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Italian Lambretta Li 150 Silver Special 1964 Lambretta Li Series 3 silver special
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Romsey Restorers are the original Cambridge Lambretta restoration specialists. Repairing and restoring Lambretta's since the 1960's. Please browse through this website for information, tips, comments and photographs gained from our own experiences.

Restoration or Original?

Auto Restoration - the process of repairing all aspects of the vehicle to return it to an authentic condition.

The restoration of classic, vintage or antique automobiles is often misunderstood and practically always misquoted.

Remember - anything is only original once! Even the best, quality 'original authentic refurbishment' will not make it original, it will still be a refurbishment.

Keeping the vehicle 'original' is the top priority of many people. I would agree providing the overall paintwork and external parts are in good condition. This, of course, is very rare - but dry-stored, barn-finds still turn up!

Restoration or Restomod?

The correct interpretation of "restoration" is to return it to an authentic condition without updating or upgrading it, returned it to how it would have appeared when first sold. Having said that, it will probably be impossible to obtain many of the original vintage parts, therefore remanufactured or substitute items may have to be used. The important thing to remember is it should be restored to an overall authentic appearance. A complete auto restoration must also include the parts not necessarily seen. The only way to achieve this is a complete strip-down, removing every nut, bolt, cable, pipe and panel. Much research of original hand-books, service manuals, sales literature, photographs and even old adverts will possibly be needed to obtain the final overall authentic look.

Most auto restorations end up with some form of upgrades along the way. They may be small, like replacing nuts and bolts with stainless steel or tungsten light bulbs with halogen; or they could be larger changes like engine upgrades and electronic ignition.

Taking this to the next level - the 'restoration' ends up being a complete customisation, with tuned engines and special paint jobs!

Easy?

An example of a 1958 Lambretta LD restored in 2008

1958 Lambretta LD before restoration

1958 Lambretta LD before restoration

1958 Lambretta LD after restoration

The same 1958 Lambretta LD after restoration

Obviously this is not the right place for comprehensive instructions on how to restore your classic scooter or other automobile. There are many excellent books, websites and forums covering your make or model. What I can offer, through many years of 'hand-on' experience, is a few general guide-lines, pointers and comments.

Any auto restoration can be an intimidating task and not to be undertaken lightly by the faint-hearted or inexperienced. A full restoration can take many years and will, in most cases, cost well in excess of what the finished value of the vehicle will be.

Unless you are an expert in all aspects of the restoration and have the use of a fully equipment workshop, with welding and plating facilities, spray booth and much more, many of the jobs will have to be outsourced to those with both the knowledge and the equipment.

Whether a restoration is easy or hard is impossible to say, but there are certainly easier ways to go about it. If time is taken to do each job step by step, then a restoration can be rewarding, with a great sense of achievement when it is finally finished. If it is rushed and attention to detail ignored, the project will prove to be frustrating and the end result disappointing.

What sort of Restoration?

There are several ways of approaching an auto restoration:

  • Obtain a complete vehicle in good, working condition - this is the 'easiest' way, as all the parts are present and mechanically functioning.
  • Obtain a complete but non-running vehicle - not so good as you are not sure of the mechanical integrity.
  • Obtain an unfinished project - here it is vital that you can recognise if all the parts are there. Finding missing (or incorrect) parts can be, at least, frustrating.
  • Obtain 'a wreck' - definitely one for the expert. Depending on the rarity of the vehicle, this could involve sourcing the difficult to find parts or possibly making the impossible to find.
  • Or the ultimate challenge is to build from scratch, often starting by obtaining a chassis or frame.

But please do not be the person who proudly turns up in a totally restored scooter accepting all the praise about how good the workmanship is and explaining how hard the restoration was, when you have paid a specialist company to do all the work! There is nothing wrong with getting someone else to bring your dream into existence, but please give them the credit they deserve.

Tips and Comments

As I have said previously, classic auto restoration is the act of returning the classic vehicle to its original state when it was new. You may have guessed that my experience has been mainly with the restoration of Lambretta scooters, having been involved with this for the past 40 (ish) years. In the 'good old days', when you could understand how it all worked, I have repaired many 1960's Ford Anglia's, having owned 4 or 5, including a 105e Anglia Van.

Therefore the tips and comments I am going to make come from my own experiences. I am quite certain the majority of these will also apply whether you are carrying out a classic car restoration, motorcycle restoration or indeed any classic auto restoration.

Personally, I like to carry out as much as possible or practical, but there are times when you have to rely on other experts who have both the correct equipment and/or knowledge.

The fact you are reading this would indicate you are the practical type of person that is prepared for the long-haul and sometimes frustrating road ahead.

This brings me to my first point:

It is for me?

If this is your first attempt at classic auto restoration , please think very carefully about it and be honest with yourself as to how much time, work, effort and money it is going to take. If there is any doubt it is probably better not to start. This may sound negative, but I have seen it happen time and time again. All full of energy, the vehicle is stripped and then just sits there in a big heap of parts for weeks - going into months. The sheer size of the job hits you and all the enthusiasm goes out the window. What a waste of time! So please think and re-think - it IS going to cost more than you think; it WILL take more time than you think; it WILL probably be more difficult than you think.
If there is a partner (wife, husband), please tell them the truth - not only how much money it will cost, but how many evenings and weekends you will be spending with your other love.

