A Chat with Gran Sport Scooters
Thursday, 4th Oct 2012
Based in Birmingham, Gran Sport Scooters started life in 1995, founded by the combined knowledge of a rich wealth of passionate individuals and talented mechanics from the midlands and beyond. We met with current team member and talented mechanic Danny Turner to discuss the history of the business, the scooter scene today and a very special restoration project.
I was 10 in 1982 when my skinhead uncle came home with a Betamax copy of Quadrophenia, it blew me away - that was it really - within a week I had a parka, a white Fred Perry and a pair of brown desert boots, job done! When the clock struck midnight on my 16th birthday I got on my Vespa to take it for its 1st ride out, mum and dad were outside to wave me off and then I heard this rumble of scooters coming down my street and I was greeted by 15 other Mods on scooters. Dezl (Derek Askill) had secretly organised his mates to surprise me and take me on my own first ride out and that was the best ride out I've ever had; amazing feeling, I had waited 6 years for that day. I was a tad emotional. Most of the ride outs in the 80s early 90s were my favourite times as well there would be some times between 20 to 40 scooters all going to the Isle of Wight, Hastings, Great Yarmouth, Scarborough, Blackpool etc. The Tony Class CCI rallies were the rallies to do back then, these were all long journeys when riding a 60s scooter that didn't do more than 55 miles an hour - but looking good was most important.
The Modernist and Scooter scene at the moment has a healthy and dedicated following, and is now starting to draw in the younger generation; which can only be a good thing, as new blood to the scene means that this passion for all things Mod and scooterist will go on for years to come. There is still a strong movement of diehard Mods, I know this being one myself, but in general the whole scooterist scene has a blend of everything in the mix these days, if you ever go to a scooter rally there is a whole cross section of fashions there.
Many of our customers use their 60s scooters for work and play, and most of them can use a spanner and don't mind keeping them up to scratch if they break down. A lot of our friends and customers have two scooters or more, usually a classic Vespa or Lambretta and then they have the good old classic PX/T5 as these are tried and tested reliable scooters for everyday use. The most popular Lambretta models are the TV 200, SX 200, GP 200 and TV 2 and 1 being as popular as ever but almost any unrestored Lambretta's in original paint are becoming increasingly desirable. The Vespa models that we are most often asked for are SS180, GS160, SS90 and GS150 - all of these models are very sought after and are at the top of everyone's wish list at the moment. Original 60s accessories, rare or otherwise, seem to be the most popular way of adding that 'individual' element to their pride and joy at the moment, I know of lots of people who have paid hundreds of pounds for one little item just so they can have that finishing touch to the their scooter. Vigano and Ulma accessories being most sought after.All our restorations are memorable because each customer wants something a little different (and better than the one before), it's a bit like the mod ethos of wanting to be an individual I suppose.
We pride ourselves on being precise and trying to be a little more patient with the scooters we build, it takes a long time to build a restoration as some of our customers will happily tell you, but it's the finished item that counts, we use as many original parts as possible and only use the best remade parts available (Casa Lambretta being the best) after all, you are advertising your restoration and word of mouth on the streets is a great tool to have on your side! At some point in the 80s everyone who worked at Gran Sport has been a Mod at one point so yes we are all into the scene, some in a small way and some still in a big way giving us the ability to advise our customers from personal experience. Many of the original members of the Gran Sports team have gone on to specialise and continue to be major players in the classic scooter business. Derek Askill is a legend on the Mod scene and the major contributor to our reputation for the highest quality restorations and iconic Gran Sport specials. Other original members include Jason White, ex of Classically Italian, Nathan Warriner, ex of Rimini Lambretta. Not forgetting the long standing and current line-up: Jason White, Jon Sillitoe, Ashley Phipps, Danny Turner (myself) and Gary who juggles the numbers.
Quite a few costumers let us have a free rein on their restoration, as they want a bit of a Gran Sport touch and want to make sure they're not making the wrong suggestions. We always question SOME of their ideas if we think that something wouldn't look right and try and give them our honest opinion. Nine times out of ten they go with what we think is best - and this seems to work! As a company, we have sponsored many events including Midlandscooters.com and a variety of local scooter club do's, the most recent being for a Mod friend of ours who lives in Vietnam that contracted a paralysing illness. A friend and I organised a fund raising night for him and raised over £3,000 to help with his medical bills, this was helped by friends, many customer donations and from friends and Gran Sport itself.
There's a big Mod movement in Tokyo and we have sent many scooters over there, and we have also sent restored scooters to Spain, America and Australia. We've supplied scooters to a few famous faces; top Mod Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene has purchased many Lambrettas from us (Lambretta series 2, LD, Special, TV175 and a PX 200) so has Simon (Lambretta Silver Special) and Damien (Vespa PX 200). We supplied two Lambrettas for a Paul Weller competition, one was done with the Wild Wood theme and one with the Stanley Road theme, and we've also hired scooters out to Goodwood Revival and even some film and advertising work, including a few music videos from Ocean Colour Scene to UB40. Over the years we have had the likes of Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream and Mani from the Stone Roses pop in, who are both big fans of the scooter world.
The 'lights and mirrors' scooter fashion for Mods came about by the late 50s early 60s by scooter enthusiasts of the day. There would be meetings and scooter rallies held for an older and younger generation of scooter owners, that would enter their scooters into custom shows and put accessories on them to make them more interesting and to individualize their model. When the Mods then started to appear on the streets, a lot of them were purchasing second hand Lambretta's and Vespa's with all these little shiny accessories on, and so to make them their own they then added to them again by borrowing spot lights off cars and the odd mirror, then I guess it escalated from there with other things they could lay their hands on!
The inspiration for my own lights and mirrors Lambretta was the front cover of the book Mods! by Richard Barnes. I was also influenced by two local Birmingham Mods, Philip Ford and Colin Bunn. They had scooters to die for being a young Mod - they were covered in lights mirrors and chrome accessories and I wanted to beat them and wanted a more 60's feel to mine but still over the top. I still own the Lambretta but I have de-modded it, as I think the Mod movement is a youth movement and as time goes on I feel you have to tame it down a bit if you're going to carry on with the style, I feel this also goes with Mod clothes element too, you can spot an old Mod miles away, they have still got that cool style but less over the top should I say!
The SX200 is a classic model with fine slim line detail, this is the model to have if you want a Lambretta, they are extremely sought after and will not or should not come cheap, (unless you find one in a old fella's back garden) as some of us have been lucky enough to do in the past! When purchasing a Lambretta SX or any classic scooter it's good to have as much history for the scooter as possible, do your homework, there is a huge amount of info on the LCGB website and if you're not sure consult your local, or a reputable scooter shop they will be happy to advise.
Gran Sport Scooters are currently restoring the SX200 shown above to a custom spec chosen by Bradley Wiggins. Over the next few months, we'll be showing the scooter in its various stages of refurbishment before it's presented to Bradley on completion. Stay tuned for further updates.