered the requisite gaskets and seals) and the electrics - the battery is still not charging and I lose all charge when the idle gets low (hence the stall, flood, wait, restart process). To be honest, I undoubtedly contributed to the problem by filling up the tank with some old fuel that has been in the shed for a couple of months. I had meant to run down to the petrol station, but we were running late... yadda yadda. My bad.

The worst thing about arriving late was not getting an opportunity to take more photos. All in all it was great day and I look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scooters and Bikes - New beginnings

Today was a day for new beginnings. Firstly, my brother dropped off the Ariel. He had very kindly picked up the bike while we were overseas and had been holding it for me. Today he finally had access to a ute and so bought her over. Although the bike's condition was worse than I had expected she did look rather fabulous. The upper surfaces of all the grey panels are badly surface rusted. They won't buff out. I will eventually get them sand-blasted and repainted. I'm kind of keen to do that myself this time, but we'll have to see. The red areas I intend to keep 'as is.'

The bike was covered in a decades of grime that took several hours to clean it all away. Then, with the shell gleaming about as much as it ever will, I popped in a six volt battery, connected the terminals and switched on the ignition. The ammeter on the dash immediately sprung into life. I turned on the headlight and it worked perfectly. Great! Deep down I wanted to immediately pour in some petrol and give her a crank, but I restrained myself. I'll go over the engine this weekend before I even think about turning her over.

After I had cleaned the bike down I checked under the seat to confirm the engine and chassis number. When I bought the bike I was informed that the chassis number was T286A and the bike had been built in 1961. When I checked with the Ariel Club in the UK they were a little surprised as that number corresponded to the very first batch of Leaders built in 1958. The first 100 numbers were prototypes, test beds and demo bikes with the proper production starting in July 1958 with bike number 101. This means that my bike is the 185th production Leader ever made, making it one of the oldest surviving Leader's known. Unfortunately, the Ariel dispatch records for the period 1958 to 1960 have been lost so I can't confirm who the original owner was and when it was purchased.

So, the plan is - go over the engine, clean and re-oil, clutch and gearbox, check the brakes, flush through the fuel tank and carb, clean the airfilter and then - start her up. Electrically - fix the horn and stop light, install the new indicators I've bought (they aren't original but I'm not really doing a restoration). Finally, replace the tyres, which are badly perished, with the new whitewalls and then send her for inspection. Somewhere in that timeline, if I have the chance and money (hmm, always a problem) I'll see about sanding and repainting the grey panels.

After picking up the Ariel, we loaded the Heinkel and about five large boxes of parts onto the ute and took her around to the Vespa Shop. Ivo and Roberto are now ready to begin the restoration, which was far too big a job for me with my rather basic mechanical skills. I'm happy to put the job in their capable hands. The Heinkel restoration is going to be a big job and I don't expect it will be finished inside six months.

Then I picked up the Troll, which had been in having its horn replaced and some electrical problems looked at. As we were wheeling the beast out of the shop Ivo commented that whenever the Troll is in the shop people always come in and comment. Ivo should be proud of the job they did on the Troll - she looks fantastic. This time, she fired right up on the second kick and the new horn was loud and strong. Then I had a very pleasant ride home in busy peak hour traffic.

This Sunday 29 November, Piaggio Australia is organizing a Vespa riders Christmas BBW at Subiaco Oval followed by a ride through the city. It's the first event of its kind in Perth and I had intended on riding the VBB, but her lack of power always makes me wary when considering rides of any distance. I'll make a decision on the day (maybe I'll do a test run on Saturday?). More likely I'll end up riding the Troll as that way Shelly can come along too. Although it's organized by Piaggio all other scooter makes are welcome. I'll probably be relegated to the rear of the pack with Lambretta riders but that isn't such bad company!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Scooting in Tuscany

When in Rome ... I mean Siena.

I'm a little bit out of sequence with this posting as we were in Italy we decided we had to hire a scooter and where better that Siena in Tuscany. I hired a newish red Vespa 125LX (I think!). Being Italy, the hire company was pretty casual about the whole thing -

"Do you have a licence?"
"Yes, I've got a..."
"That's fine."

