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Autobretta (Lambretta)

January 5th, 2010

Whilst visiting Dave Briggs, the creator of ‘Lamster’, I caught sight of another project he had on the go which was in the early stages of development. So it wasn’t long before I was back in Grimsby marvelling at a rather suave auto conversion called ‘Autobretta’.

Ignoring the TV badges which Dave has added to the scooter (to represent in his words ‘Twist Version’), you’re looking at a 1959 Series 1 Lambretta Li 125 (not a TV 175). Just six weeks it took to restore and fit with an auto engine (bearing in mind that Dave already has some experience doing auto conversions – this being his third). So the classic styling of this Series 1 ‘frame breather’ (named so because of the aperture located in the rear of the frame – a characteristic of this model) has been retained. The scooter has been brought up to speed with the fitting of a tuned two stroke 125cc Piaggio engine. The engine (running at 23hp) was sourced off an old Gilera Runner of Daves which in itself was his introduction into the world of automatics (him being a traditionalist at heart). Along with the engine, original Runner wheels (12″ front, 13″ rear) have been fitted to this Series 1 which is one of the tell tale signs to the onlooker that all is not what it seems. The other dead give away is the Scorpion exhaust.

With the engine being liquid cooled, the original Runner radiator has been fitted and this has been mounted beneath the footboards. Fitted with a Malossi 172 kit, Malossi crank, 25mm carb, Scorpion exhaust and judging by the acceleration, a well set up clutch and variator, the scooter is a swift mover with the engine having been in the grubby, but talented hands of PSN Scooters in Batley. PSN were appointed to do the tuning work on Lamster (Dave’s previous auto conversion) and that was bloody quick too. Having had a quick blast on Autobretta I found the ride smooth and as for vibrations? Nothing to report, apart from what was probably caused by the somewhat fierce transmission setup (clutch biting) for fast starts. A quick tug on the handlebars and it’s possible to lift the front wheel (if you like to ride that way), but this isn’t really the done thing with such a debonaire looking scooter as this. The scooter handles well with Frank Sanderson’s front fork links and shocks with anti-dive. An RMS shocker has been fitted at the rear which has been jacked up by a few inches to provide a level riding height. Sat on the pillion seat it‘s a comfortable ride too and there didn’t seem to be any problems pulling away with a weighty passenger on board.

Looking closer at the engine there’s no oil tank, the oil pump has been disconnected as the oil is now mixed with the fuel directly into a fibre glass four gallon fuel tank. Built specifically for long distance travel this large capacity fuel tank is Dave’s own design based on the original Lambretta tank. A Cambridge Lambretta fuel tap with a reserve indicator light has also been fitted to give warning when fuel is low. An inside leg shield tool box has also been fitted (not normally found on a Series 1 Li 125) which houses the coolant header tank along with the brake reservoir for the cable to hydraulic master cylinders which are housed behind the horn casting. Which means, we have standard look headset handlebar levers and disk brakes front and rear.

Autobretta is an impressive conversion that has a real presence on the road. And from a technical standpoint, Dave has been able to make some engine mount improvements on this conversion. There’s also a bit more space to access the spark plug compared to Lamster, although admittedly a few more inches could have been gained based on the proximity of the rear wheel and the rear panel. But by utilising Piaggio’s engine mount design, it seems Dave has succeeded in producing an auto engine mount with hardly any, or no vibration at all. I asked him if there’s anything he would have done differently – “there’s always room for improvement, you’ll just have to wait until the next conversion!”

Words & Photos: Paul Robinson

This article was originally published in the print version of PETROL ISSUE.02