VMC team: Maria, Giustino, Andrea, Stefano and Alberto (Cesta)
In a world where high-end scooter tuning is increasingly floating out of the reach of mere mortals, VMC arrived to pull the price balloon back down to earth.
The VMC line of parts seemed to arrive on the Vespa scene almost under cover of darkness. VMC is a brand of Avotecnica; a company based in Vicenza started in 2005 by Giustino Meneghini and his wife Maria. The company started as a part-time business importing parts for pitbikes and minibikes, but as Avotecnica’s range increased, so did their ambition to make and distribute their own parts.
VMC make a massive range of 4-pole IDM-based ignitions in various weights
Vespa in the Blood
As in every village in Italy during the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was always an enthusiastic youth who would spend his weekends tuning his Vespa and working on scooters for his friends. In Giustino’s town, that role fell to him, and the taste for two-wheelers never left him.
Fast forward to the peak of the mini-bike boom at the start of this century. On one Avotecnica buying trip to Asia, Giustino spotted a stall selling what he recognised was clearly a Vespa tuning kit, so he bought a sample. It turns out that the kit in question, produced in China and widely for sale, was called a Pro Cup 125 kit for the Vespa Smallframe. As far as we can make out the Pro Cup was a Spanish-initiated copy of the Quattrini M1 kit.
Guistino wondered with his many manufacturing connections in Asia if there would be a market in Europe for a new range of Vespa tuning parts. This inspired the formation of VMC in 2010.
Calling in the Experts
The plan was never to just be an importer. To make a name in the Vespa scene – like Avotecnica had in the pit-bike world – would require some innovative products under their own brand. They needed someone with 2-stroke expertise.
Only 50km from Avotecnica’s base north of Vicenza is Noale; the home of Aprilia. I visited the factory in the 1990s when it was still independent. At the time Aprilia were producing motorcycles and scooters for the road, and also some of the finest 2-stroke racers of the smaller Grand Prix classes.
Franco Frison’s drawings for a 57mm piston and CNC cylinder head
After Ivano Beggio’s firm encountered financial difficulties, Aprilia were swallowed up as part of the massive Piaggio empire. Nowadays the brand lives on in both road bikes and top-class MotoGP.
Gianfranco Frison was a key member of Aprilia’s design department before his retirement. Giustino approached him with the idea of making a higher-performance cylinder kit for the PX125/150 engine. Franco went to work on the design of VMC’s first kit which in 2016 became the 177cc Stelvio.
A choice of three cylinder heads for the Stelvio kit
Stelvio Kit for PX
Named after the famous mountain route, the Stelvio brought a few new concepts to the table.
• Aluminium kit with bolt-on steel exhaust stub manifold. This stops the common problem of an aluminium stub being crushed and worn by a clamp-on exhaust. The steel stub seals with an O-ring and 4 screws.
• Three cylinder head options: Cast side-plug, cast centre-plug or CNC-machined centre-plug.
• Affordable pricing for an aluminium kit: Produced using a steel shell mould in Taiwan offers a good price/quality compromise.
The cast iron Super G 177 kit for the Vespa PX
The Cast Iron Alternative
For those who want to improve performance on a budget, VMC released a cast iron ‘brother’ of the Stelvio kit by the name of the Super G. It is also offered in various versions with the different styles of cylinder head. The most outstanding thing about it though is the price. At the time of writing the Super G is 159 Euros and performs on par with its aluminium brother.
Of course cast iron requires more in the way of running in and very careful jetting, but if you want affordable performance and you don’t mind doing some port clean-up on the cylinder prior to fitting then it’s very cheap.
The Stelvio and Super G kits both have 7 transfer ports and a single exhaust. Eight-point head fixing is also standard
Ready for Retaliation
Guistino knew that the Stelvio kit would perform well and sold at a price that would begin to capture a section of the market previously dominated by the likes of Polini, Malossi and Pinasco. It was his expectation that the arrival of the Stelvio would make them respond, upping their game in performance and quality to compete.
The idea was to have an even more powerful 125/150 Vespa large frame kit waiting in the wings. Whenever the market leaders upped their game, VMC would be ready to respond with another kit designed by Franco Frison.
In the end, VMC got tired of waiting and elected to release that new kit, called Crono, featuring a main exhaust port with two sub-ports. The Crono pushed performance for the PX casing even further. With the release of a longer cylinder version for 60mm-stroke crankshafts, it even offers 187cc from the humble PX. Instructions for the Crono suggest it’s best combined with a big carb and a generous muffler.
Well, aren’t all our mufflers generous, at least when it comes to sharing the delightful Parfum Due Tempi, by Castrol?
A piston from a VMC Crono test kit after 5,000km
Shortest of the Small
One product niche that intrigued me was VMC’s kits for original Vespa 50 smallframe engines; which use the original 43mm stroke crankshaft. These are effectively a modernisation of the classic 105cc kit which teenagers could slap directly onto an otherwise standard Vespa 50.
