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Digital Subscriptions >  Blog > Return of the Rosa Biancas

Return of the Rosa Biancas

Return of the Rosa Biancas

Posted 21 May 2015   |   8206 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) Back in the mists of time, when a mobile was something you hung from a ceiling to hypnotise babies, some northern greebos – one of whom had previously been a Mod – decided to start a scooter magazine.

They’d already established a successful custom bike magazine – Back Street Heroes – but they didn’t want to fill it with custom scooters, so they invented Scootering. Once they had conceived it, they needed stuff to put in it. Quickly. This is where Down Town Custom (DTC) enters the story.

Going Underground
By this stage Leeds-based partnership of Brendan ‘Maca’ McNally and Dave Barnett were making a name for themselves as home-grown custom painters of choice to the blossoming scooter scene. As a result of contact at various shows it became clear that DTC would be the go-to guys for the Scootering founders to fill their magazine with eye-catching 10in wheeled custom marvels. Several of the scooters featured in that inaugural issue were sprayed in DTC’s old railway arch.

It is ironic that while all the attention at the time was given to ever more outlandish full custom scooters with fantasy, film or band inspired murals, the one that had perhaps the most long-term cultural impact was Maca’s own full-frame Lambretta racer. Even when it was simply dragged outside and photographed behind their arch while propped up on a brick.

His GP wasn’t even unique – at the start of the 1986 season Maca and Dave had sprayed every scooter in their breakaway race team (from Leeds Central) with the same paintjob; each with small differences but each proudly wearing the white rose of Yorkshire; or Rosa Bianca in Latin-Leeds brogue.

Rather like Dennis Hopper’s marginally more practical bike in Easy Rider – as compared to Fonda’s garish Captain America chopper – it is the subtler style that also won in the long run on the scooter scene.

Maca’s racer has spawned many more replicas than any of the OTT custom scooters that Scootering featured. At best guess he’s painted 40 or so Rosa Bianca replicas, but that might only be half of the amount produced over the years. Indeed it is still possible to order DTC replica paintjobs for your Indian-restored Lambretta GPs straight from the back-streets of Karol Bagh in Delhi. For a few years India may have been the only place to get them, because Maca disappeared from the scooter scene for way over a decade.

“A rumour had gone round that I’d died of throat cancer,” recalls Brendan. “I went to a race meeting at Cadwell Park and people were second glancing me as I walked around the paddock like I was a ghost.”

Maca’s response to exaggerated rumours of his demise were typically jovial: “Come and have you photo taken with a dead man then!”

At this point in proceedings it is only fair and right to introduce the second and final player in the scene; like an under-staffed amateur production of Magnificent Seven.

Martin Murray is in every way representative of a 1980s scooterboy done good. He and I spent many hours discussing how the trials and tribulations of decades involved in the scooter rally scene have given him invaluable life skills. Combine these with an opportunistic sarrrf London barrow-boy swagger and he had everything needed to be successful in his business of carpet fitting to the rich and famous. Success in business has given him the money to spend on scooters.

So, what sort of scooters does he crave?

Essentially, the same ones that burned images in his brain direct from the pages of Scootering and British Scooterist Scene in the 80s.
I’m the same age as Martin and I can vividly remember drooling over magazines at the age of 16 and blue-tacking pulled pages of my favourite ones to my bedroom wall. My ambition at the time was to own an AF S-Type Lambretta GP and an Armandos PX Vespa; but as time moved on these dreams were forgotten.

Only around 30 miles away, the magazines had an even stronger impact on Martin. For him, the outstanding machines were the metal-flake AF S-Types and Maca’s ‘Rosa Bianca’ DTC race bike.

Unlike me, in the last few years he has done something about owning them.

Back in 2007 – at the launch of AF Raypeed’s RB225 kit – Martin got Ray to build him a metal-flake S-type with the latest RB engine. That was the first ambition ticked off the list, but the second one would be a lot harder. Maca hadn’t painted any scooters for 15 years.

Bear in mind that Martin was not prepared to make do with a Rupee replica any more than he’d wear a Chinese knock-off Rolex with a ticking second hand. It had to be the real thing or nothing, and if Maca had departed the scooter scene – if not this mortal coil – then that would prove difficult.

But not impossible.

He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy
Brendan closed DTC in the early 90s after getting totally scootered-out. He needed a break from the frenetic scene and a proper job with regular hours. That didn’t stop him painting though; he settled for doing custom helmets on the motocross scene which his two kids became involved in.

Eventually an old friend called Pete Rutterford tracked Brendan down via the electoral register to ask him to paint a scooter (see Scootering December 2012, issue 319). After making that much effort to find ‘Maca’, how could he refuse?

Pete’s was the first of the ‘New Breed’ DTC designs. After giving an interview in the May 2010 edition of Scootering (our 25th anniversary edition, which came with a free print of issue 1 – back issues available!), and mentioning that he might be up for painting a few more scooters, the phone calls began and work started to pour in.

