Home » This Man Wants To Build You A Scooter That Looks Like A Vespa, But Has 67 HP And Goes 120 MPH

This Man Wants To Build You A Scooter That Looks Like A Vespa, But Has 67 HP And Goes 120 MPH

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The terms “scooter” and “performance” aren’t typically found in the same sentence. With exceptions for great machines like the Suzuki Burgman 650, most scooters are slow little things perfect for zipping around town in style. Some people think scooters can be more, much more. John Piper is taking his experience from designing Group B rally cars and Formula 1 cars and is baking it into a ridiculous scooter. The Piper Moto J-Series is a super scooter with a KTM 690 SMC R engine making 67 HP, a top speed of 120 mph, and drop-dead gorgeous styling.

The Moto J joins a fun niche of motorcycling known as the maxi-scooter. Maxis combine the speed and stability of a motorcycle with the practicality and ease of use of a scooter. The most famous maxi-scooter is the aforementioned Suzuki Burgman 650, a big machine that massages 55 HP out of a 638 cc parallel twin. Recently, I showed you the Italjet Dragster 559, a sportbike pretending to be a scooter with 58.33 HP on tap. The Burgman is a porky 618 pounds while the Italjet is a light 425 pounds. The Piper Moto J-Series promises to be better than both of them with less weight and even more power, plus a fantastic body.

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The Piper Moto J-Series has been around for a while. Motorcycle blogs have been spilling ink about the thing since around 2016, and every article used the same render-esque images from Piper Moto’s site. I began to think this thing was vaporware. However, last year a real working version of this very scooter made an appearance at London’s Bike Shed Show. So, it does exist! John Piper wants some people to order some of these scooters, but be ready to cough up $50,732 for one.

John Piper

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Piper Special Vehicles

Perhaps it’s best to talk about the man bringing this scooter into reality. This isn’t a machine being hacked together in a shed, but it comes from an engineer with an impressive portfolio.

As Motorsport magazine wrote in 2022, John Piper has spent more than 40 years of his life in motorsport. Piper, 71, doesn’t just work on creating super-fast scooters, but he also runs Piper Special Vehicles, a shop that specializes in re-engineering, restoring, and improving classic cars. He’ll even put an EV drivetrain in your vintage ride if you want him to.

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Piper Special Vehicles

Before he restored vintage British iron, Piper enjoyed a career working for big names in racing. Piper says that as a teenager, he was obsessed with tuning cars to perform better than they did originally. This led him to his schooling at Kingston Polytechnic, where he earned an engineering degree that he put to work immediately as a mechanic for a club racer.

From those humble beginnings, half a century ago, Piper took on his first role with a professional racing team by becoming a mechanic for David Price Racing Formula 3 team. The team had notable drivers Tiff Needell and Ian Taylor. Piper was Taylor’s mechanic. Later, Piper would become chief mechanic and worked on cars driven by Nigel Mansell.

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Piper Special Vehicles

Piper says it was McLaren chief mechanic Ian Dyer who got him into car design. Dyer taught Piper the trade and eventually, Piper found himself under the wing of Patrick Head of Williams Grand Prix Engineering. There, Piper made his mark on the Metro 6R4 Group B rally car for British Leyland. Reportedly, this racer was supposed to have a V8 up front, but Piper and the rest of the engineering team couldn’t do that, not if they wanted any room for a driver. Instead, the engine was placed in the rear, and it became a six rather than an eight. Piper drew the suspension, mechanicals, and transmission. He was also a test driver for the vehicle.

Piper says his next milestone would be moving to race engineer at Williams F1 for racer Nigel Mansell. Piper’s work in the 1985 season was on the FW10 racer’s transmission and rear end. Then, Piper became a design engineer at Benetton F1, where he designed F1 transmissions and suspension dampers. Piper’s site continues with his achievements:

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Recruited as Founder Technical Director of Prodrive Engineering and led the design of the four wheel drive system for the Subaru World Rally Car.

Asked by Ross Brawn the Technical Director, to join [Tom Walkinshaw Racing] for the Jaguar XJR14 Group C sports car as Chief Designer to lead the design of the transmission system and day to day management of the design office. Winning Le Mans with the team in 1990 and the World Championship in 1991.

I spent a year as the Race Engineer for the Harrods sponsored McLaren F1 GTR sports car finishing in 3rd place at Le Mans 1995 with Derek Bell, Justin Bell and Andy Wallace driving.

From there, Piper’s career includes being the chief designer of the Ford Indigo Concept car, working on the Panoz GT1 Le Mans racer, and in 2005, becoming the chief designer for the JCB Dieselmax land speed car. By the way, that car, with Thrust SSC driver Andy Green at the controls, set the diesel land speed record of 350.092 mph. Piper says his firm designed Dieselmax in five months, built it, and tested it.

