Monday, February 18, 2008

Newest updates

I haven't been blogging that actively lately because I've been at a pretty big standstill. First of all, Danielle backed out of the black Vespa that I had posted a picture of. But a friend of mine wanted it and paid me to go get it for him on Saturday. And what a wonderful day of freezing rain it was. By the time the seller and I were done looking it over, testing it out, loading it on the trailer, and loading up any extra parts, we were both soaked. Actually, after about 5 minutes we were soaked. By the time we were finished, we were just used to it. Luckily he was a very nice guy and donated a t-shirt to me so I wouldn't die of hypothermia on the way home.

So now the Haas has a new Vespa and is super pumped. He went to California for the week so while he is gone, I'm doing a little work on his bike. The shift cables need to be properly tensioned and the rear brake pedal put on and the electrical messed with to get the headlight working properly. It works sometimes, but not others. Must have a short somewhere.

As for my Vespa, I spent a good chunk of the weekend trying to put the engine case back together and have gotten frustrated enough that I am going to pay Stacy at the Vespa shop to look it over and make sure I have everything right then put the two halves back together.

I did get all of the floor trim riveted on and the body grommets in place. It looks like we are starting to get close to the home stretch. I need to paint my cowls today and order any missing hardware/rubber. I'm hoping to also have the fork put back together and put in place as well as run the new electrical harness and get it ready for the CDI upgrade. Don't quote me, but I am shooting to be done in about two more weeks given all parts show up when I am expecting them. The most important parts that I'm waiting on should be here on Wednesday. And that is the carb and the cylinder kit.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Welcome to the family...

Danielle's 1963 VNB Vespa

Upgraded to a 150cc engine
All new cables, rubber, electrical
Drives fine.

Just needs a speedo cable, a new seat cover, floor rails, and paint.

If it was for me, I would keep it the way it is. I'm kinda digging the hot rod look, but it will be painted bubblegum pink since it is hers.

I was wanting something that needed a little more work because I actually enjoy the process, but it was too close and cheap to pass up. Plus, I'm sure she doesn't want to wait around for it to be finished. I doubt the process of restoration is quite as exciting to her.

Saturday, I drive to Oklahoma City to pick it up.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


So, it has been a little while since I have given you a nice progressive update. More than anything, that is because there hasn't been a whole lot to report. I have been mostly just waiting for shipments to arrive and get my ducks all in a row.

Painting is a wonderful milestone in the restoration process because it is typically the dividing line between disassembly and reassembly.

So as of yesterday, we are officially in the reassembly stage.

I was originally going to outsource my paint job as you may recall, but I was talked into giving it a shot on my own. Here's the deal, if you already own an air compressor you can either pay some one else a few hundred dollars to do it for you, or you can spend $30-$60 for your own paint gun. After this experience, I recommend the latter. You might be saying "You can get paint guns that cheap, but the good ones are $200+." You are painting a small scooter here, not a giant classic cadillac. You really are not going to see a difference between guns on a project this small.

I chose a single-stage Urethane paint. It is extremely durable, and doesn't require clear coat or buffing. Most big cities will have auto parts stores that will make you Urethane paint in any color you want. In Wichita, one of our O'Reilly's auto parts stores offers this service. And it's cheap. The smallest amount they sell is enough to do 2 Vespas and all of the materials cost about $60. Typically Urethane comes with the actual paint, a catalyst compound, and reducer (equivalent to paint thinner). Be sure to follow the mixing instructions on the can!

After you have your parts primed up, lightly wet sand them with 400 grit waterproof sandpaper. This isn't like regular sanding where you concentrate in one spot and rub until your arm is sore. This is very light and easy. As you sand, you will feel the surface become extremely smooth. Don't stick in that one spot, keep moving or you will get rid of the primer all together. I had every part completely wet sanded and rinsed off within 45 minutes. Then be sure to let it dry!

Mix your paint. Again, follow the mixing ratios on the paint can! In my case, it was 8 parts paint, 1 part catalyst, 2 parts reducer. Once mixed, Urethane is only good for about 4 hours. So only mix what you need to use now. Hook up your compressor. Set the PSI to less than 40. 25-35 is ideal.

Spray on a light coat. Your spray technique should be to move straight across the surface from left to right at about 12" away. Then make another pass from right to left. Kind of a swooping motion. Your first coat is going to be very light. This is called a tack coat. It's purpose is to provide adhesion for the rest of the paint. You want see much color results at all on this coat. You let this coat dry for about 20 minutes (to get tacky so the next coat will stick). The next coat is a normal coat. Spray on a little heavier, just enough to see color starting to peek out. It is extremely important to not cake on paint so you won't get orange peel or runs! These will completely ruin the integrity of the paint job.

Let the 2nd coat tack for 20-30 minutes and repeat until you are happy with the color coverage. I didn't have anything to levitate my frame off of a platform so that all surface area could be done at once. So to compromise, I had to let the top side dry for about 4 hours, flip it, and do the bottom side.

In between coats of your frame, that is key time to do your smaller pieces. Your gas cap, your rims, your gas tank, cowls, etc.

Speaking of cowls, I don't think i have mentioned yet. But I outsourced out body work on my cowls to Jess at Eternal Hotrods. They should be done this week so I will be painting those on a later date.

Well, that's about it. All in all, I am very happy I did my own paint and strongly encourage others to follow. It will save you a lot of money on your restoration!

Monday, February 4, 2008

I want your bike!

