EMPLOYEE BUILD: Cory’s Garelli SSXL Moped (Part 1)

Employee/Author: Cory Mezzenga

Editor: Art Petrakov

Cars? Yeah I’ve had a few of those. I’m no stranger to fun cars, in the last few years I’ve had a Mazdaspeed Protege, a 2001 2.5RS sedan, a 2002 Bugeye Wrx, a Volvo 240 (more fun than you might think), and a built Outback XT. More recently, I’ve purchased another fun project, my first house! With that, my fun car budget pretty much became non-existent. However, anyone who loves engines can’t stay away from getting their hands dirty for long, and besides I’ve been on two wheels longer than four. Sure, I could’ve gotten a motorcycle, but I wanted something a bit different. When people hear the word “moped” they think a scooter that zips around college campuses across the nation, but not these mopeds. The real mopeds, with PEDALS attached to them, that’s the bike I wanted to build, to make stupid-fast, for stupid-cheap..or so I planned.

I’ve been working on this moped for over 6 months now and in that time it’s gone through some crazy transformations. Originally this build started as a Garelli SSXL Moped with a 70cc kit, a bigger carb., aftermarket pipe, etc. At that point, the only thing that hadn’t been modified was the tank. Unfortunately, the reason I decided to modify anything on this bike is a bit of a bummer. Aptly named “The Spite Bike”,  the main reason of this build was actually to upset the person I got it from.

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone do that? Well, let me tell you. I traded a bike that I very much enjoyed (which ran fine, was reliable, fast, and rare) for this to a (now ex) member of the local moped community. I had seen the bike on weekly rides so I was under the impression that it was in comparable condition to my own. When he arrived to my house on the day we were trading, he couldn’t get the bike to start, I attributed the issue to the cold day  (modified mopeds are notoriously finicky in cold weather) and just said it was fine. He assured me it ran great and was in excellent condition engine-wise. Well, that’s where I got taken for a ride, so to speak. After doing everything I knew to get it to run, I finally decided to crack the cylinder off. Welp, the piston was smeared on the cylinder, meaning it ran lean, overheated, and the piston jettisoned some material, leaving a bike with no compression and bits of metal in the case. Well then, that’d do it I suppose! I shot him a message about what I found and he told me to get lost.

Delightful. So there I was, stuck with this thing, suddenly having to throw more money than expected at it. Looking at the engine it came with, there were many shortcomings in the original design, especially when it came to modifying it. Weak clutches, very little aftermarket support, and just general performance potential left me looking for other alternatives. Originally I decided I was going to slap on a 140cc pit bike engine and call it a day, but after looking at the bike and how the pit engine would mock up, I elected to stick to the moped roots with a 50cc 2-stroke.

With aftermarket support and power potential in mind, I decided to go with a French heart for this “phoenix out of the fire” reborn moped. French bikes like Peugeot and Motobecane use a variator instead of a gearbox. Essentially it’s a small CVT transmission, belt driven with a variable pulley. This is a perfect setup for mopeds, as their low power output and static power bands really benefit from a drive system that can utilize the maximum power at any given time. After about 15 minutes of research the Peugeot came out on top for a few different reasons:

First off, Motobecane engines are more vertical whereas Peugeot uses a more horizontal engine configuration. Perfect, as I needed to tuck it somewhat in the same place where the original engine went under the frame.

Second, the Peugeot used a swingarm engine mount, which means mounting it to the bike would be very easy. No messing with chain lines, no weird suspension geometries, it was pretty much all done for me. One mount on the frame, aligning the shocks, and we’re golden!

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Luckily there is a company that makes a mount that you can buy as opposed to either cutting up an old Peugeot or making your own. I decided to run KX80 Dirtbike Forks so I could have a disc brake up front, painted the tank, and made my own custom seat. Now it was time to weld things up. I can weld, but I don’t have a nice setup currently, so I enlisted the help of my good friend Tyler (an Aerospace Welder by trade) and his equipment to help me get this thing [literally] rolling.  

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Now it was time for the powerplant. I bought a used engine which turned out to be trash (I’m getting so lucky with this build, right?) This was the point I decided to make this bike a real financial mistake, more so than what it already was. As you can imagine, performance parts for a 27 year old French moped are hard to find, and when you do, they aren’t cheap. “But if i’m going to do this,” I thought, “I’d better do it right”. Garelli was an Italian manufacturer and as it turns out there’s another company in Italy that makes performance parts for all makes: Polini. Even though the engine is a french design, most of the parts I would be using were Italian, paying homage to the original Italian heart of this bike.

