VESPA

28.04.2006 The legendary Italian scooter, the Vespa, celebrated its 60th birthday on Thursday with a big party and unveiling of three new models

The legendary Italian scooter, the Vespa, celebrated its 60th birthday on Thursday with a big party and unveiling of three new models, reports ANSA. The event at Vespa's headquarters also saw the presentation of a project to build a new Vespa Museum, designed by famed architect Massimiliano Fuksas. The Vespa's actual birthday was April 23, the day in 1946 when the patent for the innovative two-wheeler was registered in Florence by Piaggio & Co.

The scooter was the first step in the reconversion of an airplane factory built here in 1917 and modelled on the one Rinaldo Piaggio originally set up in the northwest coastal region of Liguria in 1884. This first plant produced naval furnishings and then branched out into the construction of carriages, railway cars, trolleys, motors and chassis, for the budding automobile industry.

Piaggio's shift to aircraft construction coincided with the outbreak of World War I and the building of new plants, including the one here between Pisa and Florence. The Pontedera factory specialised in the production of the four-engine P108 plane, both the passenger and bomber models. During World War II Piaggio's factors in Genoa, Finale Ligure and Pontedera were all bombed. The idea of converting the airplane factory to civilian use was the brainchild of Enrico Piaggio, a direct descendant of the company's founder, while the innovative design was the work of Corradino D'Ascanio.

An aircraft designer by trade, D'Ascanio came up with the idea of producing a cheap, small-engine bike with its gear shift on the handlebar and the motor over the back wheel. This was then covered in a steel cowling which gave the scooter its distinctive shape that made it look like a wasp, which in Italian is vespa. Thanks to its protective front shield and mud guard on the floor, the Vespa kept the rider cleaner and drier than on a traditional motorbike. The scooter was an immediate success, acting as the prototype for all scