Even with my best efforts to refrain from bring more broken strays home, this 1979 Vespa P200E slipped into my garage. I think I would call this a barn find, even though it was in a garage with lots of nice, restored stuff (an early Ford Mustang, some other scooters, a sweet 1960’s outboard motor). The guy I bought it from had owned it for a long time, slowly acquiring parts with plans to restore it. He realized that wasn’t going to happen, and I was able to grab it (for a steal), with the box of nice new parts.
Onto a bit of motorcycle archeology on this once fine machine, a task I really enjoy. In this case it seems this scooter was parked in 1984 (according to the last sticker on the plate) with less than 7,000 miles for an unknown reason. If we are honest things are only parked if they are broken, replaced, or life gets in the way; not that it really matters in this case. Both the fuel tank and oil tank are dry, and free from rust, I have a feeling it was parked with a long rest in mind. The overall condition would suggest it has been in a garage since then. The body has some pretty bad rust at the edges, though someone tried to seal most of it years ago. There is evidence of a cheap or hurried repainting in the distant past, shown though orange-pealed paint and overspray on the badges and centerstand. This does worry me a little to the actual condition of the body, since rust is coming though that. The engine is free, and feels like it has good compression (I still need to test it). When I pulled the spark-plug, it was brand new, and tested with a fat blue spark (though the key was not in it).
What is going to happen to this P200E?
This is probably this biggest question, both for you, and for myself. No matter how this goes down, I currently plan on there still be two scooters.
My initial thought buying it was to rip out the motor, rebuild it instead of the engine in the Sprint. There is more potential in a P200E engine than the Sprint’s 150cc mill, and it already has electric ignition. In the days after bringing the P200E I waffled back and forth on if I was going to go this route. I was planning on kitting the Sprint and adding Vespatronic anyways, this swap would make sense. Yet, even as much as I don’t care about numbers matching, the more I thought about it, something didn’t feel right. The feeling passed, and for now I am still going to go ahead with the swap. Last week I ordered the Malossi 210 top-end and head kit, a 26/26 carb, new main seals, and most of the other nessasary parts to freshen up the engine. Down the road I plan on rebuilding the Sprint’s engine and moving this one back into it’s original chassis.
The P200E’s body is too rotted to be worth trying to restore. I’m hoping when I check it out further the rust damage is just cosmetic. I do have fears that I will find out that it is too far gone to save. If it is useable, just ugly, I’ll have some fun. My Sprint is still pretty with it’s nice lines and rust-free body, simply too nice to ruin. This P200E is rough enough to be really fun. I think most of the rot off of the back will be cut out, the rear in general will be chopped down, and a inset taillight is pictured in my mind. I’ve never been a huge fan of chopped down legshields, so I doubt I’ll chop that much. I’m going to stop there, I have a vision, and it will be shared at some point. Will it be a top-tank Dakar style bike, or a dirty feral thing, I don’t know. Really the P200E will become a dirt-scooter, or it will be chopped up as scrape since it found to be unsafe chassis. If the chassis ends up as a total loss, the parts that are salvageable were still worth what I paid.
I’ll post updates as further inspections happen, and though-out the engine rebuild process. I’m looking forward to having an engine on the bench again. Good luck out there, have fun, and Godspeed.
– Eric Archambault