Piaggio MP3 400 ie

17 Mp3 400ie.jpg

On Monday, Piaggio officially announced their MP3 400 ie three-wheeled scooter. Coincidentally, on Saturday, I finally got to ride an MP3 250, so finally, I can write about the MP3 with a bit of first-hand experience.

Piaggio claims 150,000 MP3s were sold in the last nine months. It appears only a small fraction of those sales were in the U.S., where a $7,000 (MSRP) 250cc scooter is a hard sell, especially with a well-publicized 400cc version on the horizon. Even a tech-junkie with a fat wallet would be happy to settle for a Vespa GTS until the MP3 400 ie arrives. Sadly, Piaggio’s 4-stroke, 4-valve Master engine (with liquid cooling and electronic injection) is not currently available in any U.S. models, so it’s unclear if and when we can expect the 34 HP 400cc version here (though we can still be thankful we’re not stuck with the seemingly-pointless 125cc version).

The 400cc model appears to utilize the same frame as the smaller models. The Gilera Fuoco, a 500cc version with a sportier body, is also in the works — but even less likely to be sold in the U.S.

I had the opportunity to ride the 250cc version this weekend, and I was suitably impressed. It’s certainly an attention-getter, even in Henry Ford Black, Corporate Fleet Silver, and Executive Maroon, the less-than-a-rainbow of colors provided for the U.S. market. While riding along with Phil from Pride of Cleveland Scooters, dozens of drivers and pedestrians asked about the extra wheel, and many more rubbernecked as we passed. At the Lake Erie Loop campground, it was the center of attention despite the wide range oddities present.

After a brief lap of a parking lot, I had the chance to take the MP3 250 for a spin. As a vintage scooter lover recently introduced to the marvels of modern scooters via the Genuine Blur, I’m a fan of smaller bikes in the 150-250cc range. The MP3 felt large and heavy compared to other 250s I’ve ridden, such as the Kymco Bet and Win 250 (which is no longer made). Ergonomically, it was well-designed, and it had a huge storage area that ran from under the seat and out the trunk. This area could store a three-year-old and perhaps some lumber, but surprisingly not a flip-up full-face helmet.

Once on the road, I rode conservatively, not wanting to drop a $7000 scooter, but it did seem to hug the road admirably. In the “unlocked” mode, it handled like a scooter, which is what it’s supposed to do. It’s easy to believe that the extra wheel gives you more grip and allows you to push the envelope a bit, but in most situations, it doesn’t feel different. That’s a plus, I guess, but a little hard to justify the price. As I’ve stated over and over since the MP3 was unveiled, it’s not a trike, and it can be dropped on it’s side just about as easily as a regular scooter if you aren’t properly trained and experienced. In an earlier story, I described the “locked” and “unlocked” hydraulic modes, but I now realize they were described to me a bit wrong. The “locked” mode does not automatically level the bike and lock the suspension as you slow down, the button must be pressed as you slow down to do so. This action, and watching for the warning light to tell you to press the button, sort of seemed like unnecessary extra steps to someone accustomed to putting his feet down. Still, it’s a neat feature.

On the highway, the bike was much faster, and infinitely more stable than my Blur, but I’d imagine most 250cc bikes would be. Still, I think the extra wheel and weight contributed some piece of mind. It did not feel underpowered at all, considering the size and weight of the scooter. Interestingly, I noticed that at higher speeds, the usually-subconscious act of countersteering was suddenly hyper-conscious, the only way to get it to turn was to push the opposing handlebar, firmly. Braking and suspension felt great, it was a clean ride with tight stops when needed. Controls and mirrors were well-placed.

The extra wheel is a welcome novelty and could accurately be described as a “benefit,” but is that benefit equal to the cost, weight, and technical complication? I’d think most people would be happier saving their cash and looking at other options in the same displacement range. While Piaggio marketing suggests that beginners could benefit from the locking feature, I’d think beginners would do best to learn on a standard bike and perhaps choose a more disposable bike as their first (can you imagine the cost of a front-end collision repair?). I see the target market of this scooter as tech-savvy well-capitalized types (already being a scooter fanatic couldn’t hurt) who must have the latest and greatest (and the attention that comes with it.) It’s a comfortable bike that would make a good commuter, or weekend tourer, but the price seems too high for most people, with many more-or-less comparable bikes priced much lower. The locking feature could be a big selling point for older riders or riders with leg-strength issues, but even they will find they still need to put a foot down now and then. Time will tell if the MP3 is ahead of its time, or just an expensive gimmick.