One of those phone calls came from Martin, who was not interested in a New Breed paintjob, but a classic red, white and blue Rosa Bianca design like that in Scootering edition #1.

I get the impression that Maca didn’t really want to keep covering old ground, but Martin was insistent and hoped he’d specified enough twists on the theme – such as the flipped colour scheme – to spark some interest. Maca said he’s give him a bell when he had time to fit the job in. That was the end of the call.

Ready now
Sixteen months passed and Martin concentrated on other projects until, out of the blue, Maca called to say he was ready to paint Martin’s scooter.

That was great news, with one small flaw in the plan. Martin didn’t have a scooter to paint. Rather than put Maca off, and potentially being bumped to the back of the queue, Martin rushed into action and set about locating a suitable GP frame in good condition to paint. Stuart Owen – formerly of 100mph Lambretta Club – sourced the bike and Martin handed it over to Maca in November 2012.

“People know I’m from down south and ask me why I’ve got the Yorkshire Rose on it, but that’s what the paintjob was. It was the team’s race colours. My mate Mike from Hull – who we used to do rallies with – had the first reversed colours one and I always loved his bike, so when Maca said he’d do mine I got it done like that, but I had flake put in it because I wanted to bring it up to date a little bit.”

The paintjob on the main frame was ready by September 2013 and the scooter was assembled shortly after by Martin’s friend Paul Casey.

Strip teaser
Martin’s concept for his Rosa Bianca was to have a fast road scooter that he could also use in the Street Class at sprint meetings alongside his works Falc Vespa sm
He even had the engine builder’s logos added.

“Originally the Super Monza kit was built for fast touring but I paid for extra tuning so it could be sprinted in Road Class. I didn’t want something I had to cobble about with to take down the track – I wanted an honest bike that I could sprint as it was and then ride home if I wanted.”

To cut a very long story short, Martin was ‘disappointed’ with the Super Monza as it was first collected from the engine builder prior to Scooter Shootout 2014, along with a dyno graph showing a peak power of 27hp. The scooter was taken back for further set-up and adjustments and came back ‘a different bike’, performing much better, but still feeling a bit boggy at low rpm.

Martin then decided to take it to Darrel Taylor at Taylor Tuning for some re-jetting on his dyno. It arrived reading 31hp and left after some work with a graph showing 35hp and feeling far crisper. As far as Martin is concerned, this is only the start and further tuning beckons. In that respect the Super Monza has a lot of potential.

Born Under a Bad Sign
While ‘running in’ his revived Super Monza motor on the roads of South East England the scooter ejected one of its freshly-painted sidepanels like a clown car from a circus.

“When the panel went down the road I turned around as quickly as possible but a car was coming and about to drive over it. I rode head-on at the car so he wouldn’t squash my panel. He swerved but his tyre clipped it and flicked it at the kerb, which added a dent to the scratches.”

Like many people, Martin had fallen for the hype of “it’s stainless steel so it must be better” when it came to purchasing side panel clips. In his experience, ‘spring steel’ is better for making springs – which is essentially what GP panel clips are – than stainless steel. The clue is in the name.

While Martin holds the opinion that every scar tells a story, this damage was perhaps a bit too much to live with; like waking up after a shotgun wedding in Vegas to find your new bride is a surgically altered ‘him’.

Repainting single colour vehicles is not really a problem – most body shops can do a decent job. Repairing custom-painted sidepanels featuring several self-mixed colours and paint effects is another matter. Martin wasn’t optimistic.

Thankfully Maca has some experience of this; having previously restored several of his classic custom scooters – including Mick Howard’s ‘Sign of the Snake’ – without changing the original artwork. Not only did he manage to knock out the dent without ruining or filling the panel, but he managed to carefully remove and repair layers of candies and flakes. It really is a challenge to spot which of the panels was damaged – see if you can tell when you see the scooter at a rally or sprint.

While at DTC for TLC, the GP also had logos updated to TT.

Well, it is customary for race replicas to have a ‘shopping list’ painted on the side.

Back to the plot
Having painted Martin’s scooter, Brendan liked it so much that he decided to repaint his original Group 4 race scooter in the same scheme – the one featured in Scootering #1 – and put it back on the road.

By modern standards the engine is nothing special, just a TS1 225 with a 30mm carb and a touring pipe. The scooter retains its original hydraulic inboard disc brake conversion, but now it is fully road legal he can use it for weekend runs. It has helped him rediscover his scootering mojo. That’s scootering with a small ‘s’.

Since his reacquaintance with the scooter scene Maca has taken on quite a few more race replica paintjobs and by far the most popular remains the Rosa Bianca scheme.

What about the Rosa Bianca’s influence on Scootering with a capital ‘S’?

Given that those initially charged with producing the first issues knew little about scooters, and even less about the sc

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