SIMON NEALE'S MAGIC GARAGE
Click on thumbnails for larger photos
In 2014 the concept of Suit Yourself Modernist Culture was born, at the time no one knew what to expect of such a venture and as time has grown we have come to appreciate what it means to us and the people that follow it but it hasn't come without challenges, one of the most important being how we set out our stall and how we wanted to be represented in such a devoted scene. working with the right people, branding, dedication and good advertising has helped us create the vision we dream of, its the advertising part of the process that came without realisation two years before the launch of the brand.
So - August bank holiday 2014 came and along with 1000's of others we found ourselves in Brighton enjoying the New Untouchables Mod weekend, we were walking between 100's of scooters when one particular took our fancy, a beautiful silver and chrome Vespa GS, a few snaps later and it was back to the frivolities. Fast track 18 months and we were looking for a picture that would capture the essence of our new Suit Yourself brand, for me it could only be one photo, the GS from Brighton. This picture was used on all our early posters and flyers.
Little were we to know back then that the scooter became a show winner and three years later we were going to be featuring it and interviewing its owner on the web site but here we are!.....Simon Neale owner of aforementioned scooter not only built 'Perfect 10' as we now know it's called but has his own Magic Garage where dreams do come true. Simon and his team of skilled artisans take classic restoration projects and turn them into amazing head turning show stoppers, we are talking next level here ladies and gents. To be frank we had to know more about his Magic Garage and Simon kindly answered a few questions for us, one day we may have to purchase one of his creations as the official Suit Yourself mode of transport, we'll just have to have a word with our accountant......
Hi Simon, Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, where you are from and your connection with the Mod/Scooter scene.
I live just outside Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and am a member of the Low Numbers scooter club as well as taking an active interest in all things Awfully Pleasant - a more relaxed scooter association set up by Derek Askill a few years ago. Like many people of my middle aged years, my scooter roots go back to the late 1970s and after a break from the scene during the late 80's I was drawn back in during the '90s. Ever since my passion for vintage Vespas and Lambrettas has continued to grow. My brother in law (Harry Barlow) owns and runs ProPorting which really kickstarted my interest in the restoration and "hands on" part of the scene. Together we built an SX150 back in the late 1990s and ever since we've worked closely on multiple projects and ideas. I learnt more and more as time went on to the point that I began to build projects on my own, coupled with his mechanical and fabrication know how.
Can you tell us about Magic Garage, the concept, how it came about, how long it has been running for and he scooters that you have worked on.
It was a chance remark from a friend in the Low Numbers. A few friends had started coming round with minor issues that needed fixing - lose wires, frayed cables, leaky exhausts etc - and he said to me "your garage must be magic, we drop off broken scooters and then a few days later they come out fixed" The name stuck and when I started to do more full on rebuilds it seemed a decent name to use, in fact I had no choice when another friend gifted me a picture of the logo using an an old style American '50s font against a wooden fence effect background. That picture now adorns the walls of the garage along with other retro scooter memorabilia. It's still very much a hobby/passion rather than a full time business. I work in the IT industry by day so the garage is very much my evening and weekend hangout
Can you tell us about the scooters you are working on at the moment.
I've just started a ground up rebuild of a 1978 Motovespa P200E - a very early non-indicator model with the Rally headset and forks. The owner contacted me when he saw the Vespa TS125 that I'd recently finished for a mutual friend. All the bodywork's apart and the engine's out on the bench ready for stripping, vapour blasting and then a complete rebuild care of Harry over at ProPorting. It's amazing when you realise that the mk1 P range is now 40 years old, imagine rebuiliding a 1940's motorbike back in the 1980s, its the same time difference. I've also got a Vespa VBA lined up for some work over the winter too, not a complete rebuild but engine work and a fork conversion to match.
How does the process work? from conception to finished project.
The scooters I build all begin with what the customer has in mind, they supply the scooter and the core of an idea, be that mod style or a cleaner, less cluttered look. We then sit down and talk about how they want it to end up, where the scooter fits into their life, what they plan to use it for etc and from that a plan emerges. If it's a rebuild then everything comes apart including the engine, nothing's left to chance. There's no point in putting good money on top of bad bodywork or into a tired and worn out engine so as extreme as it sounds you have to go right back to bare metal if you want to do things properly - do it once, do it right is my approach. Each project takes about 12-15 months so far as the 5 I've built to date have included considerable amounts of bodywork and accessory sorting. Something less complicated with a straighter body should only take about 6 months
Do you use skilled craftsman in your builds?