What surprised me is that there would be any smallframes left with those 43mm-stroke fitted crankshafts. After all, if you are upgrading a crankshaft anyway, then you may as well fit a 51mm stroke crank (standard for the 100/125cc smallframes. This permits fitting of 135cc kits, or even an Egig 170cc, for example, to the same engine casing.
The tiny RV-A 100cc kit fits under a 50/90 cylinder cowling
The answer is three-fold:
• Firstly, there are some people who don’t want to split their engine and change the crankshaft.
• Secondly, there are areas of the globe where tuning kits are still very much ‘frowned upon’ by the authorities. If your tuning kit fits underneath an original cowling stamped with ‘50’ then maybe the cops will believe it is still a moped? Though maybe not if it was riding at 100km/h just moments before…
• Lastly, there are people who just love the short-stroke smallframe engine. People are strange.
The cast iron version of the short-stroke 106cc kit is called the T-56 due to its 56mm piston. At approx 150 Euros it’s an affordable upgrade to the ancient cast iron kits from the main brands. All the usual statements about preparing running-in and carefully jetting cast iron kits still apply.
For those really looking for some short-stroke fun there is also a reedvalve aluminium kit called the RV-A with a 54mm bore and an 8-petal reedblock. This aluminium kit retails for around 250 Euros and, we are told, offers the same sort of performance as a bolt-on traditional 135 kit.
The RV-A kit has more ports than the Philippines
Speaking of 135 kits; VMC obviously supply kits for the 51mm stroke smallframe. The aluminium ET6 is a single exhaust port kit whereas the ET7 has three exhaust ports. Both use 58mm pistons. In cast iron the 135 kit is called GS and that has slightly more moderate timings together with a more moderate retail price.
Typically, the Vespa parts range then extends to VMC ignitions, exhausts, crankshafts, clutches etc. The product list is growing all of the time.
VMC ‘Kifly Attack’ exhaust is the high-rpm solution for smallframes
VMC: Future Products
There’s not space here to go into the full catalogue of parts available from VMC, suffice to say that they are constantly broadening their range and seeking to improve quality.
Production is not all from Asia, but spread around wherever a good price/quality ratio can be obtained. Parts such as their Vespa brake discs and the Meteor pistons supplied with some of their kits are all made in Italy.
With regards to Meteor, I did manage to catch sight of a drawing for a new piston that looked twisted on the gudgeon pin axis, suggesting very much that VMC may well be working towards a kit for the Vespa 200 casings. The capacities mentioned were 244 and 248cc.
Prototype 5-speed gearbox for smallframe
Another hot product that VMC are working on is an affordable 5-speed gearbox, selector and output shaft for smallframe. Their target retail price for the full set is much cheaper than the competition.
This 5-speed kit includes a layshaft because, unlike original smallframe gear selectors (which have 4 arms), the VMC design uses 6 arms. This adds 50% more surface area to select each gear. At the time of writing VMC have several gear sets under test, in preparation for future production.
How much power this gear set will be able to handle is something that only future testing will reveal. Certainly whenever you fit five into the space of four then it isn’t easy to maintain or improve on the strength of the original gears.
Italkast LED headlight prototype for Vespa 50 Special headset
ItalKast: New Brand, New Products
Avotecnica is very much a family firm, with Giustino and wife Maria as founders of the company, but now joined by their son Andrea: who has recently finished a degree in industrial engineering. Andrea is concentrating on another new range of products for Vespa under the brand ItalKast (or Kast for short, as stamped on many of the prototypes)
ItalKast’s product range is still very much in development, but there seems to be a large cross-over with VMC products.
VIDEO: ItalKast Rapid Replace seat system
Of the ItalKast products I was shown, the most interesting was a new seat system called Rapid Replace. The idea is that you can buy one hinge and steel seat base and to that you can bolt a number of different designs of seat cushion. The plan is that you can buy a ‘multi-pack’ of a seat and two or more interchangeable tops allowing you to change from single race seat to one that will accommodate a passenger in a very short space of time.
ItalKast seat for smallframe. A similar system for Vespa Largeframe is in development
Avotecnica prefer to adopt a collaborative rather than confrontational attitude in the scooter industry. They stock and sell Polini products to rival their own brand VMC. They produce wheels for various Italian pit-bike manufacturers as Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM). They also collaborate with various tuners like Egig on production of parts.
What seems clear is that their strategy of good performance at keen prices has been welcomed by the market and that their ambition shows no sign of slowing down.
The big fish need to make room because there’s a new shark in the pond and it seems hungry…
Words, images and video: Sticky
Where else can you buy VMC parts?
As we go to press VMC/ItalKast have no UK distributor, although they are in talks with one of the big players.
You can buy VMC through SIP though quickly and easily, here’s a direct link.
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