We're keen to stay with the Italian theme for a little longer, which is why we will soon be turning the spotlight on one of the first and most lovable Italian scooters: the Vespa.
The new two-wheeler that Enrico Piaggio nicknamed ”Vespa” (wasp in Italian) when he saw the prototype model for the first time has this year reached its 70th birthday.
Since its birth through to this day the Vespa has enjoyed an ever-mounting popular success and remains eternally young.
On Autoworld’s first floor more than 100 models will allow visitors to retrace the scooter’s history, ranging from the initial version, the highly sought after “faro basso” (with its low fitted headlight) through to present day models. This full-blown selection was made possible thanks to the numerous collectors who kindly agreed to loan Autoworld their precious jewels.
If Vespa means “wasp”, the scooter owes it to its distinctive shape, trimmed waist, rounded rear bodywork and characteristic sound resembling that of an insect. Its history dates back to the post-war years, when Italy was barred from carrying out any aeronautical construction work. However for Piaggio & C° this was precisely one of its major activities. Enrico Piaggio decided to convert his factory and develop a new two-wheeler that was not only light, economical, easy to straddle and drive, not dirtying the riders clothes, almost maintenance free and usable to both men and women….in a nutshell, a means of transport accessible to one and all that the post-war Italy needed.
The project was to enjoy huge popularity thanks to the extraordinary stylish work produced by the aeronautical engineer and inventor Corradino d’Ascanio: the Vespa was born! The type V98 was patented on the 23rd April 1946 and almost immediately went into production at the Pontedera factory.
Right from the start certain details did not hide the fact that the company boasted an aeronautical history; just look at the front wheel and its mudguard …
The Vespa underwent numerous makeovers, and as from 1948, the first sidecar appeared. One year later the renowned tri-wheel delivery scooter made its debut.
The Vespa also made a name for itself in competition. During the ‘50s it took part in regularity races (both on and off-road) throughout Europe. Often with great success! In 1951, Piaggio produced a 125cc prototype for speed races and with which it set the world record for the flying kilometre at an average of 171,102 km/h.
In 1952, the Frenchman Georges Monneret (well-known scooter specialist at that time) built an amphibious Vespa for the Paris – London race and succeeded in crossing the Channel from Calais – Dover with his machine.
In 1951 legislation decreed that scooters needed headlights to be fitted at handlebar height. The “faro basso” was discarded, making it even more attractive to today’s collectors and Vespa enthusiasts.
Made famous through such films as “Roman Holiday (1953), and especially “ La Dolce Vita “ (1960) making her an icon, the Vespa today still boasts an enormous commercial success!
The Vespa models were built in 13 different countries, and as from 1953 for a period in Jette (Brussels).
For more detailed info please contact the museum
Parc du Cinquantenaire 11
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