2008 Stella/Buddy/Roughhouse (with photos)

(Updated 11:30pm 11/29/07 with photos and more details.)
2008 Genuine Scooter Co. Stella, Avocado.

The news we’ve all been waiting for, and a couple surprises: The first shipment of Genuine Stellas (reportedly less than 300 scooters) will be delivered in January to top-seller Genuine dealers only, who will get 15 Stellas each (3 of each color per dealer: avocado, powder blue, red, tangerine, and black). As reported earlier, Scooterworks USA and some other dealers are accepting pre-orders. $3399 is the official MSRP.

2008 Genuine Scooter Co. Stella, Milano Red, and production line at LML, November 2006

The second batch is due from India in May. Not much detail is available on improvements, An email sent to Scooterwork customers called the Grimeca front discs “new”, so it’s unclear whether the Indian-market licensed Grimecas on older Stellas have been replaced with “real” Grimecas, or if they’ve just been improved somehow. Engine internals (notably the crank and bearings) have reportedly been upgraded. In the factory photo above, the ignition/CDI appears to have been relocated, though it’s possible it’s simply not mounted yet. Tires have been upgraded to Continental Zippy 1s, with whitewalls standard on the Avocado Stella. We’ve found nothing to indicate that the new Stellas will meet California emissions regulations, but John Gerber (see comments below) reports that LML is likely to develop a manual-transmission 4-stroke engine in 2008 (and may unveil an ET4 clone as early as next month!).

Genuine Scooter Co. Buddy colors for 2008

Other big Genuine news: the 2008 Buddy line will feature three “International” Editions with 150cc engines (yes, 150cc, that’s not a typo) at an MSRP of $2,999. The first is the two-tone green “Series Italia” as seen in 2006, the two new models are “Saint-Tropez” in french blue and dove grey with a navy seat, and the “Pamplona” in Beige and Red with a tan seat. These two models are as distinctive and stunning (if not more so) than the Italia, and the idea of a Buddy with a 150cc engine (and a new Stebel airhorn standard) is nearly frightening. The Series Italia will also be available in a limited-edition 50cc edition at $1999. The 50 and 125cc Buddies remain pretty much the same, but with new colors: seafoam, powder blue, tangerine (looks yellow in photos), red, and black. 50ccs are $1899, 125s are $2599. A limited quantity of pink Buddy 50s and 125s may be available from some of Genuine’s higher-volume dealers.

2008 Genuine Scooter Co. Roughhouse R50The Blur 150 is gone, no surprise there, though 2sb owns and loves it, it hasn’t sold well, dealers are heavily discounting the ’06 orange and charcoal Blur 150s, and there seems to be no shortage of the ’07 black and charcoal model. The Black Cat has also been discontinued, but again, you’ll have no problem finding one. The Rattler 110 is back in red and silver, and it has a surprise new little brother, the MSRP $1850 Roughhouse R50 in green or blue. The R50 appears to be Genuine’s rebranding of the PGO PMX 50 (the Rattler 110 is the PMX 110 “Naked”) and it will likely sell much better than the too-gaudy Black Cat. (and, Genuine hopes, put up some competition for the reborn and newly-popular Yamaha Zuma). It is unclear when the new Buddys and the Roughhouse will arrive on our shores.

Genuine is offering nothing over 150cc, which is interesting because Kymco is really focusing on that market these days. It may hurt Genuine in the short run as Buddy owners look to step up, but a couple dealers have suggested to 2sb that Kymco may have bit off more than they could chew in the maxi-scooter market. Maybe PGO (and thus, Genuine) is wise to focus on what they do best. PGO’s focused on the Asian market where most bikes are under 150, but a 250cc scooter from Genuine would probably keep a lot of their U.S. customers off Kymcos. (Interestingly, the Blur (PGO G-Max) 200 was rumored to be sort of a dud, and PGO appears to have discontinued their 250cc G-Max.)

