Vespa Project Day 1: I Know Nothing

I bought a scooter today. The Vespa-kind, not the Razor-kind. And the vintage-kind, not the running-kind. It’s a 1974 Vespa Sprint Veloce, all original parts (or at least the parts that are there), and I bought it off Craigstlist from a guy who bought it in 1990 and never got around to restoring it himself. My husband was kind enough to join me on the 2.5 hour drive (each way) out to the desert in a rented pickup to get it. Now it’s sitting in my garage and I’m torn between, “Hurray I’m so excited!” to “Oh God, what have I done?”.

I’ll cut to the chase – I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure I know where the engine is and where I’m supposed to sit, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I’ve never even been on a scooter. I’m about to finish my first full year in school for Mechanical Engineering. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Physics already, but so far I’ve found that Mech. Eng. is my true calling. I love the classes and the people and the applications. Mechanical Engineering is what I should have studied all along. So as I look into wrapping up my first full year, I think I’ve learned the most valuable lesson of all: I know absolutely nothing.

I’m doing well in my classes and I enjoy learning the content and even taking the tests, but I’ve realized what I really need is to get my hands dirty, literally. So I’m starting a project. I see the cost as an investment in my education since I plan on doing a lot of learning through the process. What I like about this project is that I have all the time in the world to finish it and I only have myself to answer to. When (notice I say “when”, not “if”) I make a mistake, I don’t have to apologize to anyone; instead I can say, “well hey, at least I learned something and that was the point” and then move on with my life. I guess I may have to answer to my husband at some point when he gets sick of me taking up space in the garage, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

This would usually be the time when I would mention that I’m nervous and excited to work on this myself since there are not many female mechanics, but this time I think I’m going to skip it. I don’t think it’s worth talking about because I don’t think my gender has any bearing on my ability to do this project. Instead I’m just someone who is brand new at it, but curious and motivated and most of all, excited to learn. I’ve seen all these videos and posts of people who are like, “I didn’t know a thing and I watched Youtube videos and built my own house!” and I thought to myself, “well hey, if they can do it what’s stopping me?”.

So there it is: I bought a Vespa that I’m going to try to restore myself and I know nothing, but I think that’s okay. I anticipate a lot of failure along the way, but sometimes failure is our greatest teacher. My hope is that I will be diligent enough to use this blog to record my progress and maybe others can learn from my work. For now I have to figure out where to even begin…I’m thinking new tires so I can actually move her around without the help of my husband and a skateboard…I’ll keep you posted!

*Special thanks to Jim who sold me the Vespa even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to let her go, and my husband, Brendan, who has been incredibly supportive but just enough so that he’s not actually all that interested in helping me with the project, just enough that he’ll help me do individual tasks and use the garage :).

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