Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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 organising 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 organised 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!


  1. Paul: Well It looks like you are back from vacation and raring to jump back into your projects. Keep us posted on progress, always great reading.

    Best Wishes
    John D.

  2. Hey John. Yep, back into the game. Started the clean up on the Ariel today. Not running yet but I'm pretty confident I'll have it going soon. She's a little rough but it's part of the charm.
    How's that Tessy going? You'll have to post a video of her in motion. She looks great.
    If we don't speak earlier - Merry Christmas!