Director Food and Nutrition Services
Riddle Memorial Hospital
Hometown: Levittown, Pa.
Education: B.S., Penn State University; certified executive chef, American Culinary Federation; M.B.A., University of Phoenix
Children: Jonathan, 9
Erik Schunk, director of food and nutrition services at 252-bed Riddle Memorial Hospital, stumbled upon an old Lambretta motor scooter when he was searching for car parts in a junkyard. The antique scooter intrigued Schunk so much that he has spent the past 23 years restoring, riding and occasionally courting danger with the bikes.
“Lambretta motor scooters were a competitor to Vespas from about 1949 to 1978. Lambrettas were manufactured until 1990, but they are no longer being manufactured today. A company named Lambretta USA sells a plastic scooter now but they really have very little in common with the old Lambrettas except the name. In the ’80s, they became sort of a cult-type thing in the States.
I’ve always had a knack for fixing things. Lambrettas can be temperamental. I work on them for seven hours and then drive them for seven hours before they stop working.
The oldest Lambretta I ever restored was a 1958 LD150, which I dragged out from underneath a rusted out tractor trailer in a junkyard. I was actually looking for car parts. I found something and I didn’t know what the heck it was, and that was the first one I started working on.
I’ve done a total of 12. Because they have been out of production for so long getting parts is very challenging. There are about five places in the U.S. that still have a supply. Lambrettas are easier to restore than some bikes because they don’t have a computer and the engines are very basic. The complicated part is finding the parts. When you do find parts, oftentimes they are very rusted.
I find my parts through connections with others. I network with a group of people through a Yahoo group online and I find some parts on eBay. I keep in touch with others through e-mail or through events.
I found this one Lambretta in a barn. This woman was selling it for $200—this was in the late ‘80s. But she said I could have it for $50 if I got it myself. There was so much stuff piled around and on it. The engine was completely intact and in perfect condition. So I put that engine in another bike. I call that my ‘barn find,’ where the part is still good, but other times it’s a complete nightmare.
I just finished restoring a 1964 Lambretta Cento. This is one of the fewer than 50 Centos on the road in the U.S. It took me four years to restore because I had to find and wait for parts. I eventually found this guy in Italy. That was tough. My Italian is not good.
I got myself in trouble with this 1979 Serveatta—a Spanish Lambretta—Li 150. I put a piston and a cylinder on it from a Yamaha motorcycle. This bike was designed to go 50 mph and I got it up to 80 mph. The reason I know I got it up to 80 mph was because I passed a car while driving on the highway. I looked through the window at the speedometer and they were going 70. On 12”-inch wheels, that is a little frightening.
Restoring these bikes is like therapy for me. You aren’t an owner of a Lambretta. You are just a caretaker. You bring it back and then share it with others. They are a giant puzzle to put back together and get up and running. It took me two years just to get the engine of one working. The first time I heard that engine it was amazing. I was standing there with a fire extinguisher—I should add that they do catch fire sometimes—but the engine started. Now I am down to four because my fiancé gets very nervous with me driving in traffic. The fires also probably don’t help.”