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A Lambretta On Steroids

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Piper entered the motorcycle world when he designed the Foggy Petronas World Superbike. Later, his Piper Design would be hired by Suzuki to design the GSX-R600 concept. Piper says he’s personally sitting on a stash of eleven motorcycles in his shed.

According to an interview with the UK’s Bike, Piper got the idea to build the J-Series in 2013 when he was looking for a new two-wheeler. Piper wanted something that rode like a motorcycle but looked like a scooter. Basically, he wanted what he said was a “Lambretta on steroids.” Unfortunately, the current crop of maxi-scooters don’t really fit that definition. The Suzuki Burgman is definitely a scooter that rides like a motorcycle, not really a motorcycle that looks like a scooter.

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Given the dearth of this specific kind of scooter, Piper set out to make his own. He started by benchmarking popular maxi-scooters, including the Suzuki Burgman 650, the Yamaha T-Max, and the BMW C 650 GT. Piper found that each maxi-scooter was different, so he decided to take the best traits of all of the scooters and blend them into one gnarly machine. He wanted to beat each scooter at length, weight, seat height, braking, power, and lean angle.

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To kick off the project, Piper picked up a KTM 690 SMC R that he got for a discount. Aiding him in the creation of the J-Series were students from the University of the West of England and Steve Everitt, a designer who now works at Royal Enfield.

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Piper’s wishlist included a 55-degree lean angle, a curb weight of around 160 kg, and a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. What he built comes pretty close. The Piper Moto J-Series sports 17-inch wheels, a 52-degree lean angle, and a dry weight of 352 pounds, right on target. The KTM 690 SMC R gave its 690cc single for the project. In this guise, it’s making 67 HP.

That engine is sitting in a custom TIG welded chrome molybdenum tubular steel space frame with a carbon composite body on top. Piper gave the body a body that’s a nod to Italian scooters and the finish was done so well it looks like metal. However, Piper couldn’t give this a metal body if he wanted to meet that weight target. Attached to the frame are the forks from a KTM Duke 200, where you’ll find a 17-inch front wheel with the 690 SMC R’s brakes. Why the different forks? Apparently, the forks from the SMC R were too long.

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Custom Ktm Scooter John Piper 1

Speaking of brakes, a 320 mm disc is chomped on by four-piston Brembo calipers. A 240 mm disc takes up the rear and is clamped down on with a Brembo single-piston caliper. The rear suspension is handled with a concentric spring and EXE-TC remote two-way shock.

Piper notes that the scooter still has a six-speed transmission and there’s still a clutch, but now, gearchanges are done through the touch of a button. That makes sense since a manual foot shifter would certainly get in the way of the bodywork. The scooter requires a special radiator, its own exhaust, and a fuel tank for everything to work. For those, Piper called up his specialist friends from his racing engineering days.

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Piper says the scooter-cycle will accelerate to 60 mph and race on to a top speed of 120 mph. However, since this scoot was designed to go this fast, you don’t need nerves of steel to do it. Is it the fastest scooter in the world? Probably not. We’ve seen even crazier custom builds before. In case you were wondering, the J-Series is registered as a KTM since the bike uses the donor bike’s serial numbers.

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But unlike those custom builds, you can buy one of these, sort of. Piper says he’s not putting the J-Series into production, but he will sell his personal example. He’s also willing to custom-build a J-Series for anyone willing to pay the price. However, Piper warns that anyone wanting him to build one of these will need at least £40,000 ($50,732), more if they have any special requests. He does run a custom shop, after all.

What you’ll get out of the other end is something that looks like an Italian scooter, but has the power to thrill. It’s the best of both worlds as you get a motorcycle, but the comfortable and stylish ride of a scooter. Get me a passport, I have to ride this thing!

Custom Ktm Scooter John Piper

Hat Tip to Mr.Ontop of Opposite-Lock!

(Images: Piper Moto, unless otherwise noted.)

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Pointy Deity
Pointy Deity
3 months ago

Cyberpunk Aggro Lambretta hell yeah! $50k is a bit too dear for me though.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
3 months ago

Do. Want.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
3 months ago

Everything about it looks spot on perfect except for the dated lighting. What’s up with the rear taillight and indicators? And the front light is too small proportionally and mounted high up, making the whole thing look less good then it should. Then again I’m not The Bishop, but I have worked on 2 wheeled vehicles for 26 years for work.

Small Fact0ry
Small Fact0ry
3 months ago

Having ridden a friends KTM 690, I can only imagine what level of excitement this thing is capable of.

