In the beginning, Vespa had a serious opponent. Lambretta was a company with a similar history to Piaggio’s. Though Lambretta scooters were considered identically stylish, Vespa retained the larger share of the market. During the 1970s and 80s, more competition came on the market with India and the Southeast mass producing low-end, cheaper scooters for a market that worked to their advantage. However, most of those scooter models were based on Vespa licenses, and if you speak to someone who knows about scooters, there is only one brand worth mentioning, and that’s Vespa.
Over 16 million Vespa motor scooters have been produced in 13 countries and sold around the globe. From those first words, “It looks like a wasp!” Enrico Piaggio did not know that it was the beginning of a long and successful undertaking. From the first production venture in 1946, even the Italian language was inspired with the word “vespare,” or to go somewhere on a Vespa.
In spite of financial hardships in the 1980s and 90s, and several changes in proprietorship, the Piaggio Company and the Vespa brand are well-known and respected. The 21st Century has witnessed the reintroduction of Vespas in the North America market as well. Today, the Vespa scooter has taken on a more high-end worldly type style for long distance drives due to key upgrades in engine efficiency and supremacy. Piaggio launched the MP3 in 2007, a model vehicle with two-wheels in front and one in the back. A state-of-the-art suspension and computer monitored fuel injection makes the MP3 a modernistic and much desired scooter. For a large number of people, the Vespa is the idea combination of style, design, practicality, elegance, and functionality. It simply works! The Vespa is timeless; it goes beyond the fickleness of trends and exceeds the dimensions of time.
It is amazing that Piaggio has managed to keep the Vespa alive through so many decades. In fact, the Vespa scooter was always available, practical, and desired; it has also managed to maintain its appeal of the 20th century into the 21st century. In the beginning, the Vespa was a mundane green machine, offering a war torn country a semblance of vibrancy and life. Then, it became more elegant offering Vespa lovers a pearl white color, creating style and a fashionable sophistication driving the two-wheeled wonder from a necessity to representing high-style and the good life.
Manufacturers and market specialists were hesitant; on one side there were those who saw a future for Vespa and felt it was a superb idea, on the other side were the skeptics who were soon to be surprised. At the end of 1947 produced expanded and the next year the Vespa 125 was on the scene. This was a bigger model that would soon eventually be crowned the progeny of the first Vespa 98.
In fact, taking a look at the original Vespas, especially the Vespa 98 1946, 125 1948, 125U 1953, 125U 1953 Utility Version, 150 GS 1955, 160 GS 1962, 50cc 1964, 180 SS 1965, and 125 1966, you will find a stunningly rich collection of pastel hues. The colors seem to evolve with the feeling of enthusiasm that Vespa implied to their many customers. Though they were designed for any age, there is an eternal youth that surrounds each Vespa model.
The revolution of Vespa coincided with various other entertaining and lively concepts, including mass advertising campaigns such as those used on the slogan “Vespizzatevi” or “Vespa yourselves!.” Piaggio was also accomplished at producing spontaneous customer organizations like the Vespa Clubs, along with their own magazine and facilities. Vespa also had a union of riders that was inaugurated in 1949, and during that same year, a young lady from Naples by the name of Graziella Bontempo won the first Miss Vespa title. The Vespa has been sanctified as an icon of Italian steadfastness, joy, undying spirit, beauty, and Italian eloquence and quality.
Referring to an earlier timeline, at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s was indicative of ground-breaking designs and technical advancement in Vespa scooters. Scooters with large frames developed into the PX collection that began in 1978 with the Vespa 125 PX. This model was completely redesigned with a spare tire and compartment concealed at the rear of the cowling along with spanking new performance indicators, indicating a genuine transformation in more powerful scooters never seen before in Vespa history.
Vespa introduced the new P 200 E that consisted of a 200cc engine later in the year. Small framed scooters where placed in a new classification in the PK line, which launched with the 1983 Vespa Pk 50. This was the start of fresh beginnings for utility scooters, specifically with its stronger relative, the 1984 Vespa OK 125 Automatic pioneered automatic transmission. The Vespa PK 50 became part of the 1984 model design as well and an innovation in Vespa scooters manifested. Something else rocked the world of scooters in 1989, when the Vespa 50 N featured for the first time a 50cc engine with the capability of outputting more than 2bhp. This was a first in Vespa history.
A highlight for the company came about with its 50th anniversary, where a completely new compilation of Vespa ET4 in 1996, were the first Vespa scooters to run by a four-stroke engine. In addition, it has a disc brake and a completely automatic transmission. A few years later, the most powerful Vespa in its history, the 2003 Vespa GT 200 was launched. The freshly designed GT amalgamates the traditional Vespa design with the revolutionary four-stroke, four-valve, liquid cooled robust 200cc engine, while also adhering to all vital environmental policies.
From the special edition for Vespa’s 60th anniversary in 2006, the story of the two-wheeled sensation is brought to the present. In 2013, the 2014 Vespa 946 was launched. It has created a buzz as one of the best modern scooters ever designed while maintaining a “vintage” charm so widely loved in earlier models.
Vespa scooters became a sensation during the 1950s, and Hollywood films played a big part in this popularity. In the 1952 film Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn rode a Vespa, which helped the company sell more than 100,000 scooters. Other Hollywood stars like Dean Martin, Marlon Brando, and Abbe Lane jumped on the Vespa bandwagon as well and became a part of the global phenomenon that has continued since Vespa’s inception. Fan club membership for Vespa began to flourish and the company took part in this growth by working on and improving the original design. The Vespa 125 came into fruition in 1948, and featured a spanking new rear suspension, while the front wheel was positioned to the left of the column for ameliorated riding steadiness.
