Morecambe and Wise rode them, and one appeared in the Mods and Rockers film Quadrophenia. Now Ewbank’s will auction the collection of Bill Drake, one of the leading authorities on Vespa scooters, on March 22. A collector, fount of knowledge and leading light of the Veteran Vespa Club and Vespa Club of Great Britain, Bill was also a leading source for rare and elusive spare parts, many of which will appear in the sale.
But it is the rare surviving Vespas that head the bill. These are led by a 1948 Vespa 98 – the first machine of the late 1940s – in untouched condition, which carries an estimate of £15,000-£25,000.
Two of the others have noted showbiz links. The first is a 1953 Vespa Douglas Rod 125cc used by Morecambe and Wise in an event at the Bristol Hippodrome in 1963, where they were both appearing pantomime. While there, the comedy duo visited the Douglas works where the two rod models were being prepped for the veteran Vespa rally. A photograph that appears in Eric Brockway’s book Vespa: An Illustrated Story, shows Brockway, then the managing director of Douglas, sitting behind Eric Morecambe on the scooter giggling away. The following year the bike was ridden in the first ever Veteran Vespa Club run from London to Brighton. The estimate here is £5,000-8,000.
Scooter appeared in the film Quadrophenia
The other bike with showbiz links is an unrestored 1961 Vespa Douglas GS 150cc VS5 used in the film Quadrophenia (estimate £4,500-6,500).
The list is completed by a 1966 Vespa 180 Super Sport (non-runner) estimated at £4,000-6,000.
The 200-plus lot auction even include three full scooter frames, the pick of which are two 1960 Vespa GS150 VS5 frames, with the serial numbers 0080477 and 076966 estimated at £300-500 each.
Of equal interest to enthusiasts will be a wealth of spare parts spread across dozens of lots, from bodywork panels to fly wheels and filter housings, as well as large caches of magazines and books, and an impressive selection of flags, banners and badges.
Vespa badges include ‘Birmingham Vespa Club’, ‘Vespa Club of Britain, 1966, Weston-Super-Mare Rally’, ‘International Vespa Rally London, 1967’, ‘The Vespa Club of Britain 1966, National Rally Northampton’, ‘Vespa Club of Britain, 1957, Barcelona’ and numerous others.
In all the part-collection is valued at up to £50,000 for the auction.
“There can be few in the Vespa world who are unaware of Bill and the incredible contribution that he made to both the Veteran Vespa Club and Vespa Club of Great Britain,” says Ewbank’s specialist Chandler Yorke-Edgell. “Following his passing in early 2021 it was inevitable that his collection would be offered for sale. The auction, which will take place at Ewbank’s Woking premises, is probably the most important collection of machines and memorabilia to be offered since that of the late Mike Karslake. For fans, this is a unique opportunity to acquire early bikes in original state for a dream restoration project.”
Whether it’s replacement engine crank cases for Vespa SS180s or GS160 mk2s, vintage Vespa 125 headlamp surrounds and headset clamps or even service station manuals, you’ll find them all here.
“Vespa and Lambretta are both catered for in the sale,” says Chandler. “Mudguards, spring arms and clutch covers may not be the most visually thrilling items to promote for a sale, but for true fans looking for the genuine vintage item, this catalogue is worth its weight in gold. It’s a testament to the importance of Bill Drake in this field that his legacy includes being able to help so many other enthusiasts in the most practical way.”
Viewing will be online and live at Ewbank’s from Saturday, March 19. Bidding will be offered both in person at the saleroom and live online. You can register via www.ewbankauctions.co.uk