‘Assembly of Vespa Luggage Rack Requires Great Peace of Mind’ or: ‘Sweet Jesus, Did I Really Do That?’

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Yes, those two holes above the tail light.

“I worried over that blunder for an hour, and called myself a great many hard names, meantime.”

– Samuel Clemens, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

Here’s one I’ll never forget: While mounting the rear luggage rack, I managed to drive two bolts into the plastic gas tank of Linda’s Vespa.

It was both the simplest and greatest piece of mechanical idiocy I’ve ever done; I simply took the wrong bolts and unmindfully began screwing them into the threaded holes in the rear panel. They were metric M6 bolts, same diameter and thread count, just twice as long as needed.

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Tools of destruction.

I’m spinning them in by hand with an Allen wrench. They go in smoothly at first, then start to balk. I try a little more force, then back off and unscrew both.

That’s when I realize I’m using too-long bolts, precipitating one of those anguished head-in-your-hands moments of oh, sweet Jesus, I can’t believe this. I thought I was using the right ones. We’ve had her scooter a week and I’ve already ruined it.

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That’s Robot of Vespa Motorsports/Scooter West on the upper left screen. Despite his advice…

I’d even been warned about it; I’d watched the Vespa Motorsport video on luggage rack installation1 and Robot2 mentions it at 6:38 into the video. “Had people put too long of a screw in there and puncture the gas tank, not a good thing,” he says. Oh, sweet Jesus.

It’s times like these you have to talk yourself off the ledge and I think about the passage in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in which author Robert Pirsig mentions an instruction sheet for putting together a bicycle.

“Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind,” say the instructions, and Pirsig goes on about peace of mind and says “If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re working, you’re likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.”

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The windscreen was not part of this fiasco. I just thought I should mention that.

It wasn’t a lack of serenity that caused the mistake; I simply picked up the wrong bolts. But maybe serenity includes acting properly within the moment, which I certainly was not doing.

So after a lengthy period of critically severe self-beratement, I move from Self Destruct to Damage Control mode and start to assess how bad it is. The gas level is low, so it’s not possible to check for leaks yet, but there’s no smell of fuel from the threaded holes.

I run a hand-held mechanic’s light on a flexible tube up inside the back fenders but see nothing. (I do relearn that Vespa buttons up everything very tight on its scooters and it’s impossible to get your hand around the tank, or even get a good view of it.) So I can’t feel or see what I did.

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The fuel tank, depicted in ‘sea green,’ like the Crayola crayon we had back in the first grade.

But I can shine the light down into the holes and see new thread lines scored into the plastic below. Online views of the fuel tank show the back is sculpted like a valley, so it appears I’ve cut a little into the valley walls, instead of boring directly into the tank itself.

I take one of Tera Nova’s reserve fuel bottles and fill the Vespa’s tank to the brim of the filler tube. And wait. No leaks.

That was on Aug. 18.

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A stop in Port Royal, Virginia, on the road to Deltaville.

On Aug. 22, we ride out toward Deltaville, Virginia, as part-tank-test, part-get-the-mileage-up-to-600 for the service. Aside from the rain, everything is okay.

And finally, we take the Vespa back to Scoot Richmond on Saturday, Aug. 29, for the 600-mile work and ask the mechanics to check.

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Stopping for fuel, shaking off rainwater. That’s Terra Nova on the left and Linda’s Vespa between it and Linda on the right.

It’s impractical for them to remove the tank on the day we’re there – it’s a three-hour job, like most things Vespa – but they say they couldn’t see any leaks. “And since you haven’t seen anything, it’s probably okay,” says one. “Just keep an eye on it.”

I’m afraid I’ll do much more than that. I’ll be consumed, obsessed, haunted by it and I’ll carry the concern like Quasimodo’s hump. Maybe a new gas tank, installed in the fall, will restore my peace of mind.


1 – Vespa Motorsports how-to videos are top-notch, in my opinion.
2 – That’s his nom de guerre, I reckon.

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3 thoughts on “‘Assembly of Vespa Luggage Rack Requires Great Peace of Mind’ or: ‘Sweet Jesus, Did I Really Do That?’”

  1. Hopefully it will be OK and over time you can gain confidence that it is not damaged. And I just love this quote: “Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind”. That’s so true when working on just about anything.

  2. If you were using bolts and not pointy screws, and considering they’re not going to make a gas tank out of Baggie material, and if screwing in the bolts didn’t suddenly get easier — you’re probably fine.
    You can’t have been the first person to use the wrong length bolt.
    At least you didn’t do that with the drill.
    … you didn’t, did you?

  3. No drill. The guy in the Scooter West how-to video recommended against it, and I don’t think I would have used anything more than a ratchet wrench anyway. Fortunately, the Allen wrench was the only one that fit. And the bolts were flat, not pointy, another bit of luck in my favor.

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