This was the first time I'd ever ridden a modern scooter and I must admit I always felt I was forgetting to do something (err, that would be change gears). I did appreciate the additional power of the engine and all the modern conveniences, but it wasn't quite the 'Roman Holiday' experience I was expecting.

Firstly - Italian traffic. Scary! Although I must admit they don't pull out in front of you like Australian drivers do.

Secondly - Italian roads. Scary. Tuscany is renown for its weaving hilly roads; it's part of the regions charm, but the backroads were often a little dicey with large cracks in the tarmack that seemed designed to throw a scooter off its teeny tiny wheels. There were a couple of incidents where I felt the road conditions were really dangerous.

Thirdly - the Vespa became quite uncomfortable to ride after a couple of hours. I wasn't the only one to think this. Shelly was riding pillion and was very very uncomfortable. We were quite relieved when we parked the Vespa for the last time and got to stretch our legs.

That all said it was good fun and we got to scoot around some lovely countryside and up and down little medieval alleys and had a generally good time. Shelly even got to take the scooter for a spin around a carpark and quite enjoyed it. But if comes to long distance riding - I'll never ride a Vespa across the Nullabor!

So, is it dangerous to ride a scooter or bike in Italy I hear you ask? The Duomo in Siena has a special shrine for people who have recovered from accidents or bad luck. They often leave a symbol of their misfortune at the shrine. What do you think?

Revised Links and Yahoo Discussion Groups

I've decided to clean up the links on this blog. Some of the links I don't use any more but they are still useful for reference so I'll post them all in this entry for posterity. If anyone finds that a link is out of date, please let me know.

1. Harald Hubers fabulous scooter collection

2. EMW and IWL restorations

3. IWL Stadtroller website

4. IWL Roller website

5. Troll owners guide (in German)

Update 2019 - there were originally 10 links here but half are now dead. The Yahoo boards still exist, but much traffic is now via Facebook.

The Yahoo Discussion Boards.
I can't recommend the Yahoo discussion groups highly enough. I have joined many scooter, motorcycle, microcar and vintage car discussion groups. The advice and support of many members experience is invaluable to the restoration process as well as day to day running. If you've got a problem or a question, chances are someone else has had that same problem too and will be happy to share their experiences.

11. IWL Scooters von Amerika (this is a rather quiet group, most discussion has migrated to the German scooter or Oddscoot discussion pages)

12. German Scooter Club

13. Oddscoots forum (very active with advice for all types of scooters, from German Heinkels to Japanese Rabbits and Silver Pigeons.

14. Ariel Arrow and Leader Group (there are three Ariel discussion boards in Yahoo but this one is the most active, focusing on the Ariel two strokes)

Online Manuals
As we all know, obtaining the manual for your vintage scooter is an absolutely essential step for your restoration. Between them, the German Scooter Club and Oddscoot Yahoo forum above have manuals for Heinkels, IWLs, NSU Primas, Progress scooters, Durkopp Dianas, Fuji Rabbits, Mitsubishi Silver Pigeons, and Zundapp Bellas. You can also find most of these manuals at: And:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

News from the stable

I was a little concerned when I got back from my Europe trip that the Troll would still be off the road. Much to my relief that wasn't the case. Somehow or other the cylinder had worked itself loose and the engine had lost compression. Never having seen anything like this before Ivo and Roberto were stumped as to the cause. I suspect it might just have been a symptom of many years neglect, overheating and a bit of vibration.

My first ride in four or five months was a bit stressful. The engine was running dreadfully and a howling wind made her very difficult to control. Shelly, who was following me home in the car, commented that I was wobbling all over the road. It wasn't a good start.

The next weekend I took her out for another run after cleaning the tank and adding fresh fuel. Thankfully this time she ran really well and I had a very pleasant ride. I've taken her out several times since and have been generally pleased with the performance. As I've said before, the Troll is a beautiful scooter to ride. It may not look pretty but its layout is 'just right' - the handlebars are perfectly position so you don't have to bend or stretch, the seat is perfectly comfortable, even over long distances, and the foot gears can be switched up and down with the minimum of effort. It's an excellent touring scooter. That said however there are still some problems to resolve. The battery went flat while we were away but although Roberto recharged it it has gone flat again so it isn't charging. Lack of consistent charge makes the engine stall at idle. The horn has also failed and needs to be replaced (if it isn't one thing, it's another!).

