Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio.
The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy—to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio—now Europe's largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles and the world's fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales.
From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.
The Vespa was the first globally successful scooter.
Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera fighter plane plant demolished by bombing. Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.
The inspiration for the design of the Vespa dates back to Pre-WWII Cushman scooters made in Nebraska, USA. These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by Washington as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines. The US military had used them to get around Nazi defense tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites (a section of the Alps) and the Austrian border areas.
In 1944, Piaggio engineers Renzo Spolti and Vittorio Casini designed a motorcycle with bodywork fully enclosing the drivetrain and forming a tall splash guard at the front. In addition to the bodywork, the design included handlebar-mounted controls, forced air cooling, wheels of small diameter, and a tall central section that had to be straddled. Officially known as the MP5 ("Moto Piaggio no. 5"), the prototype was nicknamed "Paperino".
Enrico Piaggio was displeased with the MP5, especially the tall central section. He contracted aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio, to redesign the scooter. D'Ascanio, who had earlier been consulted by Ferdinando Innocenti about scooter design and manufacture, made it immediately known that he hated motorcycles, believing them to be bulky, dirty, and unreliable.
D'Ascanio's MP6 prototype had its engine mounted beside the rear wheel. The wheel was driven directly from the transmission, eliminating the drive chain and the oil and dirt associated with it. The prototype had a unit spar frame with stress-bearing steel outer panels. These changes allowed the MP6 to have a step-through design without a centre section like that of the MP5 Paperino. The MP6 design also included a single sided front suspension, interchangeable front and rear wheels mounted on stub axles, and a spare wheel. Other features of the MP6 were similar to those on the Paperino, including the handlebar-mounted controls and the enclosed bodywork with the tall front splash guard.
Upon seeing the MP6 for the first time Enrico Piaggio exclaimed: "Sembra una vespa!" ("It resembles a wasp!") Piaggio effectively named his new scooter on the spot. Vespa is both Latin and Italian for wasp—derived from the vehicle's body shape: the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod resembled antennae. The name also refers to the high-pitched noise of the two-stroke engine.
On 23 April 1946, at 12 o'clock in the central office for inventions, models and makes of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Florence, Piaggio e C. S.p.A. took out a patent for a "motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part".
The basic patented design allowed a series of features to be deployed on the spar-frame which would later allow quick development of new models. The original Vespa featured a rear pillion seat for a passenger, or optionally a storage compartment. The original front protection "shield" was a flat piece of aero metal; later this developed in to a twin skin to allow additional storage behind the front shield, similar to the glove compartment in a car. The fuel cap was located underneath the (hinged) seat, which saved the cost of an additional lock on the fuel cap or need for additional metal work on the smooth skin.
The scooter had rigid rear suspension and small 8-inch (200 mm) wheels that allowed a compact design and plenty of room for the rider's legs. The Vespa's enclosed, horizontally-mounted two-stroke 98 cc engine acted directly on the rear drive wheel through a three-speed transmission. The twistgrip-controlled gear change involved a system of rods. The early engine had no cooling, but fan blades were soon attached to the flywheel (otherwise known as the magneto, which houses the points and generates electricity for the bike and for the engine's spark) to push air over the cylinder's cooling fins. The modern Vespa engine is still cooled this way. The mixture of two-stroke oil in the fuel produced high amounts of smoke, and the engine made a high buzzing sound like a wasp.
|Vespa Chopper Modification|
|Vespa Chopper Modification|
The MP6 prototype had large grilles on the front and rear of the rear fender covering the engine. This was done to allow air in to cool the engine, as the prototype did not have fan cooling. A cooling fan similar to that used on the MP5 "Paperino" prototype was included in the design of the production Vespa, and the grilles were removed from the fender.
Sales and development
Piaggio sold some 2,500 Vespas in 1947, over 10,000 in 1948, 20,000 in 1949, and over 60,000 in 1950.
The biggest sales promo ever was Hollywood. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck's Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales. In 1956, John Wayne dismounted his horse in favor of the two-wheeler to originally get between takes on sets. By the end of the fifties, Lucia Bosé and her husband, the matador Luis Miguel Dominguín, as well as Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and the entertainer Abbe Lane had become Vespa owners. William Wyler filmed Ben Hur in Rome in 1959, allowing Charlton Heston to abandon horse and chariot between takes to take a spin on the Vespa.
Vespa clubs popped up throughout Europe, and by 1952, worldwide Vespa Club membership had surpassed 50,000. By the mid-1950s, Vespas were being manufactured under licence in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Spain; in the 1960s, production was started in India, Brazil and Indonesia. By 1956, one million had been sold, then two million by 1960. By the 1960s, the Vespa—originally conceived as a utility vehicle—had come to symbolize freedom and imagination, and resulted in further sales boosts: four million by 1970, and ten million by the late 1980s. Between 1957 and 1961 a reverse-engineered and partially redesigned version of the Vespa was made in USSR under the name Vjatka-VP150.
