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I'm sure that all Buzzing readers are convinced that in a shed or garage near them (perhaps even next door to their home) is a perfect little treasure of a moped. Put away years ago by its owner, perhaps in disgust after a particularly heavy thunderstorm, it needs only a little fettling to restore it to its former (minor) glory. Well, dream on, because that's what happened to me.
It was whilst discussing my newly acquired "project", an Excelsior autocycle (mistakenly believed to be a James by its previous owner!), that I was offered, free, a Villiers-engined moped, "complete, almost running", by Clive, a colleague from the CDT unit at work. Of course, I was sceptical because a cursory look at my Villiers "Bible" by Roy Bacon shows that Villiers didn't build a moped engine. Except, of course, they did: the two-speed 3K.
So it was that I was investigating Clive's shed, where, between evidence of his real love (cars) was wedged a dusty but obviously lovingly restored 1962 Ambassador moped. Originally (according to RB's "Motor Cycles of the 1960s" - incidentally, it and its "30s & 40s" companion volumes seem to be remaindered everywhere now, what a bargain) Ambassadors were made by Ambassador in Ascot but in the 1960s they were bought out by DMW in nearby (to me) Sedgeley. My best guess is that only a few were made, this one being owned in Wolverhampton and Cannock according to its original log-book. Clive was told by the pervious owner that one of its first keepers commuted every day "for years" between Cannock and Wolverhampton. Those who know the area will confirm that this is a very hilly journey of about eight miles each way. There was only one slight catch in this offer of a free moped. Clive wanted the "cherished" registration number of the bike for his "one true love", an MG-C. (Later this "one true love" was ditched for an E-type Jag - fickle, or what?) That didn't seem a problem - I was interested in the bike, not the number plate. Apparently though, the moped needed to be taxed before the transfer, hence it would need to be MoT'd and hence turned into a runner.
My attempt to sneak the Ambassador into the garage before Susan could see it failed, so I leant it against the garage door (no side or prop stand) and had a good look. It is an impressive bit of engineering. The engine is quite large, the Earles-type front forks, mudguards and pressed-steel frame all appearing very solidly built, and looking very presentable in Clive's black Hammerite. The fettling proceeded slowly. The broken exhaust nut was supplied quickly by Villiers Services (followed later by a carb float valve in an attempt to stop the carb flooding). After advice from the man at Bob Joyners, the petrol was replaced with new, then (just as my shaky engineering confidence was waning) success, the engine started! The dodgy back light was traced to a bad earth so the next step was to ride to the aforesaid Bob Joyners (about two miles) for the dreaded MoT.
Not having ridden a moped before, the severe lack of power was seen as what to expect, especially as it was now an easy starter. After a hair-raising ride on the dual carriageway, the bike sailed through the MoT. On the way back, I attempted a different route but found that, on any sort of hill, second gear was hopeless and first gear was capable only of a sub-walking pace. This no-power mode continued for most of the summer. The AM seemed an expensive way to achieve very little. Work (about 5 miles of hills) seemed an unrealistic target. The only moped-related date remaining was the Midlands Run in September, but the week before that the moped, still and easy starter, lost any propulsion power. As my limited knowledge was exhausted by this turn of events, I decided to take the AM on the run anyway: on my bike trailer in hope of advice.
This was a shrewd move because, as well as having a good day out, the general opinion was that ignition was the culprit. And ignition it was, because the mounting plate had worked loose, so causing permanent advance (or retard?). Two screws tightened and the Ambassador was a different animal. Now the Cannock - Wolverhampton journey seemed a reasonable story. Steep hills were easily climbed in first, and even some slight ones on second. Comfort was acceptable at speed with even mid winter journeys not getting too cold, presumably because of the lack of speed. Suddenly a 30mph limit seemed sensible for short journeys, not restrictive.
Recent experience has not been quite so pleasurable. Despite a new fuel-feed valve it often floods. The only way round this (and an intermittent lack of power) is to keep the fuel tap in a nearly closed position. Could it be a symptom of a worn carburettor? Any advice from 3K users would be welcome. Despite this, the first year of use has been, well, interesting if nothing else. I would be perfectly willing to be appointed the marque specialist for Ambassador mopeds in the fairly certain knowledge that this is the only one left!
Moral: keep an eye on next door's shed!
First published - June 1995
David's assertion that his was the only surviving Ambassador moped remained unchallenged for the best part of six years... until NACC member Mark Daniels found one in 2001.
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