Wherein we obtain the scooter, get her title and assessing her condition before we begin surgery.

"It's a Piaggio VLB1T with an air cooled 150cc engine and 10" wheels. It's my very favorite scooter. I call her Vera."


12/03/06: Introduction

Welcome to my blog chronicling my repair and restoration of a 1969 Vespa Sprint. I'm going to separate the blog into three parts, as it there will be three main steps in getting this old scoot all fixed up: Getting it operational, taking it apart and repairing/replacing as necessary, then putting it all back together.
Any vehicle this old, with this much character has got to have a name, if only to have a name to swear and cuss at (which I'm sure I'll be doing regularly!) And with all these curves and flash, it's got to be female. So I'm calling her Vera. Maybe that name and its associated quote is a bit overused and geeky, but I don't care. I think it fits, I like it, and when you get your own scooter you can call it whatever you like.
On to the details: I bought Vera this weekend and brought her home yesterday. As you can see, she needs some help. As you can see, she's white and blue. Originally, all white (or so it would seem) before some maniac went after her with a rattle can of blue paint. Judging by the painted-over stickers, she used to be a police scooter, but who knows where? She appears to be mechanically sound (except for the carburetor and fuel supply, which are in pieces) and her body looks to be in good shape except for a couple patches of rust and a collection of superficial dents and dings. Obviously, she doesn't work right now, but I think all (or at least most) of her parts are present and she makes an encouraging sound when you kick the starter. Well, enjoy the "before" photos. Over the next couple days I'll see what sort of work it'll take to get her back up and running, then report back.

12/05/06: First Surprise

Today Vera gave me my first surprise, I'm sure the first of many. The carburetor is here, in pieces. Most of it, anyway. But the float cap is in horrible shape! What the heck happened to it? If I could find a new one, it'd be around $30, half the cost of a brand new, complete carb. Add the other missing bits and pieces in, and I might as well just buy a new one and store this one away for spare parts. The air cleaner is missing a small collection of bits, too. The tires looked a bit tired, so I put those on the list, as well. Hopefully that's all it will take to get Vera back on her feet for a gentle walk around the block. I tallied it all up and placed an order with the folks at Scomo.
I was also breifly considering converting Vera to an oil-injected model, since I was replacing the carb anyway, but apparently in order to do that, you need to replace the engine as well. Scratch that idea!

1/03/07: All here...

After several weeks of waiting, I gave up on Scomo and ordered a carburetor from Scooterworks, and got it within a week. Now, I like Scomo; they're friendly and helpful and Chelsea is great, but...if I'm waiting on something, I can be patient, as long as I have some idea of how long it's going to take. But week after week of "I think it's coming in next week," tends to wear me down. I know getting parts for vintage vehicles is less than a sure affair, which is why I don't begrudge Scomo any, and why I will still order from them. Like I said, I like Scomo, but if I really really need a part ASAP, Scooterworks appears to have better inventory control. Anyway...
Vera is finally a whole scooter once again. Well, almost. The only part she's missing is an air filter and some bits of trim. That's not to say any number of parts still don't need to be replaced, but there aren't any critical missing pieces I'm aware of. As you'll notice, I also got a new gas tank as well. The old one was solid, but full of rust, and it would have been almost more expensive to get it sealed than to simply buy a new one.
Unfortunately, it's occured to me that there's no way I can get the new fuel tap assembly into the gas tank without a special wrench. So that's on order, but in the mean time I've tried to get Vera working with some carb starter spray I got from the local auto parts store. She's not too keen on that juice and won't start, but I'm not worried; I was just trying it on the off chance it would work.
Yeah, her tires aren't in the photo, but they're nearby. It took almost half a day to get the old tires pried off the rims. There was a surprising ammount of rust in there. They look sturdy, but I may have to get new rims.

1/29/07: She Lives!

I finally got the remainder of my shipment in from Scomo on Saturday with some bits and pieces (like the air filter), but most importantly the fuel tap wrench! I could barely wait to get out of work today so I could hurry home in and get Vera's fuel system finally completely assembled. The weather just had to wait and get cold right after I get that critical tool, no? Anyway, after a good deal of monkeying around getting the fuel tank and tap assembled and installed, I put in some gas and tried starting the old girl up. And again. And again. After about a score of kickstarts, Vera sputtered to life!
Hooray! Now mind you, she still doesn't like starting. And for that matter, she doesn't like running, and will choke out if you don't keep your hand on the throttle, but dammit, she runs. It's a great feeling, very rewarding to know that it hasn't been a bottomless money pit just to get the engine to turn over. If I can, I'm going to see about getting her titled and tagged next weekend. Unfortunately, her electrical and cable system (at the least) is in such a poor - yet functional - state that I don't trust her to be safe out on the road, even just around the block. And to make her safe, I'd probably have to take her almost completely apart. It'd be kind of silly to take her apart and put her back together only to drive her around the block and then take her apart again. So, there'll be no test drives for Vera until she's nearly done being restored. Ah, well.

2/08/07: Yes, that's why I'm here.

Now that Vera's running, I need to get her a title. Being as that it appears Vera hasn't been registered and tagged in about 30 years, it's not especially surprising that she didn't come with one. I was hoping that I could get this done at the local DMV, and I actually confirmed this via their phone-in help desk. So last weekend I went on down to a nearby office and tried to get this done. I knew I was in for trouble when I only had to wait about 5 minutes before being helped (a 5-minute wait at the DMV? A bad, bad omen!). The exchange went something like this:

Me: I need to get a title for this vehicle.
Them: OK. (checks paperwork) Sir, you don't have a title for this vehicle.
Me: Yes, I know. That's why I need one.
Them: It didn't come with one?
Me: No, that's why I need one.
Them: Sir, you can't purchase a vehicle without a title.
Me: Your phone-in help desk told me otherwise. This vehicle was incomplete and inoperational and hasn't been on the road in 30 years. I'd be very surprised if it had a title.
Them: Uh...I'll have to ask my supervisor.
Supervisor: Sir, you need a title for this vehicle.
Me: *sigh* Yes, that's why I'm here. No, it didn't come with one. It's a 38 year old vehicle that hasn't been on the road in 30 years and is incomplete and inoperational. Your head office down in Richmond told me this wasn't going to be a problem.
Supervisor: Hmm...Does it have pedals?
Me: Well, it has a brake pedal.
Supervisor: No, I mean does it have pedals?
Me: What? Oh, you mean... No, it's not a moped. It's classified as a motorcycle.
Supervisor: Well it says here that you can't purchase a vehicle in DC without a title.
Me: *sighs again* Right. Thanks for your help.

Now to be honest, I expected this. It's not the first time I've had to deal with government agencies who automatically translate the phrase "We've never done that before" into "You can't do that." And I spent less than 2 hours on this effort, including travel. I was just hoping I could get a title the short, cheap way rather than the long, expensive way. So off to plan B. While I'm waiting for a title from Broadway Title Company, Vera's going up to my fiance's parents' garage for Phase 2

Copyright Joel & Angela Cropley 2009
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