If you decide to go ahead and make a success of it, then nothing can take away the sense of pride and achievement when the classic auto restoration is complete.

Research.

Do your homework on your specific automobile. Get as many books, DVDs, adverts, sales brochures as practical and, of course, don't forget the internet. There can be big differences between models, but there can also be very small but significant differences. Try to identify the exact model and age.

Strip.

But before you lay a hand on your classic auto restoration, get the camera out. This is another point I would like to emphasise; you can't take too many pictures during the strip-down. It's amazing what you forget when it comes to the rebuild - "how did that go" or "what sort of fixing did that have". If you haven't got a record of how it was supposed to be......? Take pictures before the strip-down, after every part is removed and when those parts themselves are taken apart.
As parts are removed - label, bag, box or otherwise identify the pieces. For the small pieces, I like to put them in clear plastic bags that I can write on (screws for xyz). This may sound overkill, but it does save a lot of time. These small parts can later be cleaned and prepared ready for the rebuild. Also these can be treated as mini-projects. Larger parts should be carefully stored for restoration later.

Nothing is impossible?

Lambretta LD Mk3 before restoration

Lambretta LD Mk3

There will be bolts, nuts and other fixings that you will not be able to simply remove with a spanner or screwdriver, due to the dreaded rust and/or corrosion. These should be removed with care so as to not damage the parts they are securing. Heating the offending items (if possible) with a gas torch and copious amounts of penetrating oil (not at the same time) can sometimes break the bond between the threads. As a last resort the use of angle-grinder, drill or other power tools may be required. But this will end up with more work repairing the damaged threads etc.
I would recommend not starting any actual classic auto restoration until your vehicle has been completely stripped and you have a large pile of identified, but usually rusty parts.

Identify which parts will need replacing.

I would recommend the use of stainless steel replacement parts for 'standard' nuts and bolts. This may not be the purists way, but I think it makes for a better final build and is very helpful if parts need to be removed in the future.
There will be some parts that you cannot refurbish and therefore will require replacement items to be sourced. For example - wiring, rubber seals and mounts, shock absorbers, etc. Ideally these should be New, Old Stock (NOS), but this will depend on the age, rarity and many other factors. Other options may include scouring the countries auto-part markets (both on-line and physically). One last resort would be to have the part specially manufactured. There is a growing market, due to the popularity of classic auto restoration, of companies manufacturing replacement parts for classic and vintage automobiles. Most (but not all) tend to be located in Eastern countries and some (but not all) can be very poorly made. It is your choice, but just be weary if you go this route.

But please remember, replacing parts which are not original goes away from the idea of restoring your beloved vehicle to its original condition and therefore possibly reducing the value of it.

Dry build.

If you are replacing any major part of the bodywork, I would strongly recommend that a dry build is carried out (that is before painting) to check this part fits correctly. The number of times I have seen time and money wasted because this wasn't carried out. The parts all nice and shiny, but they just do not fit. Back to square-one!
Most vintage vehicles were hand built and parts were not as well manufactured to the tight specs we have today. Even if the replacement part was an original it may not fit. It is definitely worth the additional hours (or days) assembling that part of the vehicle in its bare state to check for the correct fit and alignment.
But - remember if the part will eventually be painted this does have a thickness and you should take this into account. The thickness of the paint can vary and can be quite thick if the part is extremely rusty and requires a lot of flattening. Please consult your painter on this if you are not sure.

Identify who does what.

By now you will have a good idea of how much additional work is required to complete your classic auto restoration. What parts need welding, re-plating, re-spraying, renewing or making, etc? Assuming you are going to get someone else to do the plating, painting and possibly the welding - find out from them how they want the parts. Do they want them as they are, or degreased, or sandblasted, or? The painter I use also has excellent welding facilities and prefers the parts sandblasted but not prepared in any way. After sandblasting I identify any welding or fabrication required, usually by the use of a black marker pen.
The same goes for the engine - if you are having this prepared by a specialist engineering company, how do they want it? Apart from re-bores, I always carry out engine rebuilds myself. This will depend of your expertise and facilities.
This is where time can be saved (if you are organised) by outsourcing these activities while you carry on with some of the other, possibly intricate parts of the restoration.

Mini projects.

This is the way I work, but I believe any classic auto restoration can be broken down into mini projects. The engine rebuild is an obvious one, but it can also apply to other activities. For instance the refurbishment of gearbox, seats, transmission, carburettor, wheels, steering, lights, badges and trim, etc, etc.

Here's one we did earlier

Lambretta Li Series 3 1963 restored

Lambretta Li Series 3 1963
Total Restoration

Some mini-project will have to wait until painted or plated parts are received back, but others can be carried out while waiting. I try to get as many sub-assemblies finished as possible or practical. That way the finishing of your classic auto restoration is just a process of putting all the parts together!

Rebuild.

The order in which your classic auto restoration is rebuilt is very much dependant on the type, make or model. I would recommend, if possible, following the instructions from someone who has done it before, preferably more than once. If this is not possible you may find that you have to do things more than once, as you will possibly find that C has to be fitted before A, but after B. A great deal of care and patience is required. Don't get too frustrated when things aren't going the way you had planned, especially when it's the 5th time you have fitted and removed a certain part. Take care and be patient.

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