The disappointing new “new Lambretta”

The Lambretta is back, at least in name.

On Monday, May, 21, 2007, a couple Modern Vespa bulletin board users started to tease readers with some information about a new Lambretta that was to be unveiled Tuesday night at a local club meeting (via San Francisco Scooter Centre and a Scoot! Magazine test-ride/review.) Others reported seeing the bikes earlier at SFSC with taped-over logos. Thanks to their hints and some tips from our network of spies, 2sb has pieced the story together and it’s sadly not the fairy tale rebirth of Lambretta scooterists have always hoped for.

First off, let’s make it clear that we’re not talking about CMSI/TNG’s “L-Series,” formerly known a “Scomadi” and originally known as the “new Lambretta.” CMSI’s plan to build a modern Lambretta (whatever they end up calling it) is still underway. That bike is exciting, if way over budget and years behind schedule, and just about any scooterist would be thrilled to see it (finally) on dealer floors.

This new “new Lambretta” shares its origins with the “L-Series,” however. At the genesis of that project, CMSI was working with the Khurana family, owners of a Seattle car/scooter dealership called Maharaja Motors/Scooters of Seattle. The Khuranas backed out of the venture in February, 2006 when CMSI determined that the Lambretta trademark was too volatile to use for a project with global sales implications. CMSI (with british engineering assistance) kept moving forward (slowly) on the newly-dubbed “Scomadi,” and the Khuranas went back to selling used luxury cars.

Until yesterday, that is. The Khurana family is apparently behind these new Lambrettas, which appear to be rebadged Adly Moto scooters, manufactured by the Her Chee Industrial Co. of Taiwan. Her Chee is ISO Certified and publicly owned, but appears to have some manufacturing ties to mainland China and probably falls short in quality to the better-known Taiwanese brands (Kymco, SYM, and PGO), though is hopefully superior to the truly garbage Chinese manufacturers. The Lambretta UNO 150 is a 150cc 4-stroke Adly Noble, while the DUE 50 is a 50cc 2-stroke Adly Panther. At first glance, one would think that the Khuranas have matched Genuine Scooter Co.’s flair for marketing Asian scooters in the American market. Pictures show the DUE in solid orange or black, and the UNO in solid red or white with a minimum of graphics. Even though the Lambretta crest badges look ultra cheap, the other graphics (in white, presumably vinyl) are tastefully designed, placed and restrained.

But where Genuine took good-quality new-to-us scooters and and creatively rebranded them for the U.S., The Khuranas are selling bikes from a slightly-lower-tier maker, using one of the most beloved names in scooterdom. They almost certainly have no global rights to the Lambretta name, [alas, they do, we later discovered -ed.] Note the logo on the bikes and the Lambretta USA site reads “Lambretta International,” and the site reads “Official Factory Web Site of Lambretta,” which seems to be tempting international legal doom. Their logo is technically original, though clearly derived from several variations of the original Lambretta and Innocenti logos. If Genuine was behind such a project, at least they’d source some quality three-dimensional badges, seeing as how the badges are the top selling point of the product. The whole enterprise lacks originality and attention to detail. On top of all that, Adly is already available here (and has a fairly low reputation, likely due to the questionable retailers that generally sell them).

Let’s assume for a moment that the Khuranas do legally own the name [they do -ed.] and that the Adly is a fully-respectable quality scooter. This may even be the case. If so, why is this so wrong? Simple. The Lambretta is almost indisputably the second-most famous and respected motorscooter ever produced. It is an icon of style, history, and performance. While the most hardcore vintage Lambretta fans will be shocked and disappointed with anything new, there is a place in the market for a “new” Lambretta, even a plastic-bodied twist-and-go. But it at least deserves an original design and first-rate engineering. This product shows no respect for the Lambretta name, and couldn’t be more clearly a cash-grab. CMSI’s Lambretta is much closer to the target, though perhaps it’s devotion to the original Lambretta may be unrealistic.

