I’ve known Dean Percival for many years, and he’s been involved in the scooter scene from his early teens. He’s built custom scooters, formed clubs, raced sidecar combos and is still as keen as ever.
Dean has also been a Scootering cover star, and can be seen here on his Wildcat street racer.
Hailing from the south coast, he grew up in Leigh Park near Portsmouth and now lives on Hayling Island, a stone’s throw from the SWSC rally. A plasterer by trade, he took time out of a busy schedule to share his photos with me and settled into my kitchen for an interview. So we took a trip down memory lane together, a journey which started in the early 80s, like so many others of a certain age!
Dean Percival – My First Rally
How did you first get into scooters?
I was at school when the mod revival happened in the early 80s when I was about 12 or so. Me and my mates got into the music listening to the radio, bands like The Jam, 2 Tone, and also the fashion side of things, buying a Harrington. My brother Kev was a teddy boy so I definitely didn’t follow his fashion style!
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I bought my first scooter, an SX, from Nick Astell for £100 and ended up paying him about a fiver a week for it, in 1985. It was never road legal – nothing was with me until about 1988 when I completed my ban for no tax and insurance! I didn’t even take my test until about 1998!
I then bought another Lambretta in 1986 from Dougie Peters from Littlehampton, which I stripped down and rebuilt myself. It was called Stray Cat and won most outstanding scooter at Weston in 1987.
What was your first scooter rally?
Me and my mates heard there was a gathering in Bognor, which must have been in 1983, so we went down on the train. We saw all the scooters outside the amusements and it was brilliant! There were clubs like the Midhurst Detours there, and we just hung around looking at them all and I loved it! My first proper rally was Torquay, in 1984, when I was only 14.
How did you get the money to go?
I was still at school but I had a paper round and helped the milkman out to earn a few pennies. I sold my alarm clock to my auntie for a fiver to get the petrol money!
How did you get there?
I was on the back of Chris Epps, who had an SX. He was local to me and we rode to Portsmouth to meet with some others, which turned out to be a big group of the Cardinals SC, along with back-up van. It was brilliant to ride in a group but we were at the back of the pack and broke down at Chideock in Dorset. The others had all gone on ahead so we were stuck, and obviously it was in the days before mobile phones so we couldn’t get hold of anyone to rescue us. The scooter was knackered and eventually a guy came along on a C90 step-through and offered us a lift! As I was so young I was the lucky one so jumped on the back and headed off to Torquay with him. Half way there, I realised I wasn’t so lucky as we were overtaken by a Cortina with Chris waving out of the window!
I got dropped off in the town and spotted the Cardinals van outside a pub. I was too scared to go in on my own but luckily one of the club came out and recognised this little kid who had set off with them. He dragged me in the pub and got me drunk with the rest of them!
Where did you stay when you were there?
We just kipped around a fire!
Were you in a club at the time?
I became a ‘half member’ of the Cardinals, a sort of mascot, as I was so young and couldn’t get a scooter until I was 16. In 1986 I started the Stray Cats SC and we grew to about 60 members in just a few months. But it was quite short-lived and only lasted about eight months or so! I was in the Modrapheniacs for about eight or ten years, as well as the LCGB.
Do you have any memories of the rally itself? Any funny moments?
I remember Johnny Barnett tearing up the campsite on his Vega!
Was the journey home eventful?
We stopped for breakfast at Bridport on the way home and while we were eating a load of casuals from Bournemouth turned up and were all over the scooters. We all piled out and there was a massive riot! We were doing alright in the fight but then a coach turned up, full of Bournemouth football supporters, and it turned into the Battle Of Bridport! One of our lot, Rob Swayles, had broke his leg and as everyone was trying to escape on scooters and in the van he was limping along, trying to get away. The van was pulling away so we flung open the back doors and he was hopping along on his crutches and leapt inside just in time!
Do you remember what your favourite rally anthem of that period was? What type of music were you into?
I loved a bit of Northern Soul and can remember the music blaring out from the record stalls on the campsite. The song that sticks in my head is Fortune Teller.
What was your favourite custom scooter of that era?
I loved Exile and Italian Stallion.
Here is Itallian Stallion from my 80s Custom Scooters which also features Exile and a host of others!
What other rallies do you remember from those days?
I remember going to Colwyn Bay in 1984 and the Cardinals had an ambulance which I went in the back of. On the Friday night it was tipping with rain on the M6 and I remember meeting Anthony Green and a mate from the Detours at a service station where they’d broken down. So we managed to squeeze them and their scooter in to the back of the ambulance and took them the rest of the way. I don’t think they had really wanted to ride in the rain and had pretended to break down – I swear they jumped on the scooter at the other end and just rode off!
I did a few rallies in 84 – Weston, Torquay, Newark, Isle of Wight, Colwyn Bay and Skegness – and was chuffed to do so many at a young age when I was only 14.
Tell me about the racing side of things
I got into racing about 15 years ago, being involved with the BSSO and the Hampshire Union Race Team. I got into it through my brother, Kev, and Allstyles Scooters. We went to the Isle Of Man for the 50th Lambretta anniversary and took the sidecar outfit to race at Jurby Airfield. I put it in the sprint meeting and won! I had a couple of passengers in those days, Samuel Humphreys from Leigh Park and Paul Mason from the Modrapheniacs.
I did a few meetings at places like Santa Pod, where I won best Street Class on the Wildcat. That scooter was buit by me, Kev and Gary Wells with the late, great Geoff Stevens doing the tuning on it. The paint was done by Brian Shepherd from Fantasy Bike Art and I was clocked at 98mph on the road on it once, when my mates from work persuaded me to take it out and they followed me in their van! The van gave up at 94mph and I was still pulling away.
I only raced for a few seasons but really enjoyed it.
Do you still have a scooter now? What do you ride?
I bought a Lambretta chop, Captain Pugwash, and still have Stray Cat which I’m doing up again. I was going to do it up with modern bits like a hydraulic clutch and other bits and bobs but then realised I was taking it away from its 80s roots, so have decided to keep it like an original 80s cutdown. I found an original Dave Webster rearset recently which recently came up for sale so I’ll use that, it’s like the final piece to the puzzle.
I still have my Wildcat too.
What do scooters mean to you now?
It’s a way of life isn’t it? It’s definitely in my blood forever…
Thanks so much to Dean for sharing his stories of those early scootering days.
To get the lowdown on the 2019 rallies, check out my guide here to everything that’s in the calendar so far.
With Christmas fast approaching, here are some ideas for the scooter lover in your life!
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If you’d like to read more from my First Rally series, here are the other scooterists I’ve featured :
- Dave Lloyd, top scooter DJ and restorer
- Steve Bone, scooter adventurer, Darkside co-founder
- Dizzy Holmes, from Detour Records and the National Bulldog Rescue
- Norrie Kerr, Vespa legend
- Sticky, scooter author, mechanic and adventurer
- Sean Robinson, chief Garagista
- Jo Jackson, psychobilly queen and original Alcoholic Rat
- Lee Richards, owner of Meat Is Murder and the unfortunate guy who is married to me!
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