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
3 months ago

Gosh I love the looks of this. The swooping lines going off the front fairing into the lower body work, and the chrome strip above that accents it. And that shade of blue! Even without the body it’s brilliant to look at. That rear swing arm is a piece of art.

DadBod
DadBod
3 months ago

I think I told this story in another comment, I was on my VFR800 and had a stoplight drag race with a scooter. I got absolutely smoked. At the next light, between victorious chuckles, he told me it was a modified Italjet or Aprilia 500cc+ or something and he regularly shamed sportbikes.

Pedro
Pedro
3 months ago

All the reliability of KTM, in a custom frame!!! ha ha, sounds like he is having fun. Honda also makes a 750 Adv scooter – just not sold in the US. I suspect the T-max is no slouch what with a 560cc twin engine. More fun in the new world.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago

Gorgeous engineering. But you better have a windscreen at 120MPH. Just sayin.

Seaway
Seaway
3 months ago

I have a friend who put an 850cc Yamaha motorcycle into a Lambretta frame. Thus the Yambretta was born. I bet it would do 120 if you could keep the front wheel on the ground.

Greensoul
Greensoul
3 months ago

That is one awesome looking bike, the color and the wheels are perfect. However, If I had 50 grand laying around to blow on a toy, I would be all over that vintage 1950 Westcraft trailer Mercedes wrote up and still have money left over to import the Honda Z I didn’t know I had to have until Mercedes made me aware of their existence.

George Millwood
George Millwood
3 months ago

Once there was the Gilera GP800 with 75 bhp ftom an 850cc v twin but it weighed 235kgs dry. It was later marketed as the Aprilia SRV 850 or somesuch. Another bike I never got to ride. Still this looks gorgeous and with 67 bhp and 160 kgs, it’d be a red light monster.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

That’s beautiful and good on him for building it. I hope he sells dozens&dozens—if nothing else, just to push the envelope.

I honestly haven’t seen anything other than the Enfield diesel that made me want to dip into the 2-wheeled world like this. Though I damn sure have no reason to go 120 anywhere other than on a track in a cage

Last edited 3 months ago by TOSSABL
OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago

Screw a topcase on it and I’m in.

Last edited 3 months ago by OCS-BN
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
3 months ago

“Looks like a Vespa” like a 747 looks like a Cessna. That picture in-profile hides a lot.

It’s not a terrible looking machine, but when I saw him straddling it like a, you know, motorcycle, the whole “stealth scooter” idea went out the window. In 15-30 years this’ll be the subject of an Autopian article about this crazy, unloved low volume two-wheeler from way back when.

<takes off grump hat>

You have GOT to get a passport. You won’t need it, until you do, urgently, and much more rapidly than the State Department wants to send you one. Bill it to David & Jason, they’re probably good for it maybe. Don’t miss out on some weird-ass drives or shows in the UK or Italy or Germany because you’re waiting for your passport.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

“John Piper wants some people to order some of these scooters, but be ready to cough up $50,732 for one.”
I love it. Really I do. But for that price, John Piper can get bent.

Marcus
Marcus
3 months ago

Nahhhh. I’d rather get all cyberpunk with one of these badboys: https://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/en/models/urban_mobility/ce04.html

William Domer
William Domer
3 months ago

Ummm $50,000? Great idea stupid price

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  William Domer

I’m not even sure it’s a great idea…

Jj
Jj
3 months ago
Reply to  William Domer

It’s a custom-built machine. Considering that, the price isn’t terrible.

I don’t know how many people want to go 100+ mph on a scooter. Most would just buy a much faster motorcycle at a much lower price.

I feel like most rational people who want to zip around at less than 40mph on two wheels will buy a scooter and the people who want to take their two-wheeled machine will get a motorcycle. For the weirdos who want to double most speed limits on a scooter, they will have to pay for the experience.

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
3 months ago
Reply to  Jj

Big fast scooters are quit popular in Europe – Honda sells a 750cc model and Yamaha sells a 560cc model, neither of which do we get here in the states. Scooters just have far better ergonomics for daily use in urban environments, especially with quality automatic transmissions and a low center of gravity that enhance handling in tight and slow situations. And when combined with a big engine, they become quite comfortable on the freeway.

Last edited 3 months ago by Noahwayout
William Domer
William Domer
3 months ago
Reply to  Noahwayout

I especially like the Piaggio with 2 wheels up front. Seems like going into a corner would be a blast

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
2 months ago
Reply to  William Domer

I’ve seen a few of those in Italy. They sure look goofy but I’m sure they’re fun!

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