Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scooters That Never Became Popular With Mods

Although you don't need a scooter to be a Mod, let's not kid ourselves, the scooter is the ultimate Mod symbol. Some of us take as much pride in our ride as we do in our shoes. Since the very start, you would either fall in one of two camps. The Vespa or the Lambretta. The debate about which one is the best has been going on since the first Mod decided to add an extra light to his steed. Personally, I have one foot firmly planted in both camps. You can read about what I think the ultimate Mod scooter is in a previous post here.

The reason why Mods have been captivated by those two brands is pretty obvious. I mean, look at them! Tell me these Italian marvels are not a thing of beauty!

My 1965 TV175 Series III
My mate Daniel's Vespa Sprint with my 1959 Vespa VNB

The 50s and 60s have been the heyday for scooter manufacturing across the globe. A myriad of companies came out with countless models that tried to dethrone the two Italian giants. And for a subculture that prides itself on being individuals, I'm surprised we don't have more accounts of Mods riding anything else but a Vespa or a Lambretta.

One reason could be that some of these contraptions are simply the ugliest things on two wheels.  In any case, we're going to have a look at some of them and I'll let you make up your mind about them.

DMW was a British motorcycle manufacturer based out of Wolverhampton, England. They came out with a scooter called the Bambi. With a name like that, it's no surprise that Mods weren't seen driving to Brighton on them.

Puch was a well established Austrian motorcycle, scooter, moped and bicycle manufacturer. In the late 50s, they decided to capitalize on the scooter craze sweeping Europe. They came out with a two-stroke 125cc version. Interesting fact, in 1987 the Puch company was sold to Piaggio. They continued making bikes under the Puch name.

The BSA company was based in Birmingham. The most notable models were produced in the early 60s jointly with the famous Triumph motorcycle manufacturer. They were never popular with the Mods maybe for the fact that the Triumph name was associated with Rockers?

BSA was not the only British company that ventured in the scooter market. DKR came out with five different models: the Dove, the Defiant, the Pegasus, the Manx and the Capella. The Dove, the Defiant and the Manx, with their front end shaped like a large nose, were far from what could be described as "modern".

At least they somewhat redeemed themselves with the Capella range that came out in 1960.

The Excelsior Monarch, produced out of Birmingham, was not the only British company to come out with a fat nose scooter.

The James, also produced in Birmingham, was short lived. It had an interesting feature. The engine was located under the footwell which made it pretty stable. That also freed some space under the seat to put your parka when out to the club.

The Wasp, made by the Sun Cycling & Fiting Co, was yet another Birmingham scooter. Were they trying to capitalize on the Vespa's (the Wasp in Italian) popularity by naming it so? Someone could argue that they were.

The French automobile company Peugeot entered the scooter market in 1953. The 1954 model S.55 had an interesting feature with a luggage carrier in the front mudguard. The model below was available in the late 50s and early 60s.

The Capri was Italian made and despite the claims in this ad, it still wasn't very powerful with its 80cc engine.

The ISO Milano was produced, you guessed it, in Italy. The scooter seems to be a mutant Lambretta-Vespa hybrid. The front is a close cousin of the Vespa and the side panels seem to be a mix of a Lambretta LD and the Li series I.

Durkopp was a German company that produced the Diana. There's a definite Italian influence here but the scooter line was short lived. It did come out with a powerful 194cc engine that had a four-speed gearbox operated from the left pedal.

The Manet S100 was a Czech scooter. It has a certain modern appeal, with it's sleek lines, that speaks to my inner Mod. I would have to warm up to those spoke wheels though.

The Raleigh Roma was a scooter produced in the UK under licence by the Milan company Bianchi, also known for their bicycles. Note the interesting air scoop on the front mudguard.

The German company NSU was a major player and entered the scooter market by manufacturing the Lambretta LC under licence. In 1955, the NSU-Lambretta partnership came to an end and the firm launched their own scooter, the Prima. If there's a scooter that could have Mod appeal, it's the Prima. The lettering is a reminder of it's Lambretta past, it has plenty of chrome and the accessories could make any Modernist drool. Electric starter, front bumper, horn grill, luggage rack, spare wheel, a front fog light, full dashboard are just some of the equipment that could be seen on the various Prima models.

Last but not least is the German Zundapp Bella. With it's massive 12-inch wheels, it would have provided a confortable ride on long trips to the coastal towns on bank holidays. The Bella did have a brief incursion into the Mod world when it made an appearance on the cover of Oasis' album Be Here Now.

Many more scooter brands came and went during the 50s and 60s. I have only touched the surface. Maybe some original Mods did cruise the streets of London on some of these models. Please correct me if I'm wrong. If there was a model that you think that could have been a Mod contender, please let us know in the comment section or visit the Parka Avenue Facebook page.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This is a story of a Mod who spent the day with 6 beautiful pin-up models: part II

A year ago, I had the pleasure of having professional photographer Simon Laroche rent out my loft for a pin-up photo shoot. You can read all about the experience here. We have since became friends, sharing the same love for flea market finds and collecting Jazz and Soul records.

The Parka Avenue HQ has moved since that day so we agreed that we should relive the adventure. My decor had changed a bit and I had new blank canvas to work with. I now have a basement! 

Simon had such good feedback about the first photo shoot that he had amateur models showing interest all over the place. Simon and I also share the same philosophy about beauty. None of these models are professionals but stunning they are. They don't represent the androgynous, stick figure, photoshopped top models we see in fashion magazines these days. They have curves. They are sexy and they are real. That is the essence of what a pin-up is.

Now, none of them are Mods. The clothes they wear might not appeal to you. I wasn't responsible for that. My contribution was the ambiance, the accessories and the location.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

First up was the vivacious and effervescent Karine. She seemed very comfortable in front of the camera and the results are there.

This 60s dress has Mod written all over it. It was actually one of the pieces of clothing I really liked. Simon found it in a thrift store for next to nothing. You can expect one of these images to be used to promote one of my futur Mod Club nights in the city.

Gabrielle is shy and demure. It took a while for her to warm up but once she did, she took directions like a professional. She confided in us that she had recently loss an insane amount of weight. I have to applaud her courage for stepping in front of the camera like she did. And that enchanting gaze... Oh! THAT GAZE!

Nadine has that "girl next door" quality. And who wouldn't want have her as a neighbour?

Virginie was a pleasure to work with. She was spunky, confident and seemed to really enjoy herself. It all translates in the photos.

She was later joined by her cousin Catrine. There kinship wasn't fake and it permeated through every shot.

Catrine also had a very short learning curve. If she's not the definition of a natural beauty then I don't what is. I think that smile says it all.

I have to confess. I have a particular fondness for Chloe. It's not a surprise to anyone, I've always had a weakness for blondes. And if you don't see the Marilyn Monroe connection, you must be blind. She might be reserved and timid but that didn't keep her from being highly photogenic. That glare simply pierces through the lens. I had the distinct pleasure to share the spotlight with her.

All of this wouldn't have been possible without a team. When Myriam is in charge of hair and makeup, you know you're in good hands. You can see more of her work here.

The artistic direction was under the guidance of photographer Camille. What an absolute delight it was to work with her. You can check some of her work here.

Last but not least, the man behind the camera, Simon Laroche. The constant professional, I would recommend him in a heartbeat. Have a look at his portfolio here. This won't be our last collaboration, so stay tuned!