The return of Dazzle: Dizzy’s custom scooter revival

Paul Dizzy custom Lambretta

It was one of the most iconic custom scooters of the mid-80s.

Dazzle, created by revered customiser Jeremy Howlett and painter Paul Karslake, set the standard for others to aspire to when it first appeared at rallies in 1983.

Paul Hissey, known to all as Dizzy, was one of many scooterists inspired by Dazzle and other customs on the scene at the time.

Dazzle Lambretta Isle of Wight 1985
Dazzle at the Isle of Wight rally in 1985

It led to him transforming, over four years from 1986 to ‘90, the somewhat tatty Lambretta Li150 Special he bought aged 16 into the show-winning Majestic Realms.

Majestic Realm Lambretta Li150 Special
Majestic Realms

Mellow Daze, a herb-inspired custom chopper currently being rebuilt, followed a year later.

Mellow Daze custom scooter
A slightly grainy photo of Mellow Daze…

Dazzle discovered

Dizzy has been an inveterate scooter restorer and customiser ever since, so it was no surprise his interest was piqued in 2011 when Facebook chatter indicated that Howlett had found Dazzle in one of his dad’s garages.

“Then this bare rusty frame appeared on eBay,” he says, “but I knew straight away what it was by the paintwork.

Dazzle Lambretta frame

“I first saw that scooter back in ‘85, and you know what it’s like when you fall in love with something – I could tell you that bike from 200 miles away.

“Everyone knew Dazzle, because there were only about five or six scooters back in the mid-80s that were in a different league, and that was one of them.”

The original Indian GP frame was advertised for £1,600 and, once Dizzy found out that the seller was Howlett himself, he started sending messages.

“He was the messiah, the master himself,” he says. “To cut a long story short, he phoned me up and it was like he was vetting me. He went on Facebook and saw I had other Lambrettas and was into the custom scene, so he knew I wasn’t going to destroy it. I just think he wanted it to go to a good home.”

Dazzle and Majestic Realms Paul Dizzy

Howlett agreed to close the auction, and Dizzy turned up in Harwich later that evening – a few days before Christmas – with the agreed price of £1,000 in cash.

About two years later, Dazzle was back, with updated Siouxsie Sioux artwork by Karslake himself, and engraving by Adi Clark and an 84-year-old Don Blocksidge, who engraved the scooter back in the ‘80s.

“I advertised it all over Facebook – ‘remember Dazzle?’ Everyone’s like ‘not the Dazzle, it’s a copy isn’t it?’” says Dizzy.

‘They thought it had gone to heaven’

“They didn’t believe it – they thought it had gone, smashed up and gone to heaven. I showed it at the Gravesend custom show for the first time and it blew everyone away. Jeremy turned up – he wanted to see what I’d done, and he loved it.”

Jeremy Howlett Dazzle Lambretta custom scooter
Jeremy Howlett reunited with Dazzle

We’ll come back to Dazzle, by way of a detour via Dizzy’s scooter origin story, originally kick-started by riding on the back of his dad’s Lambrettas.

“He used to have a TV175 and we used to go stock car racing every Saturday night in the summer in Wimbledon, across London from Harrow,” he says. “I’d be on the back with my piss-pot corker on.

“I always remember one Saturday night we went past Hammersmith Odeon roundabout and The Jam were playing, and they were all queuing up to get in. So two people going past on a Lambretta and it was all ‘wahay’.

“We’d also go to the speedway at White City, and down Portobello Road for the Saturday morning boot fair. We’d have chips for lunch and I’d be carrying junk under my arms on the way home.”

Dizzy wasted no time in following in his father’s footsteps, paying a mere £35 for the ‘66 Li150 Special that would go on to become Majestic Realms.

Majestic Realms custom scooter

“I bought it the day I left school in 1982 off a bloke I used to sit next to in class,” he says. “It didn’t run and my dad said ‘borrow my van and go and pick it up then’.

“He knew I didn’t have a licence, but I went round the corner and chucked it in the back. It was like ‘woah, I’m 16 and I’ve got a Lambretta, look at this’.

“The next day, all my schoolmates came round to have a look.”

Scooter beginnings

Not that his dad, who had sold his scooters because they kept breaking down, was entirely on board.

“He said ‘what do you want that for, you could have bought a Fizzy or something a bit more appropriate’,” says Dizzy. “I said ‘no, I want an old Lambretta’, and he sighed ‘all right’. It didn’t run, I didn’t have any keys, no log book, nothing.

Lambretta custom artwork

“But he got it running for me and we had a bit of wasteland at the back of the garden where I used to ride it up and down.

