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May 7th, 2010

If there’s anywhere in the world that’s currently producing some of the finest looking custom automatic scooters (in my humble opinion) then it has got to be Europe…

The efforts of some of us Brits look a bit second class in comparison to our European friends who beat us pretty much hands down when it comes to radical custom scooters. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but it has to be said that they go that much further than a paintjob (more often than not a race rep by Dream Machine in the UK) and a predictable selection of engine mods… As a nation we’ve produced some of the finest looking custom motorcycles and geared scooters in the past, but very rarely have we produced any custom automatic scooters up to the same standard as the Europeans. Why? Is it because they’re just more open-minded than us? Or is it because the automatic scooter scene in the UK is perhaps still in its infancy? I’ll let you decide. Charles de Gaulle once declared, “France cannot be France without greatness”. Well as far as this custom Gilera DNA is concerned – c’est magnifique! Monsieur de Gaulle would’ve been proud…

The French seem to have a propensity for finding value in other cultures and, while borrowing from those cultures they manage to apply a certain level of bohemianism to their own creations. So what we have here is a somewhat Streetfighter-inspired custom DNA but with a French touch. Despite the bike possessing what is for all intents and purposes, an automatic scooter engine, you could, perhaps, see this machine gracing the pages of a custom ‘big bike’ mag (should the motorcycle fraternity ever be open-minded enough to print a scooter feature in their magazine). The creator of this two-wheeled wonder is Frenchman Sylvain Faoro and it took him three and a half years to build, a real labour of love indeed.

Sylvain’s aggressively named ‘FURAX’ DNA clearly features a whole host of aftermarket scooter parts and non-scooter parts. And in some ways you could say it possesses more motorcycle bits than scooter bits, well almost. To the traditional scooterist or purist, it’s probably a bit ‘different’.

Indeed, whilst photographing the scooter in Deutschland one British bystander said those very words – “it’s a bit different”. Perhaps it’s because the DNA is more of the motorcycle persuasion than the archetypal scooter format? The whole front end, as you’ve probably gathered, has been almost entirely re-built using motorcycle parts; gone are the original Gilera forks and sitting in their place are the front forks more commonly found fitted to a Suzuki GSX-R, two 300mm GSX-R brake discs have also been fitted and the front brake and brake levers are Ducati. The braking has been upgraded at the rear too comprising of two brake calipers (chromed) and a Malossi wave disc. This lot should provide more than enough stopping power for a Malossi MHR Team 70cc kitted engine with nitrous. Nitrous? Come on you Europeans try something different! I jest…

Engine modifications aside, what makes this custom job more interesting, for moi, are the details, the smaller modifications (too numerous to list and perhaps, too esoteric to list) scattered all over the scooter. Even the grandest project depends on the success of the smallest components. “God is in the details”, (as opposed to “the devil is in the details”) is a proverb often attributed to the French architect Le Corbusier and a proverb that can be applied here too.

From a chronological or ‘anthropological’ perspective if you like, the Gilera DNA can be considered the missing link, a halfway point where scooter meets motorcycle, a crossbreed. But this custom scooter ain’t no mongrel in a derogatory sense. What this project shows is that there’s some common ground between the builders of custom motorcycles and custom scooters.

While I wasn’t able to speak much French when I interviewed Sylvain (“Merci Monsieur”… “Garlic bread, it’s the future” was about as far as I got (luckily I had a translator to help)), the work Sylvain has achieved speaks for itself, the rest is down to your own personal likes or dislikes. Personally I think it’s lush.

Words & Photos: Paul Robinson

This article was originally published in the print version of PETROL ISSUE.06