The Ariel
A couple of days before I left the Ariel Leader arrived in Perth. My brother was kind enough to pick it up and store it for me. It's still at his place and I need to arrange for it to be shipped over. In the meantime all the of the missing / replacement parts have come in so I'm all ready to go. I am quite excited about getting the bike running, registered and on the road. I don't intend a full restoration. The paintwork, especially the red sections, have many original flourishes that would be lost if it was stripped back, so I want to keep its original patina, polished up and preserved. It will also keep the cost down which will be important!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Piaggio Museum, Pontedera

The little Tuscan town of Pontedera, halfway between Pisa and Siena, is dominated by the Piaggio factory. The factory (and museum) is situated on the opposite side of the train station (ie, across the tracks) so is easy to find. Unfortunately there is no where at the train station to store baggage but the museum staff kindly offered to look after our bags.

The Piaggio collection is housed in one of the old factory buildings. The collection is extensive and includes aircraft, trains, civil engineering, Gilera motorcycles and, of course, Vespas. I was quite surprised when browsing through the archive section to see that Piaggio had built everything from heavy bombers, sea planes, fighter aircraft and submarines (just the engines I think). There were also aerial photographs of the factory before and after the war showing the extent of bombing damage.

It was wonderful to see the two Vespa prototypes restored and on display. The original 'Paperino' was built in 1946 as a speculative venture by Piaggio's Biella factory. Enrico Piaggio never liked it and handed the project over to designer Corradino D'Ascanio to rework. D'Ascanio's design got the tick and 1,000 were rushed into production. Reaction from the press was largely negative but the public, desperate for any form of cheap transport, were sold on the Vespa. Between 1947 and 1950 the Vespa was constantly revised and improved with bigger engines, better controls, and improved suspension, before the formula was finally perfected. Since then millions of Vespas have been sold all around the world, turning the Vespa into a cultural icon in the process.

An overview of the Vespa display

A stack of Vespas starting with the 1946 model at the top left

The 1946 Paperino. Only about 50 Paperinos were ever built so they are as rare as hen's teeth and now extremely sought after. It's amazing how small the Paperino actually is. It is much smaller and lower than the familar Vespa.

The original 'Vespa' 98cc prototype.

The early trio - Paperino prototype, Vespa prototype and the first production model

A 1966 Vespa 90 Super Sprint

1947 Vespa 98cc Corsa. In order to prove that the Vespa wasn't some novelty Piaggio entered modified racing versions into competions all around Europe. This early racer had a top speed of 80kph.

Two more racers - the 1949 Vespa 125 Corsa and Vespa 125 circuit racer. The Corsa (no 38) hit 130kph while the circuit racer's top speed was 100kph.

Front view of the racers.

A 1951 Vespa 125 racer and 1953 Vespa 125 U, a rare economy model.

The 1950 Montlhery circuit racer. This streamlined machine hit 137kph.

Taking streamlining to the next level - the 1951 Vespa Siluro. With a specially built twin cylinder engine, this machine set a speed record for a standing start with 171kph over one kilometre.

Vespa as standard... the 150cc models of the 1960s.

Modern Vespas.

The Ape was another of Piaggio's iconic vehicles. On the left is the 1953 Ape 150 and beside it the 1956 Ape AC.

1962 Ape firetruck. Apes are still found all across the world, especially in Asia, where they have barely changed. Modern versions remain popular in Italy.

The 1957 Vespa 400 microcar.

The Gilera Motorcycle Collection

Gilera started building motorcycles at the beginning of the 12th century. They were bought out by Piaggio.

In the 1930s Piaggio built these marvellous stainless steel trains for use on Italy's northern railways.

It would have been good if they also had some information about Piaggio's aircraft. Piaggio build fighters and bombers for the Italian airforce during the Second World War.

For information about about the Piaggio Museum, including directions and opening hours, check their website: