|Vespa by Piaggio
Vespa has not only given its Vespa stamp to an entire epoch, it even became the symbol of a Europe struggling to rise from the catastrophe of the Second World War.
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 Vespa 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 Vespa 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 Vespa military importance. Piaggio came out of the conflict with its Vespa Pontedera plant completely demolished by bombs.
At the Vespa company's helm was Enrico Piaggio, having taken over from his father Rinaldo. Enrico decided to leave the aeronautics field and pay his attention to problems of personal mobility. Italy's broken economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not lend to fast developments in the automobile markets. But hunger for mobility required immediate answers. From an intuition of Enrico Piaggio's, in the spring of 1946 the Vespa was born.
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Viva La Vespa! Still The Besta!
Whenever I see one of those classic putt-putts of yesteryear zooming down a busy street, I cannot help but reminisce about the two beautiful years I spent in Perugia, Italy half a lifetime ago. Within the trail of their vapor lie a myriad of sweet dreams and misty memories. Somewhere in an old photo album, tucked away in the abyss that is my house, there is a photo of me astride a "Sprint" (the blue model) that belonged to an old boyfriend. He took the picture, which is why I am alone upon it, and also why I lost my balance and fell to the muddy ground just a few seconds afterwards. I still couldn't miss looking pretty classy though; falling off that tapered midsection and landing alongside the flared and rounded tail that inspired its Vespa name. Vespa is, after all, the Italian word for wasp, (the stinging kind, and not the human kind).
Italy is known for its Vespa unique art forms. Consider going for a family ride aboard a Vespa and crossing the street anywhere in Italy (with or without a Vespa). I have heard older Italians speak of the lean days after World War II when a family of four would pile on board a Vespa. The father was the driver; the mother sat behind him and the children hung on for dear life at both ends. Crossing the street requires just as much skill. There was once an old Italian movie whose entire plot involved a family crossing a busy thoroughfare, one at a time. One day I found myself in the middle of an enormous intersection where the traffic merged from three different directions and showed no signs of slowing down at the red light. I was eating a chocolate ice cream cone and licking on it more and more furiously with each passing second until a carabiniere (policeman) directed me to safety. I went to thank him and some of my ice cream splattered onto his white uniform. I wished I had been on a Vespa then to zoom away forever out of his sight and my embarrassment.
The Vespas and their arch rival scooter, the Lambretta, have been pounding cobblestone and macadam all over the world for more than half a century. The manufacturers of Vespa commemorated their fiftieth anniversary in 1996 with a gala on The Italian Riviera and the grand opening of a Vespa museum at their corporate headquarters, near Pisa. Their revival in the United States has been a slow but steady cultural phenomenon. These two-wheeled equivalents to the Volkswagen Beetle are seen as often in advertisements and television commercials as they are buzzing up and down the streets of New York City. According to the US representative to the International Federation of Vespa Clubs, Rolf Soltau, there are currently forty-eight Vespa clubs throughout the United States that boast a membership of more than two thousand.
The Vespa has a unique style that blends mobility with simplicity. It is as Italian as Spaghetti alla Carbonara and could be nothing else- ever! A masterpiece worthy of respect and rounded in shape, it is said, because the Piaggio plant wanted the scooter to resemble the chassis of a "good looking woman". Chauvinist? Well, as an American woman who lived among Italian men for more than two years I would have to say, "Yes, it is." There is also no doubt about the artistry and brilliance of the design.
Vespa in Rome
The scooters were originally made by the Piaggio plant in 1946, which to this day still holds more than 40% of the small scooter market in Europe. The company was originally involved in the manufacture of aircraft before being nearly destroyed in World War II. Evidence of aircraft design can be found in the Vespa's rear wheel mounting and single sided front fork that were both typical of landing gear in the airplanes of the time. The Vespa's timeless engineering was the brainchild of Enrico Piaggio, president of the family run metal company and Corradino D'Ascanio, an industrial engineer who helped develop the helicopter. The scooters were cool then as a symbol of the reconstruction of war-torn Italy and they are cool now.
Crossing the threshold into permanent celebrity was certainly helped when the Vespa was used to transport Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the 1953 film,. The scooter was also featured in "La Dolce Vita" starring Anita Ekberg and alongside the likes of John Wayne and Sandra Dee in many old publicity shots. Cult status was finally achieved in the 1960s with the success of "Quadrophenia," the biggest scooter movie ever made.
The Vespas have become a way of life, representing just the right blend of urban efficiency, Italian elegance and unmistakable panache. They have even carved a niche in the dictionary, which is a true sign of cultural acceptance. One might remember Diane Arbus, the troubled photographer of the 60s and 70s and whose subjects were always quite disturbing and bizarre. The word "arbus" came to symbolize those two qualities to old Mr. Webster. Well, "vespiti" for Mr. Webster's Italian counterpart represents those who are a part of the Vespa lifestyle and "vespazzare" is a verb which has come to mean: "going somewhere on a vespa."
Vespa sales rose steadily until the 1980s. This was due to their two stroke engines that did not meet emission standards. None have been imported since then which deems all remaining Vespas as "vintage." The 15-40-year old scooters in the United States are becoming more and more valuable and harder and harder to find. Most need some rejuvenation but, as an aging beautiful woman, they still retain the essence of what they once were. The Piaggio plant has introduced a new brand of Vespa for a new generation, but it remains as big a difference as that between a diamond and a zircon. The newer ones are called ET-4 (No, it is not another sweet little alien with a new number to phone home, but maybe it should be!).
The new Vespas are all segregated into service only or "vintage" shops. These stores are not allowed to sell the new Vespas and for that one must visit, I am afraid, what can only be termed a "Vespa Boutique". Even then, they are hard to find except on the black market. Although these ET-4's have received rave reviews, they are just not the same as their older counterparts. Cities such as New York where Vespa enthusiasts still congregate for frequent excursions will never be the same either. I wish them all a happy zooming a to wherever it is that fools rush in and wise men (and not so wise men) fear to tread. Long live the Vespa for it is still tha besta!!!
For a smile you can take a look at Bob's video of riding a Vespa in Naples:
VESPA SPRINT – LEGENDARY BY BIRTH
A COLOURED STREAK GOING THROUGH THE CITY. LIVELY, QUICK, AGILE AND LIGHT. VESPA SPRINT EMBODIES THE SPIRIT OF THE “SPORTY VESPINO”, THE LEGEND OF ENTIRE GENERATIONS OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WERE ALWAYS ABLE TO FIND THE ENGINE FOR THEIR VITALITY IN A VESPA
ALL EYES GO TO THE NEW, EXTREMELY SPORTY VESPA SPRINT 150 S AVAILABLE WITH THE ABS SYSTEM
Vespa General Engine Work
The population of "swarm of silver" that filled the streets in Italy brings to mind the idea ofEnrico Piaggio to produce vehicles that are more aggressive, able to accelerate quickly and be out of character Vespa most champions. The result is a Vespa 98 that won the title of best in the Monte Mario hill climb in 1947 as ridden by Joseph Cautriumphs. Vespa 98 Corsa (circuit) designed to meet the need for speed in various competitions and represent the innovations and technologies that are implemented in each product Vespa. Body hand made to be implanted in the upper frame tube steel with mounting suspense dab on the right, drum brakes and rear air vents to cool the engine is the most advanced innovation at the time. Not to mention the 3-speed transmission system, switch on the handlebars up to 17 mm carburetors Garde laburan plus red, be highly imaginative, from the beginning of the birth of the "Bee" to date.</p>
This section is always under construction. Some sections to the right (underlined) are complete and apply to the basics of any model Vespa engine. I have recently decided to break this section up into model specific pages as I now have pictures of three out of four main Vespa engine types
The idea to create a product for mass consumption at low cost have spurred the spirit of Enrico Piaggio to study and find solutions in order to remain able to continue production during the war. In a factory in the town of Biella, created the prototype motor scooter made by Ir. Renzo Spolti with his staff. This scooter is named MP5 (Moto Piaggio 5), while the workers called "Donald Duck". Enrico Piaggio But apparently it does not like the prototype. That's why he entrusts Corradino D'Ascanio to reconsider and make something different and more advanced in terms of both technical and design. D'Ascanio did not make any changes to the scooter Donald Duck, but he created an entirely new vehicle, the Vespa!
Before Vespa, a scooter that Donald Duck had produced about 100 pieces. Currently scooter was very popular and sought after by collectors around the world.
Corradino D'Ascanio undertook to design a simple vehicle, robust and economic but comfortable and elegant, one which could be driven easily by anyone, women too, and which would not dirty the driver's clothes and would permit carrying a passenger. D'Ascanio, a genial aeronautics engineer, had been with Piaggio since 1934 and was responsible for the project and construction of the first modern helicopter. D'Ascanio, who could not stand motorbikes, dreamed up a revolutionary vehicle. Dipping into his knowledge of aeronautics, he imagined a vehicle built on a frame and with a handlebar gearchange. He mounted the engine on the rear wheel. The front fork, like an aircraft's landing gear, allowed easy wheel changing.
In April of 1946, the first 15 Vespas left the Pontedera works. The first Vespa had a 98cc two-stroke engine giving 3.5 hp at 4,500 revs. It reached 60 kilometres per hour and had 3 gears. This was a real two-wheeled utility vehicle. But it did not resemble an uncomfortable and noisy motorbike; it emanated class and elegance at first glance.
Vespa's success was a phenomenon never to be repeated again. By the end of 1949, 35,000 units Vespa had been produced. Italy was getting over its Vespa 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. And Vespa only a few years later, in India and Indonesia too.
The 125 of 1948, the legendary 150 GS of 1955, the 50cc of 1963, 1968's Primavera, the PX, born in 1978 and still today produced in the classic 125, 150 and 200cc versions are just some of the steps that have distinguished the technical and stylistic evolution of the world's most famous two-wheeler.
But Vespa is not just a commercial phenomena. It is an event that has involved the story of social custom. During the "Dolce Vita" years, "Vespa" meant "scooter"; foreign newspaper correspondents described Italy as "Vespa country", and the role Vespa played in Italian society is shown by its Vespa appearance in dozens of films.
One is struck by Vespa's ability to live on from one generation of youngsters to a different one, subtly modifying its Vespa image each time. The first Vespa offered mobility to everyone. Then, it became the two-wheeler for the time of economic boom. And during the sixties and seventies, it was the vehicle for the propagation of the revolution of ideas that the kids of those years were establishing. Advertising campaigns like "Who Vespas gets to eat the apple" have symbolised an era in our history.
In over 50 years of history, Vespa has fascinated millions of people, giving the whole world a unique image of Italian style and remaining the irreplaceable means of personal transport, synonymous with freedom.
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