Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you can’t have helped notice the names of Tessa and Lee Abraham, or at least seen their scooters.
They’re a classic scootering couple who are becoming serial customisers; this Model C Racer is the third excellently executed, personalised example to be featured in the scootering Press from their ever-growing collection.
Lee Abraham is from Burton upon Trent, a member of Burton Brewers SC and keen classic scooterist. He also has an appreciation for early British and Italian motorcycles. Lee’s father had a passion for Italian motorcycles, which is probably how it passed on to Lee, with his dad owning a 1950s Ducati single. Lee loved the imagery of that time and had always wanted to have a go at the Milan-Taranto event, but imagined he would do it on a motorcycle – that was until his wife and scooter customising partner in crime, Tessa, decided she wanted to sell her Spanish Serveta Lince 200 to buy another ‘Spanish Maiden’, an ochre Jet 200.
They had a friend called Julian Jones who happened to have such a machine and was also interested in the Lince, so a date was set to go and have a look and possibly get a deal sorted.
When the Abrahams arrived, Julian moved other scooters out of the way so Tess could have a good look at the Jet. In doing so, Julian wheeled out his ‘Chicken Chaser’, as he called it, a red Lambretta Model C Racer.
That was it! Lee’s vision became black, white and grainy as he imagined himself winding his way down the spine of Italy in full period protective clothing, taking in the sights and smells as crowds of passionate spectators waved as he weaved through the narrow streets of terracotta-roofed Tuscan towns. Lee couldn’t resist, so that one was also coming home to Burton upon Trent.
(Apparently, the fact that when they arrived Julian was listening to his favourite Dean Martin record whilst gently frying garlic in extra virgin olive oil and offering Lee and Tess a freshly ground espresso, was purely coincidental. A nice bit of marketing there, sir!)
The chicken chaser
The story of this 1951 Model C Racer goes like this: It was found hung up in an Italian Lambretta Concessionaires and was purchased by a guy up north who intended doing a full strip and re-build job. This never happened and he then sold the entire engine, frame and all the other disassembled parts as a job lot.
This was purchased by a guy called Ivan Hutson and it is he who’s responsible for its re-creation and re-building the scooter from the ground up. Initially, Ivan used the standard engine, which gave the scooter a maximum top speed of around 40mph.
The machine was then registered and taken to the Skegness Rally for its first proper day out, where it won its first trophy. After the Skegness Rally it was decided that the Model C needed slightly more ‘go’ to match the looks, so the engine was given to Dave Waddingham (Waddo) to re-build.
A Mark Broadhurst high compression head and tuned barrel were sourced and fitted along with an electronic ignition. These mechanical upgrades, along with the magical hands of Waddo, transformed this 1950s plodder into a monster with a top speed of approximately 65mph. Now the scooter was definitely useable, Ivan took it to Davos in Switzerland for the 2014 Euro Lambretta.
Hand it over
In 2015 Julian Jones became the owner, where he took the retro racer to the LCGB National Rally in Lincoln where it again received a lot of attention and won the trophy for ‘Best Street Racer’.
In August that year it was taken to the Brighton Bank Holiday Mod Rally, where Julian says it again caused a stir, with people from around the world admiring the quirky little Lambretta. It sounded loud and was fast, making many Mods do a double-take as this 1951 Model C came flying past.
Julian was keen to know about the scooter’s history, so he contacted Rimini Lambretta Centre to see if they could shed any light on the Racer’s origins. He was told that it wasn’t one of the official Innocenti factory race machines, as these all had rough sand-cast engine casings and Roman numerals instead of numbers.
They did say that it was probably a ‘home brew’ machine, stating that many scooters in Italy around this time were like this and raced.
Another new home
June 2018 saw Lee and Tessa make the trip to check out the Jet, and this is where we arrive at the starting point of Lee’s ownership.
Once this special scooter was back at the Abraham’s residence in Burton, Lee had time to study which way he was going to go with the machine. He liked the looks and style of the little red rocket, but he wanted to put his own mark upon it and create something truly individual. A change of colour was decided upon, as this was going to have the biggest visual impact. The eventual colour used is a Benelli Green, and was laid on to the frame by Gary Cooper of MD Machine. The seat was then recovered by Keith Reynolds of Ken’s Customs. The engine was once again worked on by Waddo and is still running the MB-tuned cylinder, inhaling through a fantastic-looking bellmouth 21mm Dell’Orto carburettor and exhaling combustion products via an Arbarth Model C ‘up-and-over’ exhaust.
For reasons of usability, the scooter now runs on a 10-inch wheel conversion and is utilising a TV Series 1 front end, which adds to the handling. Lee says the dropped yokes give it a tucked ‘board tracker’ riding style. He also says that the scooter handles surprisingly well and is a fantastic all-round ride, that’s guaranteed to give plenty of smiles per mile.
Another one of Lee’s personal contributions to the build was the fabrication of a new set of floorboards, which look great and really do blend in well with the overall appearance and style of the Italian racer.
The changes to the scooter’s build and looks were only completed three days before the Lambretta was taken to the Antwerp Custom Show in Belgium to be proudly displayed to the visitors and other exhibitors.
L’invenzione del Cacciatore di Polli
Since purchasing the machine Lee has researched the details on the tank badge, which is from a company called ‘G Murialdo’ based in Savona (on the coast to the west of Genoa in northern Italy).
They were a Lambretta Concessionaires back in the 1950s, and as such may have been given a Model C 125 to compete on the promotional circuit, or street racing of the day.
Whilst the correct story regarding the birth and early life of this stunningly beautiful and strikingly different scooter may never be known, with the love, time and enthusiasm languished upon it, this machine has been given a soul and Lee has respectfully recreated his 1950s sporty classic Lambretta with a twist.
His dream is now to one day enter, enjoy and complete the legendary Italian top-to-toe historic ride, known as the ‘Milano-Taranto’, and it surely must be the start of another chapter in the life of the ‘Chicken Chaser’.
Read the FULL feature with more pictures in the June/July issue of Classic Scooterist! Click here to purchase your copy.