Peel microcar video and Hammacher Schlemmer

POC Phil posted this must-watch Peel Trident & P50 minicar video as a comment to my microcar book review, but it deserved a more prominent link. In the sixties you could buy a two-seater car made on the Isle of Man for £200 but these days a similarly-sized Chinese electric car costs $25,000. Nitro sent that Hammacher Schlemmer link, along with this $6000 2-person scooter coupe. He says “Imagine if you changed the cheap Chinese subframe for maybe a kitted 125 or so.” I guess, or you could buy an MP3 for the same price.

S’works taking Stella deposits

Orin heard this girl at the 7-Eleven tell the cashier that her friend’s brother got an email from Scooterworks that they’re taking deposits on new Stellas in new colors with Continental Zippys and a Grimeca disc brake (didn’t the old ones have Indian-made Grimecas?). The price went up a bit, natch, and there’s still no official date, but I thought you should know.

Thanks giving

It’s the obvious blog-world thing to do, but today’s the day to give thanks. First, thanks to everyone who reads and contributes to 2strokebuzz. I just re-found a stack of letters* I got when I was still doing the ‘zine (1996-ish) and many of those people that wrote to me back then are still good friends today. I also read some kind words from Jeff Lillie in Kickstart and also from Scoot! Magazine in their 10th anniversary issue, it’s amazing that many of us have been doing this stuff for such a long time and still enjoy ourselves and still believe in the awesomnicity of motorscooters. Thanks also to the science and/or providence that protects us as we zip around through traffic at 50mph on rusty 30-year-old machines with dim taillights.

2slowbuzz vs. American Scooterist

Sorry about the infrequent posts the last week or so, I’m trying to get issue 53 of American Scooterist to press before the holidays. If you’re a Vespa Club of America member, you should be getting issue 52 in the mail any day now, but we’re still woefully late, largely because of my busy schedule. Remember that your membership is good for four issues, however long it takes us to get them to you. If you are a subscriber, I hope you find it worth the wait, it’s a lot of work and we take great pride in its quality, if not its punctuality. We’ve got some new blood on board (thanks Pete!) but we can always use more writing/editing/production help, and if you’re in a position to advertise in American Scooterist, we’d certainly appreciate the support.

Review: A-Z of Popular Scooters and Microcars

The A-Z of Popular Scooters and Microcars, Cruising with StyleThe A-Z of Popular Scooters and Microcars, Cruising with Style, by Michael Dan
Veloce Books, 2007
Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN 9781845840884

The peak of the current “scooter boom” (surely it can’t get any bigger?) has been marked by an ever-growing number of books, each more general than the last. Most of the current scooter books are targeted at wheel-kicking neophytes, and some were clearly written by folks that have never straddled a 150cc engine. Even books targeted towards scenesters, like Colin Shattuck’s great Scooters: Red Eyes, Whitewalls & Blue Smoke have their faults; listings of events, models, and clubs are outdated soon after publication and there’s just not enough space to do justice to the diverse range of subjects covered. Few scooter books find an engaging “hook” and really focus on it, and too many books rely on fifth-hand recycled historical boilerplate, most of it simply re-hashing Piaggio’s self-scripted mythology.

On the opposite extreme, Veloce’s books are (hurrah!) written by anoraks for anoraks, and while The A-Z of Popular Scooters and Microcars, Cruising with Style perhaps isn’t quite as slick-looking as other new books on the market, it seems likely to appeal to a fanatical scooter/microcar owner or someone wishing to just skim the surface. It’s great to find a book written from first-hand personal experience. Michael Dan is a solid writer who clearly loves and respects his subject matter. He fills the book with engaging stories of his exploits in the fifties riding various tiny-wheeled contraptions. Doubling the subject matter by throwing microcars into the mix seems like a bad move, focus-wise, but this book is probably the first to explore the connections between these two “niche” vehicles, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a devotee of either who lacked (at least) a passing interest in the other, so it’s a smart combination. Dan discusses the connections in detail: not only did many companies produce microcars and scooters concurrently, there was also crossover in the transportation market and the rally scene. Microcars were also a popular upgrade for scooterists finding themselves with a larger income and/or family.