Absolutely, and wherever possible I use local people who I know and trust. Over the years of doing my own scooters I've built up a network of people who are at the top of their game and who I trust with mine and other people's scooters: chroming, polishing, painting and upholstery are all taken care of and of course Harry does all the engine work and a lot of fabrication. It helps when these people are part of the scene as well which most of them are, Johnny @ JL Polishing, Matt @ IPaint and Andy Nixon are all friends who I can sit down over a cup of tea with and explain the theme of the scooter and where their skills can best be brought to bare. I know that there are many talented people across the country but I'm always nervous about packing things in boxes and sending them to people I don't know. I do it occasionally - eg SpeedoKing in the USA do a very good restores on original speedometers but by and large I prefer the local, face2face way of working with people.
Accessories are increasingly hard to find these days although I have a good network of contacts both in the UK and abroad, I tend to avoid Ebay these days, preferring to deal with contacts 1:1 to get the right part for a fair price. Some of the remade parts can work well depending on the style and age of the scooter that they're intended for, you've just got to do the research, talk to people and be prepared to sit it out an wait for the right part sometimes
Have there been any times where you have thought the project was too big?
Not really no, at the end of the day it's a process - start with a half decent scooter, strip it down, have all the paint removed, inspect the parts, work out what can be re-used and what needs replacing, sort out any welding, dry build, then it's off to paint followed by the painstaking rebuild and all the detailing. I try and drill the accessory holes pre-paint where possible and have things running in parallel such as the engine rebuild and paint job. Once the engine's in and fired up it's a case of Harry jetting the motor and a few miles of running in before the owner comes to collect and ride off with a big smile on their face
The Vespa GS that Suit Yourself have used as part of its promo was a competition winner at Brighton, can you tell us about that.
That was all part of the 2014 "50 Years of Mod" @ Brighton. We'd been going to the IoW for many years but switched to Brighton where we'd started to meet up with friends from the local area, London and abroad. I'd parked the GS in a line up on Madiera Drive on the Sundaymorning and went off for a cup of tea and a chat with a few people. Next thing I know I good friend rings my mobile to say I'd better come back to the scooter as Rob Bailey was eyeing it up for a trophy. A very nice surprise and quite humbling to be honest. I only really show my scooters at the VMSC event in Coventry once a year so to pick up that one was fantastic, especially when I look at the winners in previous and subsequent years. A TV175 series 2 "Supersonic" that I built for a friend picked up Best Lambretta the following year which was equally pleasing. Judging can often be the subject for debate given that different people look for different things and it's often the understated less blinged up scooter with subtle details that's the head turner rather than your traditional "Christmas Tree" type. There are a handful of people whose opinions I really value and often seek out and they know who they are, however I won't deny that when others stop and look and ask questions about the scooter's I've had a hand in it does make it all the more rewarding.
Do you sell the projects once finished?
Yes - unless it's one of my own scooters of course. The owner supplies the scooter in the first place so I don't get to keep all them all as much as I'd like to I just don't have the room or the time to ride them all
What other scooters do you own and do you show them?
As well as the GS150 I own a '61 TV175 Series 2 "The Hornet" and I've recently acquired a mk2 LD150 from Dean over at Rimini Lambretta that I plan to preserve bodywork wise but the engine will get a complete strip and service to make sure that all's well under the panels. It's come complete with lovely aged accessories so it's a real time warp of a scooter, it just needs some love and attention to make it ready for the English roads. I'm hoping to have that ready for the Awfully Pleasant weekend next June
What future do you see for Magic Garage?
Right now it's very much a hobby, albeit a growing one, with 1-2 projects on the go at any one time as well as maintaining my own scooters. It's very much about the geared scooters for me, full bodied with tastefully accessories and a nice paint job coupled with a ProPorting engine that's suitable for today's roads. I'm always open to talking to new people about potential projects and I'm honest enough to say no if the idea doesn't appeal to me or I think I can't match up to the vision that someone has for their scooter. I need to be on the same wavelength as any potential customer otherwise it won't be an enjoyable experience for either of us. I can also arrange for engine work to be done on scooters that need some TLC under the panels. There are some very trick ProPorting engine programs for both Vespas and Lambrettas. It's not all about revs and horse power, torque is king today especially for riding 2 up or just wanting a nice motor with a broad power range across all the gears. Coupled with a nice Clubman style exhaust there are some very good engine options available.
Where can our readers find out more information about Magic Garage?
Head over to FaceBook and look for Magic Garage - people can get in touch from there. I keep a number of albums updated on current work and completed projects. If what you see "floats your boat" then drop me a line, you could be next.
FOR MORE PICTURES AND INFO MAGIC GARAGE FACEBOOK PAGE CAN BE FOUND HERE