Custom: 1958 Vespa VNA2T “Cafe Racer”

This is not only a lesson in the value of design and fabrication skills, but one of patience and dedication to an old scooter. Even the most casual reader will understand that Sean’s odyssey in the rediscovery of a Vespa VNA in the corner of the shed can not only exercise creative (and literal) muscles, but bring smiles to faces young and old.

Forty-five year old Sean Creighton has been into the scooter scene since he was 16 (1987). He is a cabinet maker by trade, with scooters always a hobby. Sean said “my first scooter was a Vespa PK50. I was never into the mod thing more a scooter boy listening to ska reggae and rockabilly”.

 

Sean bought a Piaggio X9 500 in 2006 and used it till 2011, however, as many have learned, when it came to sell it he could not give it away. Months passed and eventually he ended up swapping it for a somewhat forlorn 1958 VNA2T. At the same time Sean also had a Series 1 Lambretta that broke his heart (as they do), and that was swapped for a 1981 BMW R100T. The BMW was an unfinished project when he got it, rough but running, needing paint and a seat, so he crafted it into cafe racer before someone wanted it more than he did and it was sold on.

 

In the rush of things like the BMW Cafe racer and a few other projects he had going on, the VNA2T sort of got buried in the corner of the shed. Out of the way, but just short of forgotten.

The bikes and scooters continued to be a hobby – but on the 4th of June 2014 Sean had a heart attack and was unable to continue working. When he recovered, Sean had some time on his hands, which was filled with painting bikes and scooters for friends. One of the bikes he painted was a Honda CB175 for a mate. It had a rotted fuel tank that Sean replaced and painted to match. Not one to just toss out things, Sean placed the rusty tank in the back of the shed, on top of a pile of old parts that was next to something with an old sheet on it.

A few week later on a clean-up mission, Sean found the rejected tank. He said “I had the old tank in my hand ready for the bin when the idea jumped at me”. He dug out the old Vespa and started cutting the tank, splitting it down the middle, then carefully fitting it around the steering column. Tacked together, it looked pretty good. Another item found in the shed clean up was an old PX glove box. Sections were cut out of the glove box until it became the top of the tank, while keeping the lock and hinges, Sean said “I like the Vespa Super Sprint, but always thought the tank was a bit small looking and badly finished at the front, I wanted mine to look a bit more integrated, with a welded in look but bolt in finish. It was important to me that the tank would bolt on. I didn’t want to weld it in, I wanted the option of going back to standard, so the tank is hung on the steering column at the front and bolted into the seat holes at the back, 5 bolts and it’s back to standard (ish)”.

 

This particular version of CB175 tank has a round indention where a Honda badge once fitted which is similar to the Vespa Super Sprint tank which also had an indentation designed to fit an acrylic badge.

Sean had build rear hinge seat before for a street racer, which worked great (no pics of this one) so he had a template to work with. He cut it shorter to fit round the tank and welded a hinge to a fixing plate, as the seat then had no fixing point it also needed to be hinged at the rear. Dampers for over head kitchen doors have been fitted to the seat and work really well, The weight of the timber in the cafe bobtail was required for balance, so he wrapped the whole seat with glass fibre and filled, filed and sanded it until it was smooth.

 

The windscreen was the last part of the cafe racer look. Sean searched the web for something prefabricated (or close!) but nothing seemed readily available. What else to do but to have a look at the stuff in the shed. Near the same pile that spawned the whole idea, Sean dug out an old spare scooter helmet and started cutting. (more testimony to never throw things out!)

He had a hole saw that was perfect size for the headlight, so he kept fitting and trimming till it sat perfect, after this the visor was cut down and bonded to the helmet. Sean has taped off the visor and painted stripes on it to give a sort of old aeroplane cockpit look.

 

The old Vespa frame had a lot of filler on the front and a few cracks in the leg shields, so he welded everything up, hammered out the dents and filled, filed and sanded it smooth. As he was filling he removed the seam down the back and under the seat. A PX auto lube petrol tank has been fitted – though the oil tank has been removed and welded up on the under side, so it will store a mag light in case of emergencies at night. It was now ready for priming and paint.

 

Sean said “through the build I had a dark grey colour in my head because everyone goes for silver but when I saw it in primer I got the silver” (there is a reason it’s used so much).

 

Sean bought a cheap airbrush on eBay and watched a video on YouTube on how to do a waving flag. After a practice or two, he put flags on the mudguard and cowls to the scooter, with plans to add some air brushing to the tank, and and airbrushed front badge.

Sean is still contemplating the engine set up, at the moment Cafe Racer has a PX200 engine under it but this may be changed to Pinasco 190 he is building.

 

The project is not complete yet with new rims and tyres being considered as well as new cables and loom and making a pad for the seat. Smaller touches will be making a clamp to secure the spare wheel and finding or making a fuel tank infill for the spare wheel.

It’s not all scooters all the time. Still a cabinet maker, Sean is just finishing off a vintage-look VW camper bed for his daughter.

 

Sean’s daughter is over the moon with her new bed, as is Sean. Now he can get back to the no-longer-quite a VNA scooter work again.

A final word from the creator “I would like to contribute all the skills I have picked up over the years to being born into hard times and having to learn, and to all the great teachers that have shown me how it’s done. I think the young people today are to quick to throw money out to get a job done, instead of learning and taking pride in doing it themselves.”

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