Everyone remembers the days of Mods & Rockers, the latter rode big powerful British bikes like BSA Gold Stars, Triumph Bonnevilles, or Norton Domi’s nothing under 500cc would “cut the mustard” and they all wore leather with studs badges “Ton -Up” patches on the shoulder, and draped in sink plug chains and usually a jet helmet topped off the look. The motorcycles they rode were a Cafe Racer style and with megga’s that you could hear from half a mile away while clip-ons were de rigour they always had a blond girlfriend lots of lipstick and with a de-formed chest which they liked to expose!
Mods on the other hand we’re demure and rode scooters preferably Lambretta’s which were well made and expensive or the cheaper Vespa, these had up to ten mirrors fitted and thirty driving lights with at least twenty headlights or more if you could fit them. The dress code was different suede shoes, duffle coats and glasses like Buddy Holly’s, their girlfriends wore as well similar gear and Stadium helmets were standard, both tribes loved different music and when they mixed “it was on for one and all”. In Australia it wasn’t half as bad and rioting was kept to a minimum unlike the UK, in that period early sixties quite a number of Lambretta’s were sold by Stan Evans (Stan the scooter man) from Stanco in Elizabeth st, Toni Tonnon in Collingwood started a Vespa agency in Collingwood and imported reasonable numbers into Victoria this buisness still survives today with the son and grandson still fixing Vespa
Meanwhile the Brits sold Triumph Tina 10 or Tigress scooter, and BSA at Findlay’s sold Sunbeam scooters, Velocette sold a Viceroy, and Ariel sold a big wheel scooter called a Leader, Douglas in UK were importers for Vespa and they were rebadged Douglas, Norton ignored it all and were probably the most sensible sticking to motorcycles.
On the continent Victoria Burgemaster, CZ Czetta, Maico Maicoletta, NSU Quickly produced a scooters as well
Japan had the Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon, and the most successful Rabbit as well.
The yanks had a Cushman and even H-D made a scooter, this all crumbled in the late sixties and anybody seen a scooter outside Italy was usually a “Grey Ghost” traffic officer handing out parking tickets, you wouldn’t be seen dead on one, so how was it that I rode and hated a Vespa for 8 months in 1972? There was a associate of mine at this time Ron Gilbert that worked at the Fairfield Post Office that rode a Vespa 150 occasionally and lusted for my Triumph 650 Saint and pestered me constantly for months for it, after a particularly cold wet winter I decided to sell the Trumpy and buy a car (Valiant V8) and with $550 cash and the Vespa in part exchange seemed like a good idea at the time as it was a decent deposit on the Valiant costing $2,200, a done deal. Now this Vespa was fully kitted out crashbars, spare wheel, and a dual seat in a pleasant light grey colour that made it look like a piece of weathered corrugated iron, and a rear rack topped it off that I thought my toolbox would fit on so I could stop thievery happening at my workplace over the weekend. This horrible scooter was derided by all my mates justifiably and they not be seen dead with me! Anyway I began riding it daily to work and realised the shortcomings of small wheels and footboards, the nasty rotatable 3 speed gearchange on the left grip and random flywheel generator system that produced less current than the tyre driven dynamo on my old Malvern Star bicycle had me regretting selling the Triumph within days but I thought it would “grow on me”.
Weeks passed, fitting my substantial tool box on the rear rack had the scooter hovering the front wheel down the rode in a semi wheelstand situation so this was overcome by putting it in between my legs in the foot area of the body. The small wheels dumped me off on a couple of occasions one time sliding the full length of the garage workshop when someone dumped kero on the ground to clean up oil! The saying about Lucas being the Prince of Darkness was made well before Vespa perfected the art of darkness, 30W headlight globe was pathetic and at idle there was no lightning at all unless the engine revs were kept up! The other thing was the aluminium scythe kickstarter lever stripped its spline and doing a Le Mans start without falling over the rear engine covers was a challenge even for the racer in me, this thing had to go!
Another friend Erwin Guyson mower mechanic from Greensborough liked it and with a offer of $150 turned out to be my Vespa’s new owner. It loosened a screw off holding a lighting coil in the flywheel and “munched” out its lighting coil, so Erwin rode it at night with a Eveready Dolphin torch around his neck as a headlight, to bad for a stop/tailight, I lost track of it after this and bought a Dunstall Bonneville and until recently never thought much about this time in my life. Scooters have became popular again and they are now made up to and over 500cc and Vespa’s are huge in size compared to my 150 in Italy where I am at the moment thousands and thousands prolificate here and are popular and suit Rome perfectly, I knew they would as H-D cruisers in their own country suit perfectly, but in my opinion not in Australia, buy a motorcycle instead.