The Lambretta craze powers on

Arun Raj with his collection of Lambretta scooters.

Arun Raj with his collection of Lambretta scooters.

There is nothing fast, furious, or fashionable about a 1950s Lambretta scooter.

Nevertheless, the sedately powered two-wheeler, once ubiquitous on Indian roads, has of late found an unexpected fan following among a section of urban youth fixated on powerful motorbikes and high-octane street racing movies.

Personifying this new breed of youngsters with a peculiar passion for old-fashioned and outdated scooters, which have scarce value as collectables, is Arun Raj, a history graduate-turned-motorbike mechanic.

The 26-year-old is the proud owner of three painstakingly restored Lambretta scooters. He counts among his friends at least five other youths who share his passion for yesteryear scooters of Italian design, including the Vespa.

The Lambretta scooter, now hardly considered roadworthy and accorded little more than scrap value, was once a much-coveted vehicle, says K. Raveendran, retired Director of Zoos and Museum and a former owner.

A Union government undertaking began licensed production of the ‘Lamby’ in the 1950s. By the 1960s, it became the preferred personal transport of white-collar workers, mostly government and bank employees. Soon, demand far surpassed production, and the waiting list for the vehicle lengthened implausibly.

“In the 60s, you could buy a Lamby only through the State Industries Department. One had to book the scooter and wait for a minimum of six years to take delivery. The company had a service centre near Statue,” he remembers.

Mr. Raveendran was then the Superintendent of Government Gardens and Parks. The incumbent Industries Minister P. Raveendran deemed him a “touring officer” and waived the seniority list for immediate allotment of the vehicle. “I got my Lamby (KLV 2946) in two weeks,” he says.

U. Surjith, a collector of classic British motorbikes, says the Lambretta scooter, like the Norton 500 Single, was designed primarily for allied forces in World War II. Post-war, the design was modified to create an affordable scooter.

He says the original Italian-made Lambrettas are increasingly hard to find, while the Indian-made Lamby 150 versions are relatively easier to locate.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2022 8:16:05 pm |