The Forks from hell

Some Asian restorers/rebuilders think that converting a Vespa with 8"wheels to a 10" setup will make the scooter safer and easier to ride.  Think about it! ....To accommodate the larger wheel the forks have to be replaced with a more recent model type and they may not fit the frame because of the different orientation of the headset locking bolt and the position and design of the winglets that prevent the forks from turning over a certain angle. So...what is the solution?  Easy, cut the fork's leg and weld a piece of pipe between the stumps to make the whole unit longer.  Well... the original fork's metal is hardened and tempered to withstand the considerable operating loads and welding a piece of soft steel in the middle of the lower leg is really not a good idea.

I am showing below a set of forks found on a VBB that had gone through the modification process and the weld was subsequently covered with a large quantity of body filler to mask the job.

Please look carefully at the pictures and think again when you are considering buying a modified scooters






The Asian Imports

Over the past few years, the classic looks has come back into fashion and today everyone wants and old, restored Vespa.  Needless to say, as the demand increases the availability of old scooters takes a dive and the ones left are becoming very expensive.

In the '60s and '70s many Vespas were exported all over the world, including Asia, particularly to Indonesia and Vietnam.  These scooters have endured 40 years of hard life, often carrying huge loads on difficult terrains. Spare parts and specialised mechanics were very hard to find and people had to repair their Vespas the best they could often improvising with steel wire and beer cans and some hand manufactured engine parts. In some cases I found in these engines the skin of beer cans used as shimming for parts that cannot longer fit together as they should eg: the crank bearings into the crankcase.

Suddenly there was a huge demand for these vehicle and a number of workshops throughout Asia began to restore and sell them  by the hundreds whilst still adhering to the standard of workmanship usually seen in those countries.

The end result of this market demand is a large number of Vespas that were rebuilt to look beautiful but intrinsically dangerous to drive e.g.: to convert a Vespa from the old 8" wheel configuration to a more modern 10" one it is necessary to replace the front fork with a longer type. The original fork's metal is hardened and thermal treated and it cannot be safely altered.  Despite this I have seen many of this conversion achieved by cutting the original fork's leg and welding on an extension made out of conventional water pipe....hardly a safe solution. (see pictures below).

Here are some pictures of some "Vietbogs" that I have worked on.

Some of my customers kept on spending money in order to render their Vespa fun and safe to drive (some up to $10.000) and others have decided to cut their expenses, bite the bullet and throw the whole bike into the tip. (Please click on this link to see some incredible work done on a Vespa frame)

















Here is another example of what type of damage I find on these Vespa from Asia: This flywheel was removed by forcing it out with screwdrivers or other implements placed between the flywheel and the crankcase

    This piece of beer can was found around

       the crankshaft of a VBB Vespa to fill the

    space between the Flywheel and the Shaft








 the do I recognise an Asian import?

Here are some hints:

  1. Piaggio never produced a Vespa in a two colour tone and if you see one it means that it has either been repainted by the current or a previous owner or... it is from Asia

  2. Te speedo on an Asian Vespa is almost always new and indicating very few Km.  Also, on some units, they mispelt Km ORA (Km per hour) and they wrote Km DRA. The new Speedos are very cheap and they leak water.

  3. Excessive use of chromed accessories such as bumper bars or the winged Piaggio logo as shown in the picture below

  4. Mirror mounting screws that are part of the brake and clutch lever pivot pin

  5. The headlight globe does not have a small reflector (separating High from Low) inside it

There are many other giveaways and you can find more following the links






Now....Good luck


Some examples of typical Asian wiring standards














All from the same bike bought with the understanding that the engine had been rebuilt:
  1. A seized and broken piston

  2. A very second hand clutch bell basket

  3. A woodruff key slot on the crankshaft so ruined that it is impossible to fit the flywheel back on





















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        Missing shoes retaining circlips                        Cable anchorage pin                          Cable anchorage assembly                    Activating cam spaced with metal srips


       Front brake drum's wheel stud                  Rear brake drum retaining bolt & homemade pin            Homemade shoes retaining circlips











Extremely worn rear engine mounting block          Front suspension spring out of its anchorage         Steering head bearing hammered tight                 This one speaks for itself

......More shoddy work








        Steering head bearing                            Gear control shaft                               Main engine mounting hole on the frame



I don't think that it is necessary to comment on this pictures. Just ask yourselves this question: "Would you ride this vehicle?"

Here is another example of "forks manipulation" gone terribly wrong

A customer asked me to investigate the reason for the front wheel to be rubbing against the guard. As soon as I saw the Vespa I realised that the front wheel was not where it should have been. From the front it appeared to be off centre and crooked, from the side it looked like it has been pushed back. Something was just not right















After dismantling the front end, this is what I found.

This time, the new piece of water pipe was inserted at the top curve of the forks without considering that this is probably the most stressed part of the whole bike. It only took a bit larger road bump to snap the home made extension. The rider was lucky that the whole pipe did not break off causing serious or even fatal injuries.














Once again... would you ride this vehicle?

I Find it quite amazing that people with reasonable business sense and experience will buy a vehicle in this conditions. The majority of us will have a vehicle inspected before even sitting in/on it and yet, when it comes to vehicles that are not even in the country, they buy them without reservation only because they are told they have been " fully restored".

Incidentally, this particular Vespa had already received an engine transplant because the one it came with gave up after only 300Km. Now the new challenge is that, having fitted an engine geared to drive a 10" wheel, we are forced to install another set of modified forks to enable us to have the same size at the front. At this stage I have no idea how we are going to do it.

This Vietnam imported VBB only covered 150 Km before the engine gave up altogether. It ended up  receiving a motor transplant from a LML 200 engine.