Lambretta Li 125

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Before WWII, Ferdinando Innocenti owned a steel-tubing factory in Rome. After the war he didn’t. Standing in the rubble, wondering what to do next, watching the many American-made Cushman scooters buzzing around he thought, ‘I’ll make those’. He employed an aeronautical engineer called Corradino D’Ascanio who had been designing helicopters but wasn’t allowed to any more, and set him to task designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. It had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger and not get its driver’s clothes soiled. D’Ascanio hated motorcycles, so designed the motorcycle you design when you’re not designing a motorcycle. It was built on a stamped spar frame with a handlebar gear change and the engine mounted directly onto the rear wheel. The front shield kept the rider clean and dry and the pass-through leg area made it rideable for women wearing dresses or skirts. All seemed to be going well. However, D’Ascanio fell out with Innocenti who, rather than a stamped spar frame wanted to produce his frame from steel tubing (old dog, new tricks and all that). D’Ascanio stamped his foot and, slamming the door behind him, took his ideas to Enrico Piaggio who said ‘Si, molto bene!’ and started producing the spar-framed Vespa in 1946. Through the 1950s, Lambretta thrived, but by the end of the 60s, the humble scooter gave way to small, affordable cars. Innocenti was struggling and sold out to the British Leyland Motor Corporation. Yup, BLMC, and there’s no prize for guessing what happened next. So they don’t make ’em any more, but here’s your chance to own one, any colour you want so long as it’s orange.

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Austin J2 Paralanian

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I’ve included this Austin J2 Paralanian camper in my series of British Cars realising what it lacks in ‘car-ness’ it makes up for in Britishness – in van loads. Between 1956 and 1965, Central Garages Limited of Bradford hand-built these camper-vans, typically starting with Austin and Morris cabs and chassis. But here’s the best part – they were considered luxurious, the best money could buy. Such simple times aye? They sold for £1,400 give or take. Now, I’d have thought one might get a nice terrace two-up two-down in Bradford for less than that, well, anywhere possibly … but I guess real estate’s not really my strength so what would I know?   

Central Garages was located in Parry Lane, hence Paralanian (see what they did there, those clever Brits, it’s nearly as good as ‘van loads’), a word that became synonymous with the British summer motoring holiday. When you think about it in this light, those old campers probably didn’t clock up many miles, the British summer only being two weeks long an’ all.

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Ford Cortina

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My sister’s boyfriend had one of these, only his was a mustard colour. I used to enjoy sliding into the back seat, cruising the back streets of Johnsonville – Abba belting out SOS from the cassette player on the parcel shelf. Slightly on the too loud side, speakers rattling. Sis was partial to a bit of Abba back then but who cared, this was a Mark 1 Cortina and we were cruisin’. The Boyfriend was probably wondering why the little brother was always in tow, but that never really occurred to me. Sis and the Boyfriend up front, me in the back with Abba having my own party, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. To be honest, Johnsonville wasn’t that glam – twice around the block was enough before the lure of the bright lights drew us to ‘The Mall’ – this is where it really happened in Johnsonville on Friday night, I can tell you.

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Bullitt Ford Mustang

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The Thunderbolt Hotel is where the body was found. It was originally called the Thunderbird Hotel but for some reason changed to Thunderbolt before the movie was filmed there (well, that’s very interesting isn’t it?). The Hotel has had a few down-grades since and isn’t quite as cool as it once was. I have taken the liberty of parking Frank Bullitt’s Mustang outside the hotel but as any film buff will know, Frank was driven to the hotel in his girlfriends Porsche. This happened post car chase so I guess the Mustang was in for repairs. Well I assume that, my HG Holden doesn’t go so well after I’ve raced it over the hills of Wellington of an afternoon. It’s like a recreation, except it’s Wellington not San Fransisco, my car is a white sedan not a green fastback (GM not Ford shock horror!), I stick to the road rules and I don’t look like Steve McQueen … otherwise.

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