What will these Asian “Lambrettas” cost? It’s safe to bet they’ll cost more than an Adly. With all the nondescript Asian scooters on the market, there’s nothing to differentiate these scooters but a name. And that’s part of they mystery why the Khuranas would risk this trademark battle. At least when Schwinn put their own brand on “their” Chinese scooters (and further desecrated that hallowed name) it was a name with which Americans were familiar. Unlike “Vespa,” which is nearly synonymous with “Scooter,” and despite its worldwide cachet, “Lambretta” is a fairly-unknown marque in the U.S. Those that know the name will cringe at the sight of these bikes, those that don’t know it will simply wonder why they cost more than the other six bikes next to it that look the same.

And even if the Khuranas can build a great dealer network, will parts be available? Even Genuine and KymcoUSA have a hard time getting what they need from India and Taiwan sometimes. And I’m willing to bet a company that would put cheap Lambretta badges on a Taiwanese scooter isn’t going to be building a solid dealer network, or developing their infrastructure. Sure, they’re courting the trusted dealers now, but how long until they’re unloading them at Internet scooter shops, feed stores, and (ugh) Pep Boys?

One key to the success for the “Uno” and “Due” may be a “Tre:” the Khuranas are promising a SIL-design metal-bodied Lambretta later this year. Whether that’s reality or pipe dream remains to be seen, but I’d hope prospective dealers would demand some pretty solid evidence before buying into that, especially after more than four years selling TNG scooters waiting for the L-series. or bringing Diamo into their shops on the promise of the new Italjets. Even Piaggio floods dealers’ floors with Typhoons and Flys while keeping the GTS in demand. Hopefully dealers are learning their lesson, that a good scooter in hand is worth a dozen Chinese knockoffs in the bush. Unless you’re in it for the money and don’t want to stick around for the long haul, which appears to be the Khuranas’ plan.

When Piaggio returned to America, their greatest asset could have been the goodwill of American scooterists, but they took a pass. The Khuranas seem to be trying to capitalize on that power by getting current scooterists interested in their product (after all, glasseye’s first post on the BBS was “I have been asked to post up about the new Lambretta.”) But this ‘teaser’ campaign isn’t doing them any favors, it’s just angering scooterists by making a promise (New Lambrettas!), then delivering something so uninteresting (Adlys!), it inspires disappointment and/or rage. Hopefully dealers and magazine reviewers and customers will take the high road and stand up for the Lambretta name. Hey, even if the scooters are halfway decent, the Adly-branded versions will almost definitely be a better value.

2007 Dealer Expo: POCphil’s review


Since a week has passed and I still haven’t been able to collect my thoughts on the ginormous mindblowing extravaganza in Indianapolis, here’s POCphil‘s writeup. I’ll add my comments in italics where appropriate. -2SB

We were so excited to get to the Indianapolis Dealer Expo this year, we were running about 2 hours early. We took that time to go visit Speed City Cycles in Indianapolis, only a few minutes from the Show. Mike and Marybeth Tockey have created a fantastic shop with an ingenious use of space and rural/industrial feel that leaves room for a snack bar, lounge and a ton of scooters and accessories. Mike also builds award winning metric cruisers. Just hanging around his IWL Berliner is a treat. After a great tour and some bench racing we were back on our mission to deliver two scooters to the Scoot! Magazine/ Corazzo booth and still arrive early enough at the hotel for some hottubbing before showing up in time for the open bar at 4PM, whew!
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Chicago International Motorcycle Show 2007


You’ll hopefully forgive 2strokebuzz if coverage of the 2007 Cycle World International Motorcycle show is a little scaled back this year. The truth is, very little has changed from year to year. Each year there are fewer surprises, less swag, and fewer perks (the bus service to the CTA parking lot was cancelled this year, brrr.), while parking, concessions, and admission (at least seem to) get more expensive. Probably that’s why Triumph didn’t appear for the second year in a row, and why Kymco, CMSI, and Genuine rarely bother with these shows.

