Square One and a Half

I have progress to report! It may not seem like a lot, but at least I feel like I have a little bit of an idea of what’s going on, and to me that’s a lot.

For starters, I made my first mistake. Betty is not a Vespa Sprint Veloce…Betty is a Vespa 90. You know how I know that? She has a tag on the back that says “Vespa 90” that’s been there the whole time. So yeah, I’m an idiot, but hey I know that’s a model now! And that’s what I own!


So now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to the actual progress. First, I got my Haynes manual in the mail. Very shiny and tangible and exciting. Next, I stopped by Vespa Motorsport here in San Diego to chat with someone who knows a thing or two about Vespas and possibly buy the whole store out. These guys (I’d love to be able to say “and girls” but I didn’t see one girl in there) are the real deal. I’m so lucky this shop is in San Diego because I think they’re known nationally and they are 15 minutes from my house. Super cool space, I wish I could just move in for a few months. Kevin was the unlucky fellow who happened to be at the counter when I walked in because I asked him a million questions when I’m sure he had a million and one other things he could be doing instead. He was super nice and supportive in my endeavor and got me on the right track. (You have not seen the last of me, Kevin). I walked out of there with a spark tester, a spark plug wrench, a spare parts book, and a whole-lotta questions. “What is a spark tester?” “Why do I even need it?” “What am I doing with my life?” Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to figure it out.

So even with these tangible things I was still scratching my head about what to do next. I finally settled on walking myself through the spare parts book and marking off what I saw and circling what I noticed was missing. That sounds a lot easier than it is. For starters, most of the parts in there are tiny bolts and nuts and washers that are either there or aren’t, but don’t really matter for my purposes right now. Secondly, it is very empty and dark inside of Betty except for the spiders that live in there (and if you know me, you know how I feel about that…). So I did what I could and at least got some idea of what I was working with (or without).

After that I looked up videos of how to use a spark tester. I never actually found a video of what I was looking for, but instead stumbled on a goldmine. This guy restores all kinds of stuff and takes videos of it and guess what his most recent purchase is…A Vespa!!! Jackpot. He bought it after it was living in a barn for 30 years and used as a parts scooter and he’s going to try to make it run. He’s only three videos in (spoiler alert, it can run) and mentioned if it gets too expensive then he will stop (noooo, please don’t!), but for now his first few videos are just what I need to get started. If you’re curious, here is his channel: Restoration Youtube Channel

So in general he starts by kicking the kick-starter a few times to check the compression (you can actually get something to quantitatively check this, which I likely will in the future, but eyeballing it is a start I guess) and then moves on to checking if he can get a spark. In his case he actually had to change out something behind the flywheel before all this, but I skipped this step since I’m running on the assumption that mine is in working order. So with my newfound sense of purpose, I went to Betty and pressed the kick starter a few times and got a similar resistance and sound that he did and felt like that probably was a good thing so decided to move on to check for a spark. I read the directions for the tester and felt pretty sure that I set it up all right and…………………no spark. Dang. But that’s alright, it just means I know what I need to focus in on. So for now my next goal is to get a spark. There are lots of reasons why I may not be getting one, and the first thing I’m going to check is to make sure I did the actual test right, because at this rate, it’s very likely that this is user error…ha.

So in the past few days, I feel like I’m starting to wrap my head around all of this and at least have my wits about me a bit. I have a goal in mind and some manuals in hand and videos on Youtube to help me get there. In the process, I also got to remove a spark plug and inspect it, which is small but something that I’ve never done before so that’s cool, I guess. Looks like this one either had a rich mixture or the wrong heating value and I actually do know what those things mean because I took a class about engines last semester! Hurray!

So instead of being at Square One now, I’m at about Square One and a Half. But it feels big! And most importantly I have a goal which will keep me moving forward.

It feels like I’m moving slowly but I do have to remind myself that I bought Betty just over a week ago and already I feel like I’ve learned a some things, which is the whole point. Next task: Have Brendan get the spiders out of Betty. 🙂


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