SX appeal

X-TRAORDINARY EFFORT K.M. Durai Babu (above), who knows a thing or two about Lambrettas, thinks his son Dinakar Babu has done a great job of restoring this 1968 Lambretta SX150

X-TRAORDINARY EFFORT K.M. Durai Babu (above), who knows a thing or two about Lambrettas, thinks his son Dinakar Babu has done a great job of restoring this 1968 Lambretta SX150  


Despite an unconventional colour scheme, D. Dinakar Babu’s 1968 Lambretta SX150 has not lost its charm

Unlike someone who modifies a vehicle, the restorer of an old vehicle can’t give in to any flashes of inspiration. Working within fixed parameters, he has to engage in tedious research and double-check available information for authenticity. He faces an additional burden if old spare parts are not easily available or if an identical vehicle can’t be cannibalised for spares.

Exactly the problems D. Dinakar Babu faced while restoring his 1968 Lambretta SX150 (short for Special X 150). Barring the Lambretta Li150 Special which it replaced, the SX150 shared little with other Lambretta models. The Italian scooter maker wanted the SX models to be more stylish and technically sounder than all preceding Lambrettas. Lots of expectations were riding on the SX range when it was launched with a catchy or naughty (depending on your point of view) tagline — ‘SX appeal’.

The SX range met expectations, selling 52,000 units (SX150 and SX200 together) in three years of production (1966 to 1969). Till today, Lambretta fans see the SX models as possessing a unique stamp of style. But the SX150 and SX200 shared points of style with their respective predecessors, the Li150 Special and the TV200.

For example, the six-piece headset of the Li150 Special was carried over to the SX150. So were the side panels, decorated with a calligraphic badge and neatly chromed flashes. As this SX150 spent all its life in coastal areas (in Pondicherry, where a French Naval officer first owned it, and Chennai), the constant caress of salty winds had eroded the metallic decorations on the side panels. Laying one’s hands on a wrecked SX150 or an Li150 for cannibalisation of parts was the best option, but Dinakar did not even attempt such a thing. “Both Lambrettas being rare, I would not have seen the end of such pursuit,” he says. He took the more sensible course of entrusting the machine with a mechanic considered a wizard with classic scooters — H. Madhi Babu.

After Madhi was roped in, the restoration work picked up momentum. Even so, it took all of four months to get the machine to its glittering best. As most SX150 parts are irreplaceable, Madhi had to clean, weld or chrome old parts. Many pieces in the machine, such as the lettering on the side panel, were fabricated.

For his part, Dinakar was reading up on the SX range and trying his best to get parts from online Lambretta communities. He sourced the speedometer from Britain, where SX models sold in large numbers. He however ended up buying the 90mph speedometer meant for the SX200, and not the 70mph one made for the SX150 — one of the few times Dinakar’s research failed him. For the most part, he managed to gather and communicate the right information to Madhi. Following instructions, Madhi chromed the rusty grille and the horn casting that cased it. Despite its blighted condition, the chromed line running down the centre of the front mudguard was retained and improved. All SX models had ‘Lambretta’ painted in black on the rear. Dinakar’s SX150 conforms to this style.

In two respects, this SX150 differs from the norm in a major way. One, Dinakar went in for a Jetex carburettor instead of the the Dell’Orto SH1/20. Two, he chose a shade of green for the side panels and a part of the scooter’s frontage, despite being aware that SX150s came in grey or white, with red or blue used for the side panels.

Dinakar defends going green with a tongue-in-cheek line –— “Lambretta wanted to make its SX models unique. I wanted to make mine more unique.”

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