1958 Vespa VB1 Survivor
March 16, 2011 § 3 Comments
This old scooter may not be as pretty as it once was, but I have to admit that it’s pretty remarkable that this survivor runs as well as it does. In spite of the fact that it isn’t ridden much, it always starts with a minimum of coaxing and a quick spritz of starter fluid. The carb needs cleaning and a fresh plug is in order, so it sputters and bogs a little.
The faded original speedometer says it has clocked 10,500 miles and I have no reason to question it. I’ve owned this bike for several years and haven’t done a thing to it other than clean it up. The silver-blue paint is original and faded but apart from few dings here and there it looks pretty good. I have been meaning to buff it out to bring some of the color back, but haven’t found the time. Besides, I kind of like the patina.
One of the curved support rods that allow the engine side cowl to swing up for maintenance has cracked where it is welded to the cowl. It’s hard to tell for sure, but it looks like the engine has never been dropped or the cases split. The lights still work. Both shocks work fine, brakes are good. There’s a bit of rust on the front rim but both front and back are in otherwise good shape and the tires are in usable condition with no signs of dry rot.
Last summer I rode it around town for about two hours. It smoked like crazy at first so I thought the rings might be bad. After about 15 minutes of riding it was back to exhaling the normal waft of blue smoke you would expect from an old Vespa when idling. I think there was a lot of oily funk in the silencer that needed to burn off.
I’ve debated fully restoring this VB1 a couple of times but decided against it. I will have to drop the engine eventually and do a complete rebuild, but wont refinish the frame. I’ll pressure wash it, buff it out and put it back together. Some minor repairs like the cowl support and some new rubber will be part of that. For safety’s sake, the tubes and tires need replacing. I’m not sure about repainting the rims. If I can figure out a way to refinish them without making them look too new (and out of place) I’ll do that. The silencer can be dipped and re-sprayed with black rattle can. And of course the carb needs a rebuild. The only thing missing on this VB1 are the keys for the column lock and cowl toolbox. I have some original blanks with the Vespa logo on them and might have a locksmith try to cut some new keys for the original locks.
Unfortunately there’s no documentation on this old Vespa so it’s history will remain forever a mystery. The low mileage might suggest it was imported for the US market and has been here since it was new. Whoever had it before me took good care of it. It’s a rare survivor and definitely one of my favorite classics.