1979 Vespa P200E – Engine Harvesting

1979 Vespa P200E – Engine Harvesting
After a busy month at work I took last weekend to just sleep, even though I had planned on starting to dig into the P200E I dragged it home a few days before.  On Labor Day I found the time to dive in.  With parts already ordered from ScooterWest.com and in UPS’s hands, I wanted to have the engine ready for when that big box comes in.  Hopefully I thought of everything I’ll need.  As I mentioned before this engine is going to go into my my Vespa Sprint Veloce, so regardless of everything that my happen to the chassis I want a good engine.  I’ll take a good transmission and cases.

Before removing the engine, and tearing it down, I wanted to know what the compression was.  When I first bought the P200E kicking the engine over it felt like it had good compression, I wanted to confirm this to be true.  Surprisingly, using my new Motion Pro compression tester, it read only 50 psi.  I retested this a few times, I didn’t want to believe this low number, but it never changed.  While this was somberly noted, I knew it was a harbinger of what I was going to find.  Pressing on into the engine removal I removed the carb and airbox that were not even bolted down.  This isn’t weird since this was a long term project for someone else, things get removed that will need to be pulled again and left loose.  Removing the flywheel cover I found sand, piles of it.  I started to think the SoCal pedigree of this machine shown though the “MONTEREY, CALIF” img_1887dealer decal on the glovebox was a sign of more than sun and girls.  My nature, which held true here, is to pretend that the terrible evidence that I see is not true.  I finished disconnecting the other cables and wires to the engine, thinking this is still going to be easy.  I remove the swingarm nut and find the swingarm pivot bolt seized.  I hit it with my 1/2” drive air hammer a bit, trying to bring to free it.  I smacked it with the dead-blow hammer, then 16oz ball pean hammer, and even the huge 2lb sledge hammer.  Still no joy or movement.  A few heavy doses of Bel-Ray 6 in 1 oil gets things moving.  Finally the swingarm pivot bolt comes free and drives out.  Under the P200E there is now also piles of rust that have rained down from the old chassis.  The interiority of the chassis is even more questioned, but the engine is free.

Free from the chassis the engine goes onto the engine stand that is waiting on the workbench.  I will img_1895tell everyone reading that the engine stand from Scooter Mercato is worth every penny. I’ve worked on scores of engines that are rolling around the bench, buy the stand, even if this is your only planned engine built.  Once in the engine stand I pull the head.  Not unexpectedly I find the cylinder oily, and a bit sandy.  After whatever happened to this Vespa in it’s past, I’m guessing prom after party getting out of hand, someone did prep the engine to sit.  This gives me hope the engine is still salvable.  I pull the flywheel, and find more sand, bad things happened to this machine that got a quick wash before being parked.

At this point the engine sits on the bench, with bad compression, an oily, sandy cylinder.  More sand img_1902falls out of everything that is removed.  I am still hopeful that the engine will still be viable as I dig deeper.  This is the world of barn finds and basket cases.  I know winter is coming you being eyeing some of these cheap wonder, go in with your eyes open.  They can be fun, but there is no such thing as a cheap bike.  Good luck out there, have fun, godspeed.



-Eric Archambault

Me on scooter