“At the time it was green, covered in rust and had bits missing. It was a slonker, but it went down the road.”

Dizzy’s dad had already got rid of his scooters because they kept breaking down and he believed getting parts was nigh-on impossible.

“He said to me ‘you won’t get any bits, you’re on your own, you’ve got to make your stuff’,” he remembers. “So with that at the back of my mind, and not knowing anyone else who had a Lambretta, I had to make this, weld that up, make a bracket here, make a bracket there. I used push bike cables as replacements because I assumed nothing was available.”

That all changed one day when Dizzy was outside the local chip shop and saw someone ride by on a Lambretta, a chance encounter that threw him headlong into the scooter scene.

Majestic Realms engraving
Engraving on Majestic Realms

“I waved him down and said ‘I can’t get this or that’ and he said ‘well, there’s a shop down there’,” he laughs. “I was a bit green…he took me to this shop and I started buying a few bits and bobs, and he said ‘we’re all going to Clacton – do you want to come? There’ll be thousands there’.

“I thought ‘all right, we’ll have some of that’. So we went overnight to Clacton – a green spotty teenager at 16. I couldn’t believe it got me all the way to Clacton, and we sat in a bus stop until it got light. The next thing, there were hundreds or thousands of scooters everywhere. I thought ‘this is all good’.

“Someone said ‘we’re all going up to the site’, and I had no idea what that was. Turned out it was a campsite, but I didn’t have a tent so I literally lumbered it all weekend. But I met so many people that were in the same boat as me – we didn’t have much money, but we had a scooter, and we’d just started work as apprentices.

“They’re your family, your friends”

“You got to know people, and you saw them every month – all of a sudden they’re your family now, they’re your friends, and they’re in the same boat as you, not a lot of money, let’s just go and enjoy ourselves.”

It was on the rallies that Dizzy not only earned his nickname but also got to see what other scooterists were doing to their machines, from choppers to cut downs, paintjobs to engraving.

Dazzle custom Lambretta scooter

“Dizzy came from doing Northern Soul dancing when drunk,” he laughs. “I’d normally fall over, and it stuck from about ‘83 or ‘84 onwards.

“It seemed to me what people could do with a Lambretta was endless. I didn’t want to cut mine down or strip it, but I’d think ‘I like that bit of chrome, I like that fancy paintwork’.

“There were a lot of people from Yorkshire coming down, and they had better sprayers than London. Some of the paintwork was like ‘wow, look at that, it’s gorgeous, who did this for you?’ and before I knew it I was thinking I could spend a bit of money and get it looking nice.”

Money, however, was a bit of a problem back in 1986 when Dizzy took his tentative first steps into customisation.

Gold engraving Majestic Realms
Gold engraving on Majestic Realms

“The first thing I did was get the back light engraved and done in gold, which only cost me £20,” he says. “I used Don Blocksidge up in Droitwich for the engraving, and when I got it back and put it on the bike I thought ‘wow, look at that’, and after that I just kept sending more bits to him.

Gold engraved wheel Lambretta

“I was getting more bits back and on the bike, but by 1988 the paintwork was really rubbish, and I was looking around for a nice paint job.

“Wicked” fantasy art

“I always liked fantasy art, Dungeons and Dragons and all that, and my mate had an old calendar that looked wicked.

“I had to find a sprayer and everyone said to me ‘Brian Shepherd fantasy bike art’, so I went down to Salisbury to see him with this calendar.

“He said ‘I can work with that, but I’m not just going to copy the pictures – I’m going to pull bits out of it and make it my own’.”

Majestic Realms Lambretta artwork

Six months later and £1,000 lighter, and Majestic Realms was complete, with Shepherd’s artwork showcased on a silver blue iridescent background.

“It won loads of trophies, and I’ve never had the paint touched since,” says Dizzy, now 58. “I had another scooter for work, and used that one on the rallies as a statement.

“The reaction was mental. People wouldn’t leave me alone – ‘where did you get that done etc’.”

Fast forward to 2011, and the day Dizzy discovered that Dazzle – or at least parts of it – was for sale.

“I was halfway through building another one, but I sidelined that and then flogged it to get some dollar together,” he says.

So how much of the original Dazzle, which started off blue before a spill and a respray in the green it became known for, does Dizzy have?

Blue Dazzle Lambretta
Dazzle’s first incarnation in blue

There’s the frame, obviously, plus the front mudguard and the headset, but both were too badly damaged to be used.

