From time to time we receive offers of classic Lambretta and Vespa scooters from suppliers in India, as well as receiving email ‘updates’ from various sources about some ‘nice Lambretta scooters’ on eBay. However, if you are in the market for your first classic scooter you may want to do a little research before parting with your cash to avoid being disappointed. Sometimes, what you get may not quite be what you wanted.
We must first of all point out that this is not a crusade against Indian scooters or indeed scooter parts made in India. There are a lot of essential classic scooter parts manufactured in India and like thousands of others around the world, we also use them to keep our steeds on the road.
However, ‘buyer beware’ should be at the forefront of your mind when trawling the pages of eBay in search of a bargain, because they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be!
If amongst the sales pitch you discover phrases like “Yes I actually ordered this colour,” they really mean “I imported it like this from India.”
This is confirmed by statements like; “it is now fitted with a brand new SIL factory built 200cc engine” which can often means, “somebody in downtown Mumbai has some new engine casings which they’ve filled with cheap parts before repainting and selling the shiny scooter to a westerner.”
This is where the problems may lie for some, not only because the quality is of an unknown standard and any warrnty offered unlikely to be worth the email it’s sent via, but a comment like; “This scooter was originally manufactured by Scooters India Ltd and sold in their home market as a 150cc machine” actually translates as, “If you wanted a Lambretta you will probably be disappointed because while this looks like one, in India it was called the Vijai Deluxe and therefore the law states this is what it will say on your logbook today in England.”
The final blow to some people could well be that any scooters manufactured from 1985 onwards must be fitted with direction indicators, and rarely do any foreign restorations feature these, so to add to your list of expenses will be the cost of a new wiring loom, flasher relay, indicator lights and necessary fittings.
Of course it’s not just SIL scooters where the brand name of the vehicle will be different on its logbook to that which you may desire te most.
API manufactured Lambrettas under licence until 1972, and after that their scooters were called things like the Lamby, or Polo. While on the Vespa front the agreement between Bajaj and Piaggio ceased around the same time, thereafter scooters were known as Chetak, Classic and other names. The LML-Piaggio relationship only lasted from 1984 to the late 90s, so again anything after that is technically not a Vespa.
While there are plenty of us proudly riding around on Indian built scooters, which are also registered as such (some of these are arguably rarer in Europe than their Italian originators), if you’re maybe not 100% certain of exactly what you’re looking for when buying a scooter, our advice is shop local from an established dealer for a UK registered machine.
Good luck, and enjoy the ride!