Xmas in April? Scooterworks ’08 catalog

swcatspreadphoto.jpgIf you need a visual reference to the state of scootering in America, look no farther than the Scooterworks catalog.

(UPDATE: It turns out this catalog was designed for scooter shops to display to customers, and is not going to be distributed to the general public. “Scooter Works Direct” is Scooterworks USA’s wholesale branch, and this catalog is basically a wholesale catalog with retail prices listed. A new consumer catalog is currently in the works. Thanks for clearing that up, Eric. I’ll fix the incorrect info in the rest of the story tonight.)

In the manila envelope containing the paperwork for my first scooter in 1995, I found a mimeographed, typewritten parts catalog from Vespa of Chicago, who’d recently been taken over by an upstart called Scooterworks USA. I stopped by Scooterworks a few days later to buy a helmet and some spark plugs, and was given a newer, typo-riddled black and white catalog that looked like it was constructed with rub-down type and Microsoft Word.

The first great Scooterworks catalog came about a year later, when I received the handsome Carlos-Segura-designed brown-ink-on-beige-paper folio featuring better organization and a much larger selection. A thicker and glossier “Magalog” followed a couple years later, with a more personal touch, some non-scooter content, and yet more goodies to drool over. Next came another “Magalog” with (imagine!) a few pages devoted to the new Vespa ET2 and ET4. Next came P.J. Chmiel’s thick, glossy masterpiece that for the first time included parts for the new Stella from Scooterwork’s new sister company, Genuine Scooter Co. Getting a Scooterworks catalog in the mail is the grown-up equivalent of a toy catalog before Christmas, and though I saw bits and pieces of the new catalog at DealerExpo, nothing could prepare me for what I found in my mailbox today.

As the package was addressed to “2strokebuzz” with a handwritten label and no return address, I suspect someone sent me an early copy. Usually much fanfare and internet gossip surrounds the release of a new Scooterworks catalog, and other people brag about getting it days or weeks before mine shows up. I hadn’t heard from anyone else who’d received one. So maybe I just have delusions of relevance, but if this is an advance copy, thanks to whoever sent it my way.

swcat.jpgThe first and most obvious change is the heft of the book. Perfect-bound with 160+ pages, it’s far thicker than any previous catalog, and on par with SIP Scootershop’s german catalogs. Another big change is the name: ScooterworksUSA, or at least their mail-order arm, is now called “Scooter Works Direct,” with a new logo featuring the silhouette of a Genuine Buddy. The cover features a red modern Vespa and the tagline “The One Stop Shop For All Your Scooter Needs.” I woulda hyphenated “One-Stop” but that’s just me.

The new catalog was presumably designed by Scooterworks/Genuine designer Eric Carl (not to be confused with this Eric Carl who designs for a moped shop in Northern Indiana, nor the caterpillar guy). Eric had big shoes to fill when he replaced P.J., but as I’ve said before, he’s done a great job maintaining P.J.’s groundwork and developing it in his own style. Where PJ’s catalog was perhaps a bit overdesigned, Eric’s is much cleaner and simpler, which–lets face it–suits a tome of this length.

What I do miss is the friendly tone of the old catalogs. This catalog is all business, with none of the technical advice, customer photos, storytelling, or humor of the earlier books. Again, this probably serves the huge volume of material better, but the VIN listings and such were a feature I used frequently in the past. Sure, it’s all online somewhere, but it was handy to have in your desk drawer, bound to the parts list.

swcatspine.jpgAnother change that will take some getting used to, for me anyway, is the volume of modern scooter content. Where even the most recent catalog had only a few pages devoted to modern scooters, this book dedicates almost two-thirds of its pages (the section in the photo with longer tabs) to “Late Model Scooters” (I woulda hyphenated that, too, btw, ha). Obviously, that’s where the market is at the moment, so it’s to be expected, but it’s still strange to see the company I’ve always considered to be vintage-Vespa-centric sell parts and accessories not only for Stellas and Buddies, but also for a wide variety of modern bikes, including Vespas, Kymcos, Vinos, Ruckus…es, and more. There’s even a fairly comprehensive list of internal parts for the ubiquitous GY6 motor, the favored lump of the Chinese.

swcatchinese.jpgThat’s not a bad idea, really, if they send this catalog out with every GY6 part order, they’ll set thousands of new customers on the path of scooter fetishdom. Sadly, one of the few attempts at comedy, pictured left, comes off a bit racist IMHO. I myself have a partly-irrational anti-chinese-scooter vendetta, but making fun of the way the dudes talk seems a little excessive.

After seeing their latest brochure, I was nervous about the organization of the catalog, but it’s about as organized as it could be. “Late Model” and “Vintage Vespa” are separated and subdivided appropriately (“Windshields,” “Engine,” “Rubber Parts,” etc.), which works fine if you’re looking for a specific part, but makes browsing difficult if you’re wondering what’s available for your specific modern scooter. “Model” icons help, but they’re not used totally consistently.

swcatblur1.jpgAs an owner (and huge fan) of Genuine’s awesome-but-discontinued Blur, I was disappointed to find only two accessories specifically for my bike (and apparently the Blur didn’t warrant a “model icon”). If Scooterworks (Genuine’s sister company, mind you) is selling commonly-needed spares (brake pads, tires, etc.) for my bike, they aren’t listed as such.

There’s plenty here for the Buddy, but anyone hoping to see exploded Buddy parts diagrams and replacement body panels will be disappointed. Arguably, such parts should be ordered through Genuine, but if any mail-order supplier should have em, it’d be Scooterworks. Clearly they’re aiming to expand their mail-order business to all makes and models, but you’d think they’d have focused on Genuine first.

Overall, the organization, design, and photography are first-class, and any scooterist (aside from the ten of us that bought Blurs) will drool over the selection. There are plenty of new items since last time, especially from Scooterworks’ house brand Prima and new partner NCY. There’s clearly a new focus on professionalism (let’s hope their in-stock average rises along with it), but the cost of such slickness (and of the scooter boom in general) is the loss of personality.

swcatspreadred.jpgI’ve always been impressed with Scooterworks/Genuine owner Phil McCaleb’s business sense, and he clearly knows what he’s doing here. These are the boom years, the corporate impersonal times, and if anyone survives through the inevitable bust, it’ll be Scooterworks. I’d always dreamed of a catalog this comprehensive and nicely produced, and it’s a milestone in American scootering, to be sure, but it’s also a sign of how much things have changed since that first mimeographed parts list, mostly for the better, but not exclusively so.

One thought on “Xmas in April? Scooterworks ’08 catalog”

  1. It’s not just scooter works that’s changed. I view 2SB from work and so I always google it. The tag always says “Motorscooter weblog focused mainly on Vespa and Lambretta scooters. Features articles about scooter-related music and culture.” And while I still see Vespa and Lambretta mentioned here, the scope is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay bigger. All to the good. It seems we might be getting to the point where shops may stop being part of the community as they get bigger and more impersonal and riders will be responsible for ‘scooter culture’ (whatever that is).

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