The book starts with a brief overview of its subjects, building a historical context for the machines we love and the scenes that developed around them. The next section, and the most pleasant reading, goes into more detail on several specific models, featuring photos, ephemera, and the author’s first-hand period anecdotes from fifties Britain. This section is followed by nearly 100 pages of “A-Z” listings, featuring three scooters or microcars per page with specifications and notes about each model. The listings aren’t slavishly comprehensive, but they feature a good mix of the common vs. the obscure, with scooters and microcars from around the world, from the forties to the current day.

After the listings, Dan has assembled simple but great feature: a series of timelines, sorting popular marques and models by decade. The timelines put the models and their development in a temporal context with their contemporaries, depicting booms and draughts. A photo gallery fills the remaining 25 pages, bringing the book to 256 pages, each packed tight with scooter and microcar goodness.

Veloce’s design and typography is a bit disappointing. A $60 book simply deserves a bit more care in that department. Veloce seems to follow the Scootering magazine school of jamming as much photography and text on the page as possible, using wacky angles, drop shadows, repeated images, stretched type, goofy oversized captions, and similar “corporate newsletter” design traps. A simpler, cleaner design would serve the information better. Stranger still are the shots where a scooter or car was digitally added to an idyllic landscape, surely they didn’t think they were fooling anyone? Aside from those quibbles, the printing and binding is top-quality, and most of the photography is solid. The period ephemera is tops–ads and brochures we’ve never seen before, reproduced very cleanly. The majority of the “A-Z” section features snapshots taken at swap meets and car shows. If you’re expecting big-budget Art of the Motorcycle-style portraits of hundreds of models, you’re not going to find them here, these are real-world machines in various states of repair, restoration, or decay, and the eBay-auction-style photos are actually an engaging way to present them.

A trivia-obsessed scooterist might debate a few finer points of the text, but there’s certainly nothing blatantly wrong, which can’t be said for many of the ‘scooter boom’ cash-ins on the market. Assuming that the microcar data is similarly sound, this book is perfect for a devotee of either vehicle, and a great bridge between two scenes that don’t communicate much, but share many common elements. Any vintage scooter fan won’t be disappointed with this book, the scooter information is fresh and personal, and the microcar content offers instant immersion in an unexplored, parallel world.

More info available at Veloce’s site.

Lamponi Scooter Lamps (new site)

Those scooter-headset lamps that we posted about last year have been turning up on other scooter and gadget sites ever since. Designer Maurizio Lamponi Leopardi has a new well-designed site with more photos. The site is written in English and includes information about ordering the lamps, though they’re surely pretty expensive, and chances are, if you’re a 2SB reader, you a) can’t afford one, and b) have everything you need in your garage to build your own. Also keep in mind that scooter headsets make great wall sconces.

Italjet at EICMA

I’d been holding off on a “scathing” (ha) appraisal of Italjet/Diamo until the EICMA show, to see if Italjet even had a booth there. According to The Scooter Scoop, they do. As far as I can tell (Diamo’s site doesn’t show any Italjet models, and doesn’t list dealers, and ItaljetUSA’s site is slow, short on info, and hasn’t changed since last winter), their only model currently available in the U.S. is the Torpedo, which is apparently made in Asia, so if that Dragster on display in Milan is actually new (unlike the old one they dusted off for DealerExpo) and actually a production bike, it’ll be interesting to see where it’s being built and when it’s coming here. (Their booth is in the Asian pavillion, if that’s any indication). Our analyst Brooke suggested that the whole Italjet/DiamoUSA deal was a scam to lure dealers to sell other Diamo projects, and I was frankly starting to believe him, now the question is if Italjet is anything more than an office in Italy buying trade show space and licensing their name (and their late-90s designs) to Asia and India. Time will tell.

(UPDATE: DiamoUSA appears to be displaying the same Minarelli-powered five-year-old Dragster 50 at the Cycle World shows that they had on display at the Dealer Expo nine months ago. See comments for details.)