Comet Scooter Restoration
sat on the crossbar cushioned by a pillow borrowed from the
sofa, the tips of my feet pressed on the twin down-tubes,
white-knuckled fists gripping the handlebars.
I was the eight year old passenger as we sped along - my
brother piloting this strange two wheeled machine along a mown
strip that cut between the waist high grass in the old field.
It seemed as though we were bulleting faster than a car
could go. I still
can hear the sound of that motor, the smell of the weeds and mid
summer flowers and feel my eyes squinting as the bugs and tall
grass went flying by, my grip tightening as we hit the odd bumps
in the old field. I
had hoped that these rides could last all afternoon, now it
feels like it did. These
were my summers in New Hampshire, my vacation spot for two weeks
at my Grandparents farmhouse. That was my first memory of my
This scooter was bought during World War II for cheap
transportation to and from town, to get the mail, the groceries,
or for a trip to the beach, just two miles away.
My Grandfather even fixed a big woven basket on the
handlebars with leather straps for carrying loose items. Comet
Manufacturing in Minneapolis, Minnesota made the stiff,
suspension-less frame. As a matter of fact, all the components came from the
mid-west area, the Clinton model 701AS engine, from Clinton,
Michigan, the Tillotson model ML7A carburetor from Toledo, Ohio,
even the 3.50 X 6.00 Goodyear tires.
After my Grandmother and subsequently, my brothers
stopped riding it, it sat for twenty-five or so years untouched.
I always remembered it being a pea green color, with dark
green fenders and handlebars, a paint job my older sister
applied in the early sixties.
Though all the other photographs previous to this, in the
forties, are black and white, my Dad remembers it as red, as the
chips from underneath the frame and other areas tell the same
tale. For years I thought of bringing this machine back to life.
When I was sixteen, I made a half-hearted ‘restoration’ in
the late seventies, spawned by the ‘moped craze’ that was in
full gear. This
amounted to no more that the removal of the 1.5 hp Clinton
engine from the frame and delivery to the local machine shop
only to have them tell me it was better suited to be used as a
“boat anchor”. I
eventually lost interest, though not before I sprayed the frame
an ungodly medium blue and the fenders white, with drips over
the pitted metal. Terrible.
Disheartened, I sat the engine pieces in a cardboard box
and wheeled the whole thing back into the barn. That was in
it sat for another twenty plus years.
My interest was alighted in scootering when, during
one of my weekly bicycle rides two years ago. I spied the familiar curves of a 1963 125cc Vespa peaking out
from around the corner in a dark dilapidated barn at a garage
sale. After some bargaining, I ended up buying it for eighty
dollars. I really was taken with this little jewel and still
ride it regularly.
About this time, my thoughts raced about the
possibilities of that old scooter of my Grandmothers. I
realized what this little Comet sitting back in my parent’s
barn meant to the scootering world and my youth.
Here begins the story of the full and much deserved
restoration of this gorgeous machine.
I wheeled the Comet out of the barn (again) where it
saw the first glimpse of sunshine since Carter was in office,
and began to inventory the loose parts.
The bright light shone on the dusty, dripping, ugly paint
that I had so hastily splattered on twenty-three years ago. I
began the project by bringing the Clinton engine to a reputable
local small engine shop, where it was fitted with new rings, a
valve job and a cleaned carburetor. When I came to pick it up,
the mechanic had the engine sitting on a block of wood with a
makeshift fuel line made from clear tubing going to the
kicked it over and it sputtered to life for the first time in
forty years! That
stirring sound again! His
only comment was, ‘It runs, but it don’t produce too much
power...” Fifty bucks later I was on my way.
Now I was excited to start the focus of attention to
research the frame and the rest of the running gear. There was no real rust anywhere, just that drippy blue paint
that may have saved the metal from more rust and layers of dust.
I separated all the parts: the rubber foot pegs,
handlebar grips, the brake and accelerator handles, the seat,
the gas tank and sediment bowl.
I categorized them all and placed all the parts into
pieces included the air filter (or air breather), brake and
throttle cables, two of the seat mounting brackets and some of
the throttle linkage. The original Goodyear ‘industrial’
tires were worn, but not too bad.
The seat was in great shape, but I needed to get the
missing mounting brackets, namely the knurled inner plates that
fit between the rails of the seat that mesh and tighten onto the
seat post on the frame. I found a blacksmith in the area who is,
fortunately, a vintage bicycle enthusiast. He said he could
manufacture these missing pieces from scratch, by way of
impressing the remaining outer brackets in clay, then make a
cast to which the new ones could be made.
The frame, gas tank, mounting brackets and the rims
all showed signs of the original red paint. They were delivered to an automotive restaurateur in the area,
where the original red paint will be matched and to begin the
refinishing process. He
will ‘media blast’ all the parts, then apply several coats
of primer, the finish coats and clear coats. This should all
take about one month. In
the mean time, I will be researching and cleaning up the
remaining running gear.
Referring to the pre-restorative photographs, you can
see the scooter in its many pieces, but you can still get a good
idea of what it looks like.
You can see clearly the stinky blue paint that I hastily
applied on the frame in 1979.
On some of the engine shots, you will notice the clutch
housing and the kick starter arm is red. After removing some of the grime, I found that these were the
only engine parts that were painted in the original red finish.
I am still amazed at how the seat survived without a
tear! I am still
missing (and searching for) the air cleaner assembly that fits
onto the Tillotson model # ML7A carburetor.
I did eventually find some of the original throttle
linkage, albeit a strange piece.
I am inspecting the worn areas about the metal surfaces
to get an idea how this worked in conjunction with the cable
accentuated hand lever on the handlebars.
I thought I should also find out what I was dealing
with here, so I spoke with many scooter experts. Many of them had promptly written back to let me know this
was a pretty rare and collectable scooter! I
was thrilled to hear that, but no matter, I would have been just
as determined to do a fine restoration anyway.
I was also heartily encouraged to write this article,
documenting the life of this fantastic machine.
Please feel free to contact me
if you have any comments, questions, suggestions or part
Picture of Upper Left Frame
Picture of Upper Right Frame
Engine Pan from Left Side
Engine From Clutch Side
Magneto Side of Engine
Rear Wheel Showing Drive Pulley
Bicycle Type Seat