The VBB really doesn't have a whole lot left to fix up. It's getting close to time to just put it all back together. I need a few more parts, but most of the major purchases are out of the way. I have the bodywork done and most of the parts primed (pictures will be popping up tomorrow, sorry for the delay). As things are starting to come more and more together, my girlfriend is getting more and more interested in having a bike to call her own.

This is where you come in.

If any one has a project Vespa they are looking to get rid of, I'm your man. As long as it is in the continental US, I will pay shipping. I am looking for a late 50's to late 60's non-oil injected Vespa. I would prefer smallframe as she is a small girl! And body condition is much more important than engine condition.

Make an offer!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Polishing your parts

Polishing parts is a very good idea to save pieces that you might otherwise think are junk. This is especially helpful with internal engine components and hardware. I have been doing a few different techniques lately to restore the beauty in parts and I have found that nothing works better than a bench grinder that has dual wheels. One wheel is typically a graphite stone grinder (DON'T USE THIS SIDE! YOU WILL ACTUALLY TAKE METAL OFF AND THIN YOUR PARTS!) and the other wheel is a heavy duty wire polisher (the side we will be dealing with). This tool is an extremely expensive investment, so if you don't already have one, you might want to try and make friends with some one that does! Luckily, my step-father has one. I can't even begin to explain how well this method works. Last weekend I used it on my gear selector, my clutch cover, my piston, and my cylinder and some random hardware. These parts were rusty, grimy, and extremely dirty. Now they look like they just rolled off of the factory assembly line.

Today, I tried to use a dremel with wire grinding tips to polish some parts. I don't recommend this method at all except for maybe very mild use to get into crevasses that you can't reach with the bench grinder. It works pretty well, but little bits of wire fly off of the dremel bits until all of the wires are gone and you're left with nothing. And this isn't a slow process. I bought two bits this afternoon. Within an hour of usage, both bits were reduced to nothing. So, don't do this more than necessary. Because of little wire fragments flying everywhere, I would especially not use this method on internal engine components as an alternative to taking the parts out of the case and using a bench grinder. It is absolutely crucial that the inside of the engine is COMPLETELY free of debris when reassembling it. And this frankly can't be accomplished with all of those little bits of wire flying inside the case. Take the time to take out the individual pieces and use the bench grinder. Your engine will thank you.

You may be tempted to wire polish your casings. While this will look very nice, a lot of people don't recommend it. Jeremy's blog goes into detail about it, but simply put; the engine case will get dirty, and fast. If you don't want to clean your engine case every day of your life, don't set it up for these high standards. Media blasting or a good scrubbing with paint thinner is sufficient.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Engine tear down

Yesterday, I finally got the piston loose from the engine. I just decided to get out a hacksaw and cut the connecting rod in half. After that, one good whack on the sliced half of the rod connected to the piston got it un-seized. From what I can tell, the piston will be fine. But I will need new rings and a new connecting rod. The cylinder will be fine after a good cleaning.

After freeing the piston, I could finally finish splitting the engine case. I took a heat gun to the main bearing for a few seconds then lightly tapped the seem of the engine case with a rubber mallet and it started to slowly come apart. Then I realized the gear selector needed to come off. You may have noticed in my previous engine pictures, there was some sort of cement all over the gear selector. I guess the previous owner decided it was a good idea to do that instead of replace a gasket. Luckily, it all came off with a chisel and light hammer
taps. But the gear selector is so rusty that I might as well replace the whole thing.
I still don't have the tool to remove the clutch, so I got it as disassembled as I could and then just did a lot of cleaning with paint thinner and a wire brush and rags. You would really be surprised what a little bit of elbow grease can do to these old engines. You can really bring them back to looking just like new. And it really isn't hard work, in fact it's pretty relaxing. If you are doing a restoration, do yourself a favor and opt to rebuild your own engine instead of buying a new one or having some one else do the work. It is so rewarding to see how everything works and bring all the luster back into the heart of your scooter. When I split the case, there was rust, grime, sludge, and dirt everywhere (see pictures). I'm not done yet, I'll post pictures in the next few days of how clean it all is when it's ready to be put back together.

I can't get to the clutch assembly yet, so I can't tell if anything in there needs to be replaced. As far as I can tell, everything is alright. The bearings are even in pretty good shape. But I would still like to replace them. Does anybody have any tips for getting those suckers off? I can't get to the clutch side one yet, but I am having trouble with the crank side one.

That's all for now, be on the lookout for some clean engine photos in the next few days.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another quick blog

Oh, I wanted to mention something just for people who are looking to buy an already restored scooter instead of doing it yourself.

You should already know by now not to trust Vietnam bikes. Well, there is a company out of New York City trying to front like they are providing American restorations of VBB 150's. Well, they are duping a lot of people. They came really close to having my business at one point. I wrote the owner an e-mail a few months ago to see if we could work out a deal. They had just weeks before raised their price and I offered to provide free photography for advertising (from a renowned music video director and musician photographer that is a friend of mine who is doing our engagement photos) and mention in our invitations/news paper that the scooter was provided from their company in exchange for a small discount. I let them know that if you keep your eye open on craigslist and ebay, you can find other American restorations at similar prices that they expect.

Their only response to the lengthy e-mail asking for a small discount in exchange for some killer advertising was "An American restoration similar to our prices? I'd like to see it"

So on top of deceitful, and over-priced, they're also *ahem* douche bags.

Of course, this was before I realized that they were also Viet-crap bikes in disguise. And I'm more than glad that I am doing my own bike that I will appreciate more.