Before You Buy
There are a few things that are common to all Lambretta scooters that you should be aware of when looking to buy one. First of all, since most Lambretta scooters are getting to be at least 30 years old by now, the condition of each perspective purchase should be examined carefully. Lambretta scooters are robust machines that more often than not can be made to run with little effort, even after sitting for many years. Nevertheless, many times a missing trim piece or hidden mechanical problem can turn out to be very expensive to replace/repair. A good tip is to be critical when looking over a perspective purchase. Tell the seller all of the problems you find on the bike, nitpick, and use that information as a bargaining tool to help drop the price down if you can. You will probably need the extra money to fix any lingering problems that you may identify anyway!
As with any venture into the world of vintage vehicles, it is always better to do your homework at the beginning, rather than have a nasty surprise after you have made your purchase. You should get an idea beforehand of how much you are inclined to spend time in the garage restoring or repairing a scooter. If you realistically don't have the time, or the mechanical know-how, it is best to be honest with yourself at the outset and avoid having an expensive project darkening a corner of your garage for years. I always tell people that it is much better to have a running machine to ride, than an interesting project sitting in the shed when the weather is nice. No matter what your level of skill or interest, it is best to make up, and set aside, a budget before you begin your search. Always OVER-estimate costs. Then get as much information as you can about what you are looking for. This website is meant to help, but you should also purchase one of the many books about Lambrettas that are now available. Additionally, if there is an active vintage scooter club in your area, you should join them. These clubs can provide you with a wealth of information, and assist you in your search. Meeting other like-minded enthusiasts is the best part of this hobby as far as I am concerned!
Here is a general checklist of things that you should look at when buying a Lambretta...
Look the scooter over carefully. Look for accident damage. Do the rear floorboards meet up correctly and evenly with the legshield? Look at the inside of the cowls for evidence of bondo or body filler. If there is any bondo, the cowls will look smooth on the outside, but rough on the inside. Check under the scooter for rust. Look at the paint, is it high quality? Can you see bubbles where rust is coming through? Check the back of the frame by the tail-light, is it cracked? Are all of the badges there? Are the seats in good shape, or do they have to be re-covered? Are the tires good? Is there a spare? Is any chrome on the scooter in good shape or is it rusty? Does the scooter sit on the center-stand correctly or is it bent or broken? Does the scooter have all of the keys with it?
One thing that almost goes without saying is to make sure that the scooter is as complete as possible. While a few of the body parts for 60's Lambrettas are being reproduced, there is virtually no aftermarket availability for 50's Lambretta body parts. It is worth keeping in mind that even small body parts, like the rear floorboards on 60's scooters are not in production, and can only be had either through finding them second-hand, or adapting parts from Indian GP Lambretta production. Though the internet has helped significantly in the parts search, it is hard to stress enough the fact that it is much better to have a complete bike as opposed to spending years looking for a rare part.
Kick over the motor. Does it start easily? Let it warm up and idle. Does it idle smoothly? Is it smoking excessively? A lot of white smoke is a sign of bad seals. Does it leak gas or oil? Do the lights work? The brake light? Horn? Kill switch? At this point you are just going to want to let the bike warm up and kind of check things over. Listen to how it idles and look all around the motor for anything out of the ordinary. You'll also want to "blip" the throttle a bit to see how the throttle response is. If the rpm's don't come up with no hesitation, there could be some problems with carb adjustment or jetting. If everything seems ok and the scooter idles smoothly, time to take it on a test drive.
Take the scooter for a spin around the block. Does it go into gear smoothly? Does the gearchange operate easily? Does the clutch work smoothly? Does the motor bog - at low rpm, at top speed? This could be a sign of a dangerous airleak. Check the suspension. Does the bike bounce a lot when you hit a bump? If it does, then the shocks are worn out. If it has front shocks, do they work properly? When you turn, does the back end wobble? If it does then the motor mounts are in bad shape. Do the brakes actually stop the bike? Does the speedometer work? If so, is it accurate? After your ride, look for oil leaks around the motor and gas leaks around the carburetor.
As I mentioned above, every problem on a Lambretta is generally fixed easily, but parts can add up to be quite expensive. Take notes on problem areas and then check on Casa Lambretta or West Coast Lambretta Works' excellent web sites and add up the cost of fixing problems or replacing parts. Finally think about what that particular Lambretta is worth to you. If the chemistry is there, and you NEED that scoot, the "walk away" price limit can go up considerably. Still, try to avoid spending huge amounts of money on a Lambretta that is not in tip-top condition. A restoration project is still a project after all, and the price of such a scooter should reflect that.