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Vespa History


The Beginning

Vespa's timeless design comes from an equally timeless company - Piaggio has been a distinguished innovator in the field of transportation for nearly 120 years.

Piaggio was founded in Genoa, Italy in 1884 by twenty-year-old Rinaldo Piaggio. Rinaldo's business began with luxury ship fitting. But by the end of the century, Piaggio was also producing rail carriages, luxury coaches, truck bodies, engines, and trains.

With the onset of World War I, the company forged new ground with the production of airplanes and seaplanes. In 1917 Piaggio bought a new plant in Pisa, and four years later it took over a small plant in Pontedera in the Tuscany region of Italy. It was this plant in Pontedera which became its new center for aeronautical production (propellers, engines and complete aircraft).

During World War II, the Pontedera plant built the state-of-the-art P 108 four-engine aircraft, in both passenger and bomber versions. However, the plant was completely destroyed by Allied bombers due to its military importance.

Early image of the Piaggio & C. factory

Enrico Piaggio, son of founder
Rinaldo Piaggio, surrounded by Vespas


Piaggio came out of the conflict with its Pontedera plant in complete ruin. Enrico Piaggio was at the helm, having taken over from his father Rinaldo. Concerned about the disastrous state of the roads and the Italian economy, Enrico decided to focus the Company's attention on the personal mobility needs of the Italian people.

Enter Corradino D'Ascanio, Piaggio's ingenious aeronautical engineer who designed, constructed and flew the first modern helicopter. D'Ascanio set out to design a simple, sturdy, and economical vehicle that was also comfortable and elegant.

D'Ascanio, who could not stand motorcycles, dreamed up a revolutionary new vehicle. Drawing from the latest aeronautical technology, he imagined a vehicle built on a "monocoque" (French for "single shell") or unibody steel chassis. Furthermore, the front fork, like a plane's landing gear, allowed for easy wheel changing. The result was an aircraft-inspired design that to this day remains forward-thinking and unique among all other two-wheeled vehicles.

Upon seeing the vehicle, Enrico Piaggio remarked "Sembra una Vespa!" ("It looks like a wasp!") This was a real two-wheeled utility vehicle. But it did not resemble an uncomfortable and noisy motorcycle. The steel frame's shape protected the rider from road dirt and debris. It emanated class and elegance at first glance.

By the end of 1949, 35,000 units had been produced. Italy was getting over its war wounds and getting about on Vespas. In ten years, one million were produced. By the mid-fifties, Vespa was being produced in Germany, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Spain and, of course, Italy.

Vespa has lived on from one generation to the next, subtly modifying its image each time. The first Vespa offered mobility to everyone. Then, it became the two-wheeler of the post war economic boom. During the sixties and seventies, the vehicle became a symbol for the revolutionary ideas of the time. Advertising campaigns like "He Who Vespas, eats the apple", and films such as Quadrophenia have symbolized eras in our history.

And the story continues today with the new generation of Vespa models, which range from the Granturismo and Granturismo Sport (GTS), the largest and most powerful Vespas, to the LX, the latest restyling of the classic Vespa design. Also check out the new vintage-inspired Vespas, the GTV and LXV, and the limited edition GT60.

Vespa is not just a scooter. It is one of the great icons of Italian style and elegance, and with more than 16 million units produced, is well known throughout the world. For more than 60 years, Vespa has fascinated millions of people and given the world an irreplaceable icon of Italian style and a means of personal transport that has become synonymous with freedom...



Lambretta History

Italy, more than any other country, is known for its motorscooters. In the movies, a photograph of Rome, or in a story about this sunbathed country, the motorscooter is an obvious feature in the Italian way of life. The name most often mentioned when scooters are discussed is Lambretta, and the story of this marquee is a study of the post-war industrialisation of Italy. The Lambretta, like many of its European brothers, is locked up and interwoven with a parent company that produces many other products in addition to its two-wheeled vehicles.



The story of this legendary scooter actually began in 1922, when Ferdinando Innocenti moved to Rome from his native Pescia for the purpose of building a factory. The product of this enterprising industrialist was steel tubing, and such ingenuity was involved that Innocenti's wares became renowned throughout Europe.

In 1931, Ferdinando moved to Milan, which had become the industrial centre of Italy, and a new and much larger factory was built. Mr. Innocenti developed a seamless steel tube for industry, and 6000 people were employed in this plant.

Then came World War II, and the factory was reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble. When Ferdinando viewed his war damaged homeland in 1946, he saw the roads torn up, cities levelled, and the populace left with little means of transportation. Like Mr. Piaggio, he reasoned that the answer to the transportation problem, was the motorscooter - a vehicle that would feature a low production cost, be inexpensive to operate, and would offer better weather protection than a motorcycle. The production of motorscooters began in 1947, after one year had been spent in developing and testing the prototype model. As well as the obvious Italy, Lambretta's have been made around the world, from their birth place in Italy to other countries such as Spain, India, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and more. Although some producers did market the Lambretta under differing names, such as the Serveta from Spain, the Siambretta from South America, they all share the family design that came originally from Italy.

Innocenti's demise came at a time when sales of scooters were slowing down due to small cars entering the market at affordable prices. BMC struck a deal with Innocenti for them to produce cars under license from BMC. Within this contract was a clause should Innocenti ever decided to sell, BMC had first refusal. The inevitable happened, Innocenti was sold to BMC, who quickly saw the Lambretta products as a gimmick. Long industrial strikes ensued, along with poor scooter sales eventually lead to the closure of the Innocenti factory in 1972. The factory was sold to the Indian government, and Scooters India Ltd began production using the Innocenti tooling around two years later. S.I.L stopped producing two wheeled scooters in 1998, and today survive on producing their own version of the Lambro three wheeler.






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