Improvements were made to the original design and new models were introduced. The 1948 Vespa 125 had rear suspension and a bigger engine. The headlamp was moved up to the handlebars in 1953, and had more engine power and a restyled rear fairing. A cheaper spartan version was also available. One of the best-loved models was the Vespa 150 GS introduced in 1955 with a 150 cc engine, a long saddle, and the faired handlebar-headlamp unit. Then came the 50 cc of 1963, and in 1968 Vespa 125 Primavera became one of the most durable of all.
T5 Millennium from the PX series
Vespas came in two sizes, referred to as "largeframe" and "smallframe". The smallframe scooters came in 50 cc, 90 cc, 100 cc, and 125 cc versions, all using an engine derived from the 50 cc model of 1963, and the largeframe scooters in 125 cc, 150 cc, 160 cc, 180 cc, and 200 cc displacements using engines derived from the redesigned 125 cc engine from the late 1950s.
The largeframe Vespa evolved into the PX range (produced in 125 and 150 cc versions until July 2007) in the late 1970s. The smallframe evolved into the PK range in the early '80s, although some vintage-styled smallframes were produced for the Japanese market as late as the mid 1990s.
There have been 138 different versions of the Vespa. Today five series are in production: the classic manual-transmission PX and the modern CVT transmission S, LX, GT, and GTS.
* Paperino – the original prototype made in 1945 at Biella
* Vespa 150 TAP – A Vespa modified by the French military that incorporated an antitank weapon.
* VNC Super 125
* VBC Super 150
* VLB Sprint 150
* VBA Standard 150
* VBB Standard 150
* 125 GT
* VNB 125
* Vespa U - U is for utilitaria (English - economic). 1953 model with a price of 110 mila Lire (about US$175), 7,000 were produced
* GS 150
* GS 160
* SS 180
* Standard 90 (3 spd)
* Standard 50 (3 spd)
* SS50 (4 spd)
* SS90 (4 spd)-90 SS Super Sprint
* 150 GL
* 90 Racer
* 125 TS
* 100 Sport
* 125 GTR
* 150 Sprint
* 150 Sprint Veloce (Vespa Sprint)
* 180 SS Super Sport
* Rally 180
* Rally 200
* 125 Nuova (VMA-1T) - Prelude to Primavera
* Primavera 125 also ET3 (3 port version)
* PK 50
* PK 50 XL
* PK 50 Roma (Automatic)
* 50 S
* 50 Special
* 50 Special Elestart
* 50 Sprinter / 50 SR (D)
* 50 Special Revival (Limited to 3,000 Italy-only numbered units, released in 1991)
* COSA 1 - 125 cc, 150 cc, 200 cc
* COSA 2 - 125 cc, 150 cc, 200 cc
* P 80 / P 80 E (France)
* P 80 X/PX 80 E (France)
* PK 80 S / Elestart
* PK 80 S Automatica / Elestart
* PK 100 S / Elestart
* PK 100 S Automatica
* PK 100 XL
* PK 125 XL / Elestart
* PK 125 S
* PK 125 E
* PK 125 automatica (automatic transmission)
* P 125 X
* PX 125 E/Electronic
* P 200 E
* PX 200 E FL
* PX 200 Serie Speciale (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
* T5 / Elestart (5 port engine 125 cc P series)
* T5 Classic (5 port engine 125 cc P series)
* T5 Millennium (5 port engine 125 cc P series) (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
* ET2 50 - 2-stroke
* ET4 50 - 4-stroke
* ET4 125 (Euro Model)
* ET4 150 (Euro Model)
* ET4 150 (US model)
* ET8 150 (Eastern model)
* GT 125 (Granturismo 125)
* GT 200 (Granturismo 200)
* PX 125
* PX 150 (reintroduced to US and Canadian Markets in 2004)
* PX 200
# LX 50
# LX 125
# LX 150
# LXV 50 (60th anniversary variant of LX50)
# LXV 125 (60th anniversary variant of LX125)
# GT 60° 250 cc Limited Edition. 999 produced worldwide in unique colours and each one receiving a commemorative badge, personalized with the owner’s initials. Features the front-fender-mounted headlight, shared only with the GTV 250.
# GTS 125
# GTS 250ie
# GTS 250 ie abs
# GTS 250 Super
# GTS 300 Super (2008)
# GTV 125 (60th anniversary variant of GTS 125)
# GTV 250 (60th anniversary variant of GTS 250) Features the fender mounted headlight as a tribute to the original Vespas.
# PX 30 125 (A limited edition, only 1000 produced to celebrate the 30 years of the P range)
# S 50 and S 125 new model 2007, introduced at Milan Motorshow November 2006
# S 150 (2008)
# Zafferano 50 cc and 125 cc (A limited edition, only 200 produced)