”If you can put it together, you can ride it!”. That was the reaction of 13 year old Arto Lepistö’s father when the teenager turned up with a box full of Zündapp moped parts at the family home in Lapua. Little did he know at the time that this fascination with rebuilding motorbikes would turn into a life time hobby – and one that shows no signs of slowing down.
Since the end of the 1970s Arto has restored over twenty different motorcycles originating from all corners of the world. His particular passion has been restoring and modifying elderly Russian-built bikes and he still has three of these in his garage: a two-stroke 350cc IC dating from 1954, a four-stroke Ural M-72 with sidecar from 1960 equipped with a 750cc boxer motor and a Ukrainian Dnepr MT10 with sidecar built in 1975 which was originally powered by a four stroke 650cc boxer.
This latter project was brought to a successful conclusion in the summer of 2017 but not after substantial modification – 49% of the bike (the maximum vehicle inspectors allow) now consists of bits and pieces from other manufacturers including Honda, Kawasaki and Harley Davidson. The chassis, for instance, had to be widened and lengthened to accommodate a 900ccc engine borrowed from an old Fiat 127.
So what drives him to spend so many hours restoring elderly motorcycles? Simple – an interest in motorcycle engineering and respect for classic models. The challenge, the fun, is in taking a motorcycle that has seen better days, and for which spare parts no longer can be bought, and turning it into a working, roadworthy machine. His latest project? Fitting a 500cc four stroke Suzuki motor to a Russian IC ATV that will eventually serve as a workhorse at the Lepistö summer cottage.
And what about riding these restored bikes? Yes, in summer that too is part of the pleasure and over the years Arto has made extensive trips on the Turku-Rauma-Pori axle as well as in eastern Finland close to the border with Russia. Is there money to be made in restoring and selling old motorcycles? Arto laughs out loud: the only benefit is gaining more space for the next project he explains. “I guess I’m always looking for fresh challenges”.
Last autumn Arto was elected to the delegate body of local cooperative bank KSOP and next autumn provincial elections are almost certainly in store. Can we expect to see him as a candidate? Arto’s answer is emphatic: “Naturally it’s nice to see the bank from the inside – in my previous posts that wasn’t possible. But I have no other ambitions. My grandchildren and my motorcycles fully occupy my time!”