I sourced a Polini 70cc W-Port Kit, Artek Stuffed Crank, Polini Race Cases, 4 Petal Reed Block, and a Dellorto PHBG 19mm Carb to top it all off. It’s always fun to watch the boxes of parts come in, as much as it may have hurt the wallet:

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Originally I had decided I wanted to make this bike really, really obnoxious, so I was going to do a watercooled kit, but the customization I’d need to do so was a little too intense for my time constraints. Here you’ll see the crank and stock variator installed with engine mounted on the bike:

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Since I deviated from my original plan of keeping it 50cc, the 70cc piston was larger, requiring some custom milling to the head to allow room for the piston:

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

Next, I had to source some shocks with the correct length to give the bike a good stance, without being too raked in either direction. You can also see the entirety of the wiring for the bike, quite a bit more laid back than doing a custom harness for a car.

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

In conjunction with the 70cc kit, I decided I wanted a big exhaust pipe. This pipe “hits” at about 7500 rpm; you can liken a 2-stroke pipe powerband to that of a turbocharger. There is some lag in the low end, but when you’re on the pipe the bike just absolutely wants to scream (sounds clips to come!)

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

With a kitted motor the stock variator just can’t handle the performance and must be replaced if you want to get anything substantial out of the bike. The Doppler ER3 Variator has adjustable weights so you can essentially “set your gear ratio”, or pick when the pulley moves based on the centrifugal force of the weights.

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

With all of the mechanical aspects of the bike complete (for the most part, as the bike is still being tuned) it was time for some cosmetic touches. Restoring the old speedo gauge, cutting some tank badges, and vinyl for the top that reminds me to persevere with the build:

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

The bike still has a long way to go, but this should give you a good teaser of what the finished product will look like. Future plans include a computer for logging data, speed, tach, odometer, etc. Wheels need powder coating, lights still need to be wired, and the variator/carb. still needs tuning.  The fork will need to be shortened a bit and filled with fluid, the pipe hits the ground on sharp right turns so that will have to be addressed, and foot pegs need to be figured out, amongest a long list of other details. No matter, because half the fun of this is in the build itself; keep a lookout for updates on this and more of my projects to come!

-Cory

@corymezzenga

@corymezzenga
@corymezzenga

 

EMPLOYEE BUILD: ART’S 2004 SUBARU FORESTER XT (PART 6)

I haven’t been individually titling my blog posts, but if I had, I would undoubtedly call this one “Sleepless in Minneapolis”. Now that I’ve recovered from the consistent past-midnight garage sessions that plagued the end of this build, I wanted to recap the last leg of my FXT project. Those of you keeping up with my updates on Instagram/Facebook know that I did indeed make my original May 19th deadline in time for the Automotion event in The Wisconsin Dells, but it was no easy road (metaphorically and literally). It seems as though no matter how much foresight I thought I had, half of the build came down to the last minute.

Clinton at Race Coatings pulled through in record time getting my wheel centers and calipers powdercoated; they were still untouchably-hot from the oven as I sped up to Forest Lake on my lunch break to pick them up. A few very late nights followed as I finished removing all of the caked-on road and brake debris from the previously-neglected wheels, refreshed the hardware, and began the arduous task of reassembling everything back into a functional form. I’ve always loved gunmetal centers on Work VSKFs, especially on white cars, so from the start I had a grey powder in mind. I told Clinton to hit them with plenty of flake and a shiny top coat for what I would consider ended up being a great result. For the calipers I stuck with gold as a nod to the OEM Subaru Brembos, albeit in an alternative shade for some differentiation.

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Just a few days prior to leaving I dropped the now-reassembled Works off with Landon Haley of Landslide Performance to get tires mounted, holding my breath that the wheels would balance out alright and that there were no previously undetected dents/bends that would prevent me from making the trip (something I had to deal with on a used set of Rays Gram Lights a few years back). I’m happy to say the results were excellent, with the wheels needing little/no weights at all; another perk of sticking with a reputable wheel manufacturer.

