A Tribute: Lee’s Lambretta Series

When Lee De-vall lost his father in July 2017, he was devastated. After the funeral, he decided that he would create a fitting tribute to his dad’s memory, one which would incorporate his loves and hobbies.

It’s a sad part of life when we all get older and the people around us pass, thus leaving a gaping hole in our lives where we’d have spent time together, laughing and remembering times gone by. Lee’s dad was very artistic in his own right, being a wonderful artist and musician.

As Lee had owned scooters for a while, his dad had often mentioned he loved the Rat-looking ones, so this was all Lee had on his mind – to produce something very special that would remind him of his amazing father who he loved and missed so much, every day. Prior to passing, Lee’s dad had also cared for his mum who was ill herself. After 16 months without her husband, Lee also lost his mum.

Lee Devall purchased his Lambretta series 1 as a runner but after his father died he wanted to pay tribute to his artist /muscian mentor, who’s favourite band was the Rolling Stones and went to see them at Knebworth in concert. Photograph: Richard Addison.

Up until now a Lambretta Series 1 has always eluded Lee, so he began his tribute project in earnest by purchasing a Series 1 for £2,400 in August 2017. Almost immediately, he started stripping the paint from the scooter using flapwheels. This went against the grain for Lee, as everything he’d produced before had stunning paintwork and a concours finish. Scooter builders nowadays often powder coat the internals for durability, but Lee wanted the scooter to look like a Rat-style machine, so he sourced a company that would powder coat the scooter parts with clear coat.

Some smaller items were also sent off to a local business in Stevenage for copper plating (the reason behind this was that Lee’s dad often used copper to create things, being one of his great passions). The returned copper plating was stunning, but a little too shiny for the project, so Lee decided to stick them outside for some time to get a little weathered. After this he sealed all the parts with copper sealer to retain the patina of aged items.

“This scooter won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it’s priceless.”

The artwork was originally planned to be transfers, but as Lee puts it, his dad would have killed him. With his degree in art, he’d have expected true classic artwork hand-worked with an airbrush. So, searching for someone to produce his ideas on the panelling, Lee approached Col Fitzgerald at The Garage Artwerks in North Allerton, who listened to all Lee’s requests and thoughts behind why he was doing the project.

Going through the artwork, each part explains about the tribute to Lee’s dad. The Rolling Stones song ‘Wild Horses’ was played at the funeral as his father was a massive Stones fan; he even went to the UK concert, which was held near their home at Knebworth in 1976.

Built in his father’s memory

It should be pointed out here that although Lee’s dad was a huge Stones fan, this scooter is built as a homage to his father and should not been seen in any shape or form as being a ‘Stones tribute’ scooter – that was certainly not Lee’s intention when building it. The Jack Daniels bottle on the front legshields is again a big part of his father. “He liked a drop of JD (or a bottle if it came to it); the date on the bottle relates to his birthday, not a tour date, as some might imagine.”

The opposing sidepanel to ‘Wild Horses’ is ‘Paint it Black’ (another piece of his dad’s memories from the movie ‘Apocalypse Now’). On returning to collect the finished bits, Lee couldn’t believe the final work Col had done. It felt so moving that it brought a tear to Lee’s eye to think how his dad would have loved how it was coming on. All-in-all, the project took around 18 months in total with the engine also being stripped. Lee explained that it had been completely restored using a GT186 kit, long-stroke 60×110 crank, 30mm Dell’Orto carb and a Franspeed race exhaust, all producing a good, reliable motor.

Finer details on the Series 1 also related to Lee’s dad’s love of playing music. He was a member of a ‘Monday Club’ (a group of fellow-minded guys who’d meet up for a good old jam session, often recording their time for prosperity). This is what gave Lee the idea for custom parts to add to the scooter’s unique character. K2’s Keith Newman was on hand to listen and produce just what was required for the project. The harmonica was a chosen instrument of his dad and Keith re-created these for the sidepanel handles – stunning and very clever engineering.

The choke and fuel levers became guitar plectrums, one depicting a purple guitar he owned (which Lee’s mum always called ‘Purple Rain’), and the other a black Marshall plectrum, replicating the music amps he once owned. This idea for the Marshall followed through the scooter with a rear rack and a flywheel cowling also in this theme. A horncast badge shaped like a record centre was a nod to all the vinyl his dad had owned and listened to; the rear brake pedal looks like the iconic Rolling Stones/Mick Jagger lip logo; and the kick-start is an amazing looking pedal, which looks like an early chrome microphone, as used by some rock and roll legends.

Staying with the ‘Rat and Black’ theme, certain leather parts were created by Paul Hunter from Hooligan Leather, including horseshoe buckles for the tool roll that’s behind the seat. The leather sidepanel straps link with the ‘Wild Horses’ emblazoned across it, whilst the single saddle seats reflect the scooter’s true age of 1959. This was produced by another expert in their own custom field, John Andrew Corcoran of Lambretta Vespa Covers, who stitched the ‘Lips’ logo in black on to the black leather, with the Stones name in grey on top.

Good times/bad times

I could tell that Lee found the whole journey through the project an emotional one, as he said: “There have been happy times and also tears.” After we finished the shoot and Lee parked this very unique Lambretta back in his garage beside his other pristine 1966 Lambretta 125 Special in purple paint and gleaming in the sunlight, I realised that whatever Lee decided to do, he did it with passion and commitment. I feel he totally underestimated what he has produced in this scooter – it’s amazing and very different to many custom scooters (which in this day and age is incredibly difficult).

“I know this scooter won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me this is priceless and I’m honoured that I’ve got to share my experience and project,” said Lee.

Thanking his family and friends for their support during the project (and not forgetting the many superb dealers and experts that helped him create it), he said: “Mum and dad, I hope I’ve made you both proud and now I have the privilege of you being with me everywhere I ride – not just in my memories, but also built into this Lambretta that shows both of you alongside me for the ride.”

God bless you, Lee. Your remarkable scooter is a credit to you, your mum and dad for their inspiration.

Check out the full feature with more images in the June/July issue of Classic Scooterist, click here to purchase your copy.

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