On top of that, we had a head start on new 2007 models, thanks to the Milan EIMCA show, and next weekend I’m attending the Indianapolis Dealer Expo (my first trip), which promises to be a bit more exciting. But out of a sense of duty, and because Ryan was driving, I decided to once again trek through the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, to see what there was to see. Which wasn’t much, really.
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DiamoUSA: More about new Italjets

After discovering late last night that Diamo USA was bringing Italjet scooters and motorcycles to America, we were stupefied, excited, and to be honest, a bit skeptical. Diamo has a fairly good reputation among scooter dealers and riders, but were they the right company to re-introduce the legendary Dragster to the U.S.? Where were these bikes coming from, and how did Italjet rise from the dead seemingly overnight? We contacted DiamoUSA early this morning, and we heard back this afternoon from Mathu Solo, who very candidly answered our questions:
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Vespa at EICMA 2006

In part two of our rundown of Piaggio’s offerings at the EICMA show, we look at Vespa’s new products. Not quite so exciting as Gilera’s, but some interesting variations (and yellow paint!) on some models, and a couple big surprises. As always, keep in mind that Piaggio themselves probably don’t know if these bikes will end up stateside, so your dealer will, as usual, know less than you do when you call. All aboard…


GTV 125, GTV 250

After presenting some one-off 60th-Anniversary retro concept Vespas at last year’s EICMA show, Vespa suprised the world this April, announcing that the three models would actually go into production. All three were basically retro-cosmetic upgrades of existing models. The first, the GTS-based GT60, is shipping now to dealers in a very limited edition that’s probably already sold out. The next two will see a wider release, and are apparently coming very soon. The first of these, the GTV, is a GTS remodeled to emulate Vespa’s exposed-handlebar fenderlight bikes of the early Fifties. It’s been talked-about for a year now, so the only surprise is that it will be available in both 125 and 250cc displacements, and in a traditional green color called “Portofino” in addition to the promised “Avio Grey.” Our prediction is that a 125 cc four-stroke engine in a GTS body will give the rider the true experience of a fifties Vespa — speedwise, anyway (see GTS 125, below).


LXV 125, LXV 50

The other Anniversary model promised in April was the LXV, which brings the glamour of the Sixties Vespa to the LX range of modern Vespas. Again, the only fresh news to report is that it will be available in both LX displacements (the LX50 features the new 2-stroke Hi-Per2 motor), and like all early Vespas (and the new GTVs), it will be sold in your choice of leftover battleship grey, or leftover tank green.


S 50, S 125

Luckily, Piaggio kept one Anniversary model a secret until last week. Seeing the first photos of the Vespa S, we accurately noted it’s stylistic nod to the Vespa 50 Special, but mistook it for a superficially retrofitted LX. On closer inspection, while the general dimensions and displacements (50 and 125) match the LX, there are some rather significant design differences. Most obvious is the legshield, which discards the plastic insert of the LX, returning to a more traditional shape and contour than any scooter since the PK series. The Corsa-style seat looks as magically uncomfortable as the original. Details like the fender and tailight add to the impression that the Vespa smallframe is back, although for some reason, of all the great smallframe models to choose from, they gave it the horncasting and square headlight of a Vespa 50 Special. (Apparently, every European teenager in the 1970s lost their virginity on the 50 Special, so we’ll let that decision slide) It’s impossible to look at this bike and not want to add a dummy tank and spare tire behind the legshield. It evokes the spirit of the original without being superficial or corny, and that’s more than can be said about the bigger and more expensive 60th Anniversary models. The 50 features the 2-stroke Hi-Per, the 125 has the 4-stroke LEADER. Hello, Neue Primavera.


GTS 250, GTS 125

Differences may be eluding me, but I see nothing new about the GTS 250. It seems like every GTS I’ve ever seen was green, so perhaps “Midnight Blue, Lime Yellow, Excalibur Grey, Shiny Black and Dragon Red.” are new colors, but perhaps not. (Are the optional anti-lock brakes new? Does anyone actually want ABS on a motorcycle?) The new GTS 125 is targeted towards European teenagers with a A1 license or older riders who don’t want to go through motorcycle testing. It features the 125 LEADER engine, which as noted above, doesn’t seem like much displacement for a heavy GTS frame, though the same engine will power the even heavier US-market MP3 (or whatever they decide to call it here).


