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Reader’s Ride: The cousin in Enzed

January 8, 2009

More fan mail. Yay!

Ken McGrath's Vespa PX200

Ken McGrath photos

Ken McGrath lives in Auckland, New Zealand and writes:

My PX200e MY is a special treasure because it is one of the last batch of 24 PXs ever, shipped to NZ in February 2008 in the last consignment of geared 2T Vespas out of Pontedera. New Zealand and Australia were very fond of PX200s and large numbers were shipped this way, so that I have yet to see a PX125 or PX150 here. When the Piaggio factory decided to finish production finally (after so many previous “final” batches such as the Series Speciale of 2003) by using up the remaining frames and engines, it was decided to despatch them to Australasia; Australia got their last container in December and New Zealand the final shipment in February. This is because neither country has adopted the EU emission regulations and it is still possible to import 2-stroke engines here.

Ken's PX200 in his neighborhood

The neighborhood where Ken lives looks a lot like West Seattle. Or Ballard. Or Tacoma. I’ve never been, but I’ve been told New Zealand looks an awful lot like Western Washington.

Ken tells the story of how he got to be a Vespa rider:

…my university career wrecked, and desperately needing a job, I was pleased to be sent for by the harbourmaster (who knew me) who wanted me to relieve at the main coastal lighthouse and harbour control station at Taiaroa Head (the entrance to Otago Harbour as you can find in Google). When he found I had neither a car or motorcycle licence, he said, ‘You are not driving down the peninsular as a learner in either vehicle. Here is £20 advance on your pay; go to the Vespa shop and buy one; you are unlikely to kill yourself on one of them and you will always get to your watch as they are so reliable.’

I would disagree with the harbourmaster on that point of not killing oneself, but Ken said this was 1966, and there was no motorcycle training available in New Zealand (or anywhere) at the time.

The 1964 Douglas 150 Sportique purchased with the 20 quid was eventually totaled by a police car (!) and replaced by a 1968 SS 180 on which he piled the miles until the New Zealand Navy transferred him to Auckland. That scooter gave way to a VW 1500, resulting in a two-decade riding hiatus.

I need to go to New Zealand. Favicon

  1. January 8, 2009 4:11 pm

    Fun story and a nice looking P200.

  2. January 8, 2009 10:14 pm

    It looks very like the old Vespas I saw in Aleppo souk.

    I really enjoyed the year I spent in Christchurch. Great country, great people.

    A nice-looking house in the background in the first picture.

  3. January 9, 2009 6:54 am

    Oh God, now I really do have a reason to move to New Zealand—and I’m too old and too settled.

  4. January 9, 2009 9:17 am

    Cool! I wish I had a cousin in NZ. Looks a lot like Vancouver too.

  5. January 9, 2009 2:44 pm

    bobskoot – it’s a damn sight warmer than Vancouver!

  6. January 10, 2009 7:09 am

    The mere mention of “lighthouse” and some kind of romantic fuzzy feeling overtakes me. I’ve always imagined tending one of them with a storm howling outside and a cherry red pot bellied stove keeping me warm and heating my soup. I’d probably not last the night, but it sounds good on paper.

    All in all, I’d be happy if I could simply trade the weather outdoors right now for what’s in those pictures! We have close to a foot of snow coming today and I’m itching to be out on the scooter. Sigh!

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