Later on, a friend of Howlett’s contacted Dizzy and sold him the original engraved head and flywheel cowlings, the chaincase, and rear hub, all of which are now on the scooter.

Dazzle, phase three

In all, he estimates he used about 35% of the original scooter – and its engraving – in the rebuild.

Dazzle Lambretta rebuild
Frame restored and painted

After building the third phase of Dazzle’s life in primer and fitting an engine to get it road legal, he tested it on the road for several months to iron out any issues – and “then stripped the whole thing into bits”.

The London Scooter Bodyshop worked on the panels to get them into a fit state for priming and painting.

Lambretta restoration Dazzle
The testing phase

“I’d already spoken to the original painter Paul Karslake, and he was bang up for painting it for a third time,” he says. “The base paint is the same, but the pictures of Siouxsie are more up to date.

“It took over a year, but it turned out really special, with some incredible details.”

Dazzle custom Lambretta
Dazzle side panel Lambretta

For the engraving, Dizzy started off using Adi Clark before contacting Don Blocksidge, who worked on the bike originally.

“I said to him I wanted it roughly the same as it was in the ‘80s, and he said ‘I don’t need drawings, I can do it off the top of my head, and he did’,” he says.

Dazzle handlebar

“He then became ill and I got in touch with one of my old mates from the ‘80s, Jason Lock, who finished off the engraving. He wanted one of my scooters as part payment – and when you’ve got a collection of 10 scooters you can afford to part with one of them.”

Spark plug cover engraving Lambretta Dazzle
Even the spark plug cover is engraved

Then Dizzy started looking around for a polisher and, after a couple of false dawns with London-based firms, he found Johnny Walklate of JL Polishing on Facebook.

Lambretta engraving

“I sent him some test pieces, and I thought ‘I’ve never seen work like this’,” he says. “He had it all turned around within six months and the workmanship was unbelievable.”

Next came the chroming, and Dizzy had some work done in London, but the prices started to escalate, so he found Marque Restore Chrome Plating, of Coventry, via Google.

“Gorgeous” chroming

“I went through their website and really liked what they were doing, a lot of it on high-end stuff like Bentley and Ferrari,” he says. “I sent them some test bits and it was gorgeous.”

Lambretta chrome engraved headset

Next came the hunt for a Dave Webster DJ exhaust, eventually achieved when a mate from Watford pointed him in the direction of “an old boy” who makes exhausts.

Lambretta custom artwork

“That took about a year as well, but I got a brand new replica for £100,” says Dizzy, who handmade the twisted side stand himself, and also completely hid the wiring loom inside the frame.

The original Dazzle was powered by a one-off Dave Webster DJ240 engine, “which flew”.

“As Dave has now sadly passed, I went for a quick 225 set up – not as quick, but reliable,” says Dizzy, recruiting JB Tuning for the work.

Dazzle Dave Webster Stage 5

“It’s got enough so I can overtake a lorry on that and feel confident.”

Engraved Lambretta engine detail

Needless to say, all this cost a fair amount of cash – the paintwork alone was £8,000 – but Dizzy has a way of dealing with the pain.

“When you’re building something like that, you’ve got to switch off from the figures,” he says. “You’re looking at the finishing line, not at half way through. It’s no good thinking half way through because you’re going to bottle out and be stuck with a load of bits, so I said ‘I’ll look at the bills when it’s finished’. In the meantime I’d sold three scooters to fund it – and they had cost me peanuts.”

Back to 12 Lambrettas

In any case, he is now back up to 12 Lambrettas, including a GP200 used for work, series 1 and 2 Li150s, and a rare, Yamaha-powered Rossa 350.

They are stored in a shipping container in Kent, which also serves as a workshop for Dizzy’s restorations.

Custom scooters

“I work in there until midnight with the genny going,” he says. “You’ve got to have some escapism.”

Although Dizzy’s scooter rally days aren’t entirely behind him – he was at Mersea Island earlier in September with Dazzle and Majestic Realms – they are less frequent than in the ‘80s heyday.

“I used to go quite a lot but not so much now,” he says, “partly because I’m often working on a Saturday.

“It’s also gone from jumping on the scooter with £10 in your pocket, which would last until Wednesday the following week, to being a much more expensive weekend.”

Before we go, one final question: if he could only keep one scooter, which would it be?

“Oooh, I would keep Majestic Realms,” he says, “because I bought it on the day I left school, and we had so many laughs on that.”

Scooter stories is a series of articles exploring the lives and experiences of different types of scooter riders and collectors. Click on the Scooter Stories category link to read more.

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August 8, 2023