LX series

As with the GTS, the only changes from 2006 in the LX range appear to be displacement and paint. Four engine choices are available: a 50cc 2 stroke Hi-Per2, a 50cc 4-stroke Hi-Per4, and 125cc or 150cc 4-stroke LEADERs. Colors for 2007 are Tibet, Sky Blue, Lime Yellow, Excalibur Grey, Graphite Black and Dragon Red for the 50s, Portofino, Midnight Blue, Lime Yellow, Excalibur Grey, Graphite Black and Dragon Red for the 125 and 150.

Check out our ever-expanding 2006 EICMA Gallery for more photos. Still to come: Derbi, Piaggio, and Aprilia’s EICMA offerings, plus anything else we can scrape up about the non-Piaggio-made scooters on display.

Gilera at EICMA 2006

Our reports on the Piaggio Group’s presence at EICMA start with the models we’re least likely to ever see. We’ve never heard a single squeak about Gilera coming to America, a damn shame because the Runner and Nexus were perfectly good reasons to covet a Gilera dealer, and the Milan show just gave us a few more:


GP 800

One of the biggest stories at EICMA, scooters or otherwise, is Gilera’s new 75hp, 850cc GP 800 (Gilera might be the first manufacturer to ever round down cc’s for a model name). The GP features a V-twin 8-valve liquid-cooled engine in a Runner-like body (reports this summer predicted it’d be called a “Runner”) outfitted with a CVT automatic transmission, a horizontal single rear shock, and twin front discs. The only way to describe it is “Automatic Sportbike.” Whether the performance is comparable to an 800cc sportbike remains to be seen, but it’s going to outpace just about any other scooter. And the price will surely reflect the displacement.


Fuoco 500

We’ve already talked about this a bit, but we now have some new photos in the gallery. As reported, it’s a MASTER 492cc engine in a sporty frame with tilting dual front wheels borrowed from the Piaggio MP3.


Nexus 125

The rest of the lineup is a bit less exciting. The Nexus 125 is Gilera’s sporty Nexus 250 scooter with a downsized engine for 16-year-olds with a Euro A1 license. It’s a fairly large bike, and presumably not as peppy with the smaller engine, but the high-end features are retained from the bigger models, so at least it’s still flashy and luxurious. Adorably, the underseat compartment has been redesigned to hold a fullface helmet AND a half-shell for unexpected guests.


Stalker 50

The Stalker 50, Gilera’s version of the Piaggio Typhoon, now comes with a 2-stroke Hi-PER2 PRO engine previously found in the Gilera DNA and Piaggio NRG. Dig those “Urban Graffiti” graphics. It’s Christmas morning in Bari, and little Gio has just turned 16. He’s been begging his parents for two months for the new Gilera Nexus 125, but the butcher shop hasn’t been doing so well, and when they lead them to the garage and uncover his eyes, he sees a blaring “Stalker” decal glaring back at him. He’s polite, and it’s still a brand-new scooter after all, a good brand, better than most of his friends’, and out of his parent’s budget. And thank God it’s not the white one. But it’s still not easy to hide his disappointment. By mid-January, all the kids at school are calling him “Il Stalker” and Annabella has dumped him for an 18-year-old with a ten-year-old Runner 180. Gio and his friend Mario save up enough money to buy a 133 kit and a sports exhaust from a kid that crashed his Typhoon. They peel off the “Stalker” decal and put a big Inter Milan sticker on it, and decide it’s not such a bad bike after all.

See more photos in our EICMA 2006 gallery.

P2Motors interview: Kinetic’s plans for America

Two weeks ago, Armando Gonzalez of Phase2 Motors contacted 2sb to let us know he was working on bringing the Kinetic “Italiano” line of scooters to America. To make a long story short, Kinetic is an Indian manufacturer that, in 2003, acquired the rights to manufacture and distribute seven Italjet models worldwide. Italjet became more-or-less defunct around the same time, and Kinetic has been working towards bringing these models to market ever since, under the “Italiano” name. Early this year, Kinetic released their version of the Italjet Millenium (as the Kinetic Blaze) with positive results, and promised bring the Velocifero to America. Recently, Kinetic issued another press release promising the Blaze, and quietly removed the Dragster from the list of Italjets it planned to release. (Massimo Tartarini, son of Italjet head Leopoldo Tartarini and owner of the “Italjet” name has several times announced plans for the Dragster, but hasn’t followed through, to our knowledge.) Back to Kinetic, here is our interview with Armando Gonzales:
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The Blur 150: Modern scooters aren’t rubbish


