Repairs after restoration
(click on any image to enlarge)
We are actually really pleased with the
reliability of this vehicle. Obviously, with it being 40 years old there are
bound to be some problems, especially with the running gear, but the only debilitating
problems have been the gear change cables (below) and a wheel bearing (see Oct
2003 below). Of course, there have also been a couple of 'phone calls when
Patrick has run out of fuel - (it is impossible to tell how much fuel is in the
tank) but he is careful now to make sure there is always plenty in and carries
some in a spare can as well. Originally, if it did run out, an air lock formed
in the fuel pipe to the carb, so it was very difficult to start without lifting
the front of the Ape up about 3 feet, but we have now fitted a priming bulb
(similar to those on outboard motor fuel lines) which has cured that problem.
We made a mistake with the gear change cables which
we made up ourselves. We had soldered the nipples using ordinary electrical
solder and three of the nipples have pulled off over the months since the
We have now replaced the cables with original Piaggio parts and had no problems since.
23rd May 2003
Right - got fed up with the sedate progress and holding up the
traffic, so we have replaced the original 16:68 ratio primary gearset
with a 22:63 gearset (from a V90/125).
This now gives us about 45mph top speed!!! but really, to be mechanically sympathetic, a cruising speed of 35-40mph. This is much less stressful as you don't have to keep watching the mirrors for impatient drivers trying to overtake, and it is quieter.
First gear is now useable - we never used it before as it really was a 'crawling' gear for setting off up hills with a full load and for maneuvering in reverse! Fourth gear is now only useable from about 20mph, and isn't too good for hill climbing. The torque from the 112cc kit seems to be ample to cope though - it will actually chug up the 1 in 5 hill out of our village in second gear.
The upgrade didn't go to plan though, and we spend a couple of
days trying to find out why the clutch wasn't disengaging. We eventually used
our original single spring clutch, modified by grinding some metal off, to stop
it catching on the clutch basket!
The next time we have to strip the engine, we will measure the gear cluster shaft clearance and clutch basket to find out why there's a problem. Seems to be ok for now though.
(Note: we have now had another look when we replaced the cruciform and have decided the primary kit wasn't really finished off as well as it could have been! There is a radius on the outside of the clutch basket shaft which is preventing it seating properly on the bearing face so the clutch basket is riding higher than normal (only about 1mm, but that's enough)! Next time we strip it we will turn it on a lathe to clean it up. That'll teach us for using pattern parts!)
(Click the picture to enlarge)
At the same time, we intended to replace the exhaust as it had a couple of small holes in it. As we removed it, the inlet pipe fell out as it was only held in place with the exhaust manifold and bracket! Of course, we couldn't get a new Ape exhaust, so we used a new PK exhaust and cut & welded a section of our old exhaust pipe (a good section!) to the new exhaust and made a new bracket.
We always had a problem with slipping out of third gear,
but assumed it was wear in the gears etc. On browsing a Vespa Smallframes
newsgroup I came across someone with a similar problem who had cured it by
fitting a later type of gear selector (cruciform). It turns out that when we
replaced the gears during the restoration, the set we fitted were from a later
gearbox so our original cruciform wasn't quite lined up in third gear.
We purchased a later type and split the engine (again!) to fit it.
It's still not perfect; if you turn the gear change a little too far it will still slip out of third, but it's a lot better than before.
Perhaps the next time we split the engine we will shim the gears up a bit tighter.
We knew the tyres were not in good condition - with lots of
small cracks on the sidewalls - so we had replaced the front tyre (and wheel) as
part of the restoration and intended keeping an eye out for a pair for the rear.
However, we noticed while replacing the gear shift cruciform, that one of the rear tyres now had a bit of a bulge so it was on with the spare and start searching for tyres.
We quickly found a pair of used (nearly new) tyres on ebay which looked very similar to the original tread pattern so we snapped the pair up for less than ten quid.
The rims are the split type, of course, so it should be easy
to remove the old tyres, shouldn't it? No!
Breaking the bead was a real pain! We ended up using two large screwdrivers and a small crowbar and lump hammer to get them off.
The rims were cleaned up and painted before fitting the 'new' tyres. The original inner tubes looked perfect so we re-used them.
I noticed as Patrick came down the drive that
there were radial streaks of grease on the brake drum - marring his perfect
silver paint job! Feeling the drum we found it was hot - much hotter than the
When we had it jacked up, we noticed that turning the wheel wasn't as easy as it should be and it sounded like something was binding, so we suspected the brake shoes might be sticking on.
Of course, it couldn't be that easy, could it? Turned out to be the outer wheel bearing which had collapsed and the drive shaft was floating around, only staying centered because of the brake shoes and drum! There was about 6mm of play at the end of the drive shaft once we took the drum off.
My usual Piaggio/Vespa/Ape supplier
didn't have the bearings in, but he ordered a complete hub kit (2 bearings and
oil seals) direct from Italy.
When it arrived (two weeks later) there were no bearings; just the oil seals and dust cap so we decided to go hunting around the local bearing stockists without much hope.
A two legged gear puller pushed the drive shaft
through the hub and the bearings (one at each end of the hub) were easily drawn out using a long bolt, nuts and washers. The outer bearing obviously had water
in at some time, probably when it was left in a ditch on a farm for 20 years!
and had broken up.
It turned out that our nearest bearing stockist (Yorkshire Bearings, 2 miles away) not only had both bearings in, but also the oil seals! We bought a couple of 6mm grease nipples as well so we could drill, tap and fit them to both hubs to make sure they could be greased in the future.
It all went back together easily, again using
the long bolt to draw the bearings in, and the shaft was gently tapped through using a heavy hammer and
copper block after greasing the bearings thoroughly. Once I find my good grease
gun (which doesn't spurt grease everywhere!) we will pump some more grease in to
The biggest problem taking the drive shafts off and re-fitting them is the awkward circlip in the differential housing - it can take longer to get that out and in than it does to assemble the rest of the suspension.
Again, I forgot to take pictures while we were working on it, but when we do the other side I'll make sure I get some.
Well, we have had a few
months with no problems, but have just had the starter cable break!
For those of you not familiar with the Ape 50, it is started by pulling a large lever in the cab which is attached to what would be the kickstart lever if the engine was in a bike. Linking them is a 2.3mm, 20 strand stainless steel control cable which has broken at the kickstart end.
We've replaced it temporarily with a 5mm, 6 strand galvanized steel cable - not ideal as it won't take the punishment of the original cable, but it works and gives us a bit of time to get the proper item.
Keep checking back for the next instalment!!
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