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While that was happening, Nathan at Metal in Motion made a major push to mold and paint my mid-spoiler in time for my departure. Like any body/paint professional Nathan seems to always have an endless amount of projects to do and fast-tracking mine through in order for me to make a deadline is a great example of why sticking with local, small businesses for a build is so important to me. We didn’t have time to paint the silver roof rails to match the rest of the car, but that will be done shortly.

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One of the last really important aspects of the FXT that remained unfinished was the axleback. The TurboXS Axleback that had been on the car when I first purchased it was one of the initial things to come off when I put it up on jackstands last fall. There it sat in the corner of the garage waiting to be replaced. Now that the car was down on the ground and mobile, I was able to bring it into the GrimmSpeed shop to have one of our fantastic welders put together a muffled, dual 3” stainless piece (using a prototype GS muffler) that worked with the new rear diffuser.

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(Also a shoutout to @corymezzenga for some extremely-last minute custom Cadillac decals for the ATS Brembos and @tatsandslacks for painting my mirrors/trim pieces at the very last second of the build!)

I found myself in the garage the night before the trip with the car still in the air, exterior pieces needing to be mounted, suspension, wheels, and new bearings/bushings untested, and my energy levels all but depleted. The choice was to either throw in the towel and take my daily driver back-up car to Automotion for the weekend, or push through until daylight and hope that everything came together without any major roadblocks. That night the stars aligned, the Subaru Gods pardoned my procrastination, and the car rolled out of it’s tomb early the next morning. Check out this quick edit @acdef made of the morning wheel test fitment:

https://www.facebook.com/anthony.p.defreitas/videos/10158619987390262/

The drive down to Wisconsin was nerve-racking to say the least. I had only put a few shakedown miles on the car going from the gas station and home prior to committing to the 4 hour drive (first to La Crosse to meet up with friends and pick up my painted mirrors, then onward to The Dells). The alignment was eyeballed, the steering wheel was cock-eyed, and at full steering lock a metal on metal noise could be heard into the next county over (I later found out my tie-rods were contacting the new endlinks). I gave the car a hasty  wash and vacuum, threw in as many tools as I could, planning for an inevitable breakdown, and set off with a buddy of mine into the Midwest unknown.

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A dense smell of overflown coolant from burping the system the night before followed us for the first leg of the trip, eventually being replaced by the burning smell of axle grease thrown onto the exhaust piping (and pretty much everywhere else on the bottom of the engine bay) courtesy of a busted passenger side axle boot. Later on, the alternator decided to give out on the highway and one burned-out bulb somehow turned into the headlights and fogs becoming completely disabled (still trying to figure that one out). Regardless, I was all smiles to be driving this car for a measurable distance for the first time in so many months.

Automotion started life as a classic car show, but has since evolved into a gathering of every vehicle you can imagine: muscle cars, imports, moped gangs, mallcrawler trucks, motorcycles, etc. To some that’s part of it’s downfall, to others it’s a part of the appeal. In years past the show has also become synonymous with, and there’s no better way to put this, ass-hat behavior. This year more than ever the Police Department made it very clear that they would not tolerate any disrespectful behavior, thus as a lot of the local community has already seen, ground rules were reinforced more strictly (most of us had a good laugh about the fine for cruising, since that’s mostly what the event is all about)…

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Whatever people think of Automotion, it keeps me and my friends coming back every year, so they still must be doing something right. My personal favorite aspect of the gathering is the sheer amount of different cars and owners you get to meet during your time there, if you’re in the Midwest and haven’t made a weekend of it, I would highly suggest doing so next year.

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So there it is, the car is totally, completely, unequivocally done. Well alright, not really, it’s somewhat done for the time being. There’s a few changes I’ll be making and ironing out some little issues here and there, but for the most part I can finally put down the wrenches, close the wallet, and enjoy staring at it for a while.

Next up on my build agenda is to get back to my neglected Cressida drift car, expect to see some blog content of that posted soon, in addition to some exciting video content coming from GrimmSpeed. Also, as I’m sure most of you are fed-up with looking at grainy cellphone pictures of my car, I’ll be dropping a full album of professional photos from shoots and shows in the coming weeks. Here’s a little taste of things to come courtesy of @chelton91:

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As always I appreciate everyone keeping up with this build, I would thank the individual people that had a hand in finishing up the car, but the listed would be too damn long, you know who you are!

-Art

@thenotorious_a_r_t