Seventhy years of history since 1946.
Seventhy years of history since 1946.
In April 1946, this amazing new, functional and innovative mode of transport was presented to the general public for the first time in a Golf Club in Rome. The shield was embossed with a new logo which replaced the previous Piaggio Aircraft emblem. Vespa was an immediate success and gained extensive media interest as well as public curiosity, surprise and even skepticism. The first sales of Vespa were managed through a small dealer network and the price of the standard model was 55,000 lire, while the deluxe version was sold for 66,000 lire.
The Vespa 98 Corsa was built specifically to show the world the capacity of the small scooter to be competitive in races. The great swarm of Vespa which was growing in the streets and squares of Italy, motivated Enrico Piaggio to produce an aggressive vehicle, which could be an on track winner. The first to ride the Vespa 98 on circuit was Giuseppe Cau who triumphed in the Monte Mario Hill Climb in 1947. The Vespa 98 Corsa (Circuit) was built for speed and stood for innovation. The body was hand built with a steel frame. The brakes were drum, equipped with rear air vents for the cooling. The gearbox was three-speed, which enabled throttle control and the cooling was happened through an air forced ventilation. Its original color was red, that’s why this model was also known as the small "fireball".
16,500 models of the second series of Vespa 98 were ever produced. This model offered signifacnt improvements over its predecessor both in terms of the aesthetics and technical specifications. Aswell as this it now featured a spare wheel just in case the rider got a puncture ,which was highly likely due to the awful post-war road conditions; this highly functional element soon became one of Vespa's most recognisable design features. The Vespa 98 was introduced with a new and improved headlamp and a metallic silver colour which reminded of the Piaggio aircraft business. Magazines reported there would be a waiting list of 8 months to get a Vespa 98 and for this reason, a thriving black market blossomed, in which Vespa was sold twice the starting price, even reaching a price of 125,000 lire!
In 1949 Vespa was first built with a race chassis which was made from the same aluminium alloy used for the construction of aircraft and was assembled with rivets, alloy wheels and technology which was highly advanced during the 40's.
The fuel tank and steering position, gave the rider more autonomy which resulted in the optimisation of high speed riding. Vespa 125cc Corsa participated to many competitions and celebrated many prestigious victories in 1950, with the riders Giuseppe Cau and Dino Mazzoncini achieving the first and second place in the Grand Prix of Bologna; In the same year Cau also won at the Circuit of Perugia riding Vespa 125 in the race No. 38. Worldwide only six copies of this model along with some prototypes were ever produced by Piaggio.
In 1948 Piaggio launched a new Vespa. Between 1946 and 1947 1183 Vespas 125cc were sold and marketed abroad (particularly in Switzerland). At the end of 1947 Enrico Piaggio decided to completely stop the production of Vespa 98cc and to only continue with the 125cc for the Italian and international markets. Some other model adaptations included the front suspension arm, the engine hood which was lifted up to permit an easier access to the engine and to other mechanical components. The next series of the 1949 Vespa, which is today on display in the Piaggio Museum, looked even better with the new cooling system and the renewed gearbox controls.
Very similar to the pattern of 1948, the sales during 1951 were on the increase due to improved technology and aesthetics. The model of 1951 even became famous in its cinema debut in the romantic and unforgettable movie Roman Holiday which told the love story of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Rome.
Aesthetically very similar to Vespa 125, the "Six Days" differed due to the fuel tank benefitting of a wraparound shield and the right side bag which accommodated a larger carburetor. The name came from the participation at the Twenty-sixth International Six Days in 1951, in which nine gold medals were won. The Piaggio Racing Team was composed of: Biasci, Cau, Crabs, Mazzoncini, Merlo, Nesti, Opesso, Riva, Romano and Vivaldi. The Vespa 125 "six days" also won the trophy of the Italian Motorcycle Federation in 1951, which saw three riders dominate on Italian Vespas (Giuseppe Cau, Miro Riva, Bruno Romano).
Only 7,000 copies of the U Vespa scooter were ever produced, making this model one of the most sought after by collectors. Created in 1953 as the economic model - the letter "U" stands for utility - it was designed to counteract Lambretta’s competition and got sold on the market for 110 dollars. For the first time the headlight was mounted at the height of the handlebars instead of the front fender.
The GS 150 was a milestone in the history of the scooter, not only for Vespa but for the whole market. It is remembered as the most beautiful scooter ever produced in the world and is now highly sort after. In the 50's the market also changed and Vespa became a symbol for young people to distinguish themselves. For the first time a vehicle for the mass market was created with a quieter engine and breathtaking performances.
The Vespa 150 GS had sports credentials which were a direct result of the experience of the Piaggio racing team. The engine had a direct admission into the cylinder and was capable of 8 hp at 7500 rpm, the gearbox had four gears. The elongated seat and the large 10-inch wheels fundamentally altered the Vespa line. A pre-series version of this model is now on display at the Piaggio Museum.
Produced in two colours, grey and beige, the 1958 Vespa 125cc marked an era.
This was the first Vespa with a body which was made by the conjunction of two sheet metal halves. This type of frame had considerable advantages in terms of industrial production and from 1958 started to be used on all models. With the new design a new compact engine was also integrated.
The Vespa 150 (VBA) was presented in 1958 with a few changes. The color was similar to its predecessors (metallic blue), however the side panels were decorated with some aluminium air vents and the rear light was larger and fully chromed. This model became a great success thanks to its elegance and functionality and made its debut during the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960.
The Super Sprint 90 model was undoubtedly the most original designed by Vespa. The shield got reduced in its size and the top box objects were placed between the seat and the handlebars. The spare wheel, like for the Vespa GS 1955, was housed within the centre of the footrest platform. The 90 SS, like the Vespa 50, is among the most sought after models and a real collectors item.
Derived from the 125 VMA1, the Vespa 125 "Primavera" since its release was an immediate success. Performance, agile handling and a powerful engine were all attributes which made the Vespa Primavera such a success in the sixties. The Primavera was aimed at young people and Piaggio developed the slogan "With a Vespa you can be" for its launch. It was thought for 16 year olds who loved sports and living outdoors and who did not want to be late for socialising with friends due to city traffic. The main feature of this scooter was the longer chassis, which made it even easier to carry a second passenger.
After the great success of the Vespa 180, in 1972 Piaggio developed a model that was powered for the first time by a 200cc engine. The response to this new product was amazing, with people waiting months to take delivery of one. Aesthetically, the Vespa Rally 200 is immediately recognisable by the white graphics on the chassis as well as the housing, and at the time it had the most powerful engine with electronic ignition. Over 41,700 Vespa Rally 200 models were produced from 1972 to 1979.
Vespa enters the third millennium without losing its elegant lines and distinguishable design. However due to years of experience it was more technologically innovative and it reached new heights in terms of comfort. The new generation of Vespa was available in three versions: Vespa ET4, equipped with an environmentally friendly 4-stroke 125cc engine, Vespa ET2, with a modern and reliable two-stroke engine and the Vespa ET2 Injection, powered by the FAST ( Fully Atomized Stratified Turbulence). These were the first two-wheelers with two-stroke direct injection engines that allowed the rider to reduce fuel consumption up to -30% and the emission up to -70%.
For its Seventieth anniversary, Piaggio group makes a tribute to the best loved scooter of all time, with a special version of it