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Diego Torres' 1960 Series II TV175

Monday, October 28, 2013
Diego Torres 1960 Lambretta is unrestored  original and very rare.
Diego Torres' 1960 Lambretta is unrestored, original and very rare.
Diego Torres' 1960 Series II TV175: Stiletto Heels

At the other extreme from Paula's choice is her mechanic Diego's rolling bit of scooter history. Riding the two bikes back to back really highlights not only the differences between Vespa and Lambretta, but the startling march of automotive technology between 1960 and 1970.

Lambretta introduced the TV Series II in 1959, at the height of a booming European scooter market. The new model was, like the Rally, an improvement on an older Series I and "the bike where Lambretta got it right," according to Diego. It was, at the time, "the world's finest scooter." The motor used a piston port intake and made 8 or 9 horsepower at the crank – big news for its day.

That power number is comparable to the newer Rally, but it doesn't feel as snappy. In addition to heavy steel bodywork, the Lamby is long and has a heavy tube-steel frame underneath its swoopy shapes. So it's heavy, but it does have a dual-sided fork and conventional chassis, so it handles much more like a motorcycle, according to Diego.

Riding it shows how far motorcycles have come. It's stable, and steers nicely, but it's heavy and very slow. Shifting is difficult, the brakes are weak, teeny drums and it's riding on 3.5 by 10-inch tires of unknown vintage. I think they might be off a furniture dolly, but as Barry quips about his similarly suspect rubber, "they're way newer than the bike!" Har, har. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.

The Lambretta Series II is stable and steers nicely  but its heavy and very slow.
The Lambretta Series II is stable and steers nicely, but it's heavy and very slow.
The bike is pleasant to ride, if you take it easy, but we're cut short when a fan shroud bolt comes loose and we have to return the bike. Still, it's an incredible honor to ride a piece of scootering history like this, and I can see its value – not as an everyday driver, though Diego claims he does, but as a special heirloom to take out and enjoy on perfect days. Or you could park it in your living room – the shapes and styling are incredibly gorgeous, from the elegant brake and clutch levers to the long curves of the side covers.

If you can find a running bike this rare, be prepared to pay a lot for it. If you look for an early-model Lambretta, you are unlikely to find one this nice; they are rare, and the running ones have a lot of miles on them and their owners tend to be obsessive about keeping them. Even if a 50-year-old scooter was barely used, it will need to be fully rebuilt to make it safe and dependable. And "you'll find a lot of projects," says Diego, "and you get what you pay for. It's more of a hobby than anything else, so if you want one, you really have to focus on finding the right vehicle."

Vintage Scooter: Vespa vs. Lambretta
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