The 1953 Vespa 125 U is one of the most memorable and highly sought after Vespa models in history. It‘s a collector‘s dream! The “U” in the model’s name means “utility,” and it was comparatively inexpensive to vie with their competitor Lambretta. Moreover, this model is the first Vespa to have a headlamp positioned near the handlebar. The 1955 Vespa 150 GS, which stands for Gran Sport,, was the start of the huge more powerfully frame scooters for the Vespa brand and afterwards production of GS was also modified so that the electrical wires were concealed inside the body of the scooter whereas before, the network of wires were situated directly atop of the handlebar.
The 1960 Vespa 150 Standard with model numbers beginning with VBB, skyrocketed to fame as Vespa’s largest frame models in history. During the 1960s, Vespa essentially began producing two diverse lines of scooters. Small frame less expensive scooters, up to 125cc displacement, were all founded on the three-speed Vespa 50 V5A concept from 1963. One of the key motives for the smaller scooters was the price together with the convenience of not needing a driver’s license to operate the scooter.
Later, this collection developed into the PK scooters in the 1980s. A more powerful frame design began with 125cc engines, all a consequence from the most revolutionary Vespa 125 N of 1960. This scooter was very distinctive from all the other Vespas throughout its history. For example, this model included shock absorber mounting, four-speed transmission, a carburetor linked to the cylinder, concealed cables, and alloy handlebars. In fact, this model became the criterion for large framed scooters changed into the PX line at the end of the 1970s.
It was during the year 1946, that Enrico Piaggio asked that his engineer develop a vehicle, one that could offer simple transportation for the suffering populace. With dedication and determination, the Vespa scooter was created.
Vespa’s past figuratively begins with the brilliant aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, who was an employee of Piaggio since the 1930s. D’Ascanio was asked to create a vehicle that was easy to operate for both men and women with the option to carry a passenger and their possessions. Another requirement was protection from the mud on the war torn roads. This would serve to keep the driver and passenger safe from the mud and dirt that filled the streets.
The 1946 98D’Ascanio, who by the way is also accredited with the idea of the modern helicopter and who was known to abhor motorcycles, fashioned a scooter with a back-mounted engine, powerful steel frame, firm suspension, broad front protective panel, and a simple twist-grip gear selector designed on the handlebar. After viewing the fresh prototype, Enrico proclaimed, “it looks a wasp!” This is supposedly the authentic means by which the Vespa got its name, which would become famous around the world.
Within its first two years, the 98cc Vespa model sold 12,500 units and enhanced the Italian language with the feisty word “vespare,” which means to travel on a Vespa. The Vespa scooter has become a token of an about-face from carnage and combat to peace. Over a million Vespas were sold within the first ten years.
Known for their tough spirit and never-give-in attitude, the second-generation company proprietor Enrico Piaggio was inspired by the idea of a two-wheeled, low-cost vehicle that would be easily affordable and dependable. Something idea for a financially skimped Italians who still needed to move around. Legend has it that Enrico was enthused by staff members, who had difficulty getting back and forth through the Piaggio facility due to a huge segment of it being destroyed. However, this same myth about Vespa is told about its competitor Lambretta as well, therefore, the authenticity of the story is dubious.
All the same, Piaggio contacted an aircraft engineer by the name of Corradino D’Ascanio to create a design. Undisturbed by any fixed idea of what a scooter or motorcycle should look like and helped by his expertise designing powerful lightweight aircraft frameworks, D’Ascanio produced a prototype from unused parts that satisfied all of Enrico Piaggo’s requirements for a new two-wheel vehicle. The only thing missing was a name. Due to the shape and sound of the engine, Enrico came up with the word “Wasp,” and of course, the Italian word for wasp, is “vespa.”
There’s no doubt that Vespa is the most celebrated two-wheeled vehicle of the 20th Century and beyond. This is no small feat coming from the ruins of postwar Europe and formulating a means of transportation for the populace. Nevertheless, Vespa proved to be a winner and became a trendy lifestyle statement. The maker and designer of the Vespa is a company called Piaggio, which was originally established in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio. However, their focus was on heavy Through two World Wars, Piaggio became a well-known and respected manufacturer of planes in Italy.
During the 1940s, the company was successful and manufactured a variety of transportation vehicles from trolleys to trucks, engines, planes, and railway cars. Sadly, World War II took its toll and economic collapse for the country shattered the main factory in Pontedera.
The Italian manufacturing industry suffered terribly under allied bombing and of those devastated were the industries suited for wartime production. As the Italian economy struggled with most of their manufacturing capabilities in despair, the Piaggio family mulled over a means of reinventing the family business. Though they were skilled at producing aircraft, the demand was considerably reduced in post-war Italy.
To reconstruct the Pontedera factories, Enrico Piaggio requested the Allies, who were in occupation of segments of the grounds of the buildings still erect, to organize transport for the machinery moved to Germany and Biella in northern Italy to be returned. This was carried out swiftly and Enrico and Armando Piaggio began the task of rebuilding. The most difficult undertaking was Enrico’s responsibility for the demolished factories of Pontedera and Pisa.
Enrico Piaggio’s choice to dive into the light mobility industry was decided due to economic assessments and sociological examination. It manifested thanks to the successful collaboration and vision of the aeronautical engineer and inventor, Corradino D’Ascanio.