This my first review of a scooter in more than ten years of writing 2strokebuzz. My first scooter was a vintage Vespa and have pretty much stuck to what I know. I’ve taken a few spins on various modern scooters, and have been impressed by some, and not by others. The Blur impressed me.
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POCphil on the CF Moto V5

CFMOTO V5 side

Our good friend Phil Waters of Pride of Cleveland Scooters (POC) sent us his impressions of a CF Moto/Baron V5, a 250cc automatic motorcycle, that came into his shop for service:

“First it’s a candy, then it’s a gum!”

This doesn’t seem to work as well with automatic motorcycles. What Honda did so well with the Hondamatic 30 years ago is being re-introduced by the Chinese, in a typically Chinese fashion.

The CF Moto V5 is currently being distributed by Big Jim’s Wholesale, who has recently taken on the more scooter-friendly name of TwinCityScooters.com.

We’ve been considering bringing them in as a line here at POC and talked to their reps at Indy. Their bikes had intrigued me, but I was skeptical about the quality.
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Scott Smallwood 2SB interview (from 2003)

Scott Smallwood

In honor of Scott Smallwood’s retirement from SuperSonicScooters, we present an interview with Scott, written by David Lucash, that originally ran in 2strokeBuzz on September 19, 2003:

Three weeks or so ago I was killing layover time in the Duty Free shop of the Montreal-Dorval International Airport. While balancing two cartons of Export A’s and giant bars of Toblerone, I spotted a familiar face checking out the bottles of fine liquor. Sure enough, it was Scott Smallwood of Supersonic Scooters of Columbus, Ohio.

He had some time to kill as well, so we made our way to an airport bar for some coffee. Within an hour the coffee turned into vodka tonics and our conversation turned into a question and answer session regarding Scott’s endeavors.
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We got back from Paris yesterday, here are our photos of Paris in general (or just check out the scooter-related photos)

Things I noticed:

  • Scooters and motorcycles are everywhere, even as the temperature hovered around the freezing point. (Lap aprons are very common on motorcycles and scooters.) Basically, the whole town sounds like you’re at a scooter rally, all day and all night.
  • Scooters easily outnumber motorcycles 3-1. Most motorcycles we saw were small-displacement and Asian, the few bigger ones we saw were usually Ducatis or BMWs.
  • It’s impossible to walk a block on any street in Paris without seeing several scooters parked on the sidewalk. Nirvana for American scooterists, but probably no fun for most pedestrians.
  • Piaggio definitely dominates the market, even over Peugeot. Modern Vespas (ETs and GTs) and Piaggios (X9s and Libertys) are everywhere, and P-series scooters were far more common than i expected, maybe 1 out of 20 scooters was a P or PK-series. There were a good number of Peugeots, but mostly older beaters, I saw only a couple Speedfights. In Ireland a couple years ago, Gilera Runners dominated the market, but we only saw one in Paris. Kymco and Aprilia also had a decent share of the market. Chinese and Taiwanese scooters were common, but I saw few Hondas or Yamahas, and no “retro” Asian scooters other than one Honda Joker (called the “Shadow” there?).
  • Most scooters, even the relatively expensive Vespas, were healthily thrashed, parked against walls and each other with stickers and dents galore. They’re transportation there, not fetish objects.
  • We did see several nicely-maintained vintage Vespas that were clearly owned by lifestyle scooterists, mostly smallframes like the one above.
  • As far as 4-wheeled vehicles, I couldn’t believe the number of Smart Cars, they’re cleaning up there. Minis (both old and new) were common, and all manner of tiny Citröens, Peugeots, and Renaults were everywhere. VW and Audi were probably the biggest importers. All the cars were tiny: the streets are narrow, traffic and parking is a nightmare, and gas is expensive. One of the biggest popular cars was a 2-door version of the Toyota Rav-4. Like the scooters, the cars mostly looked like they’d had a hard life.

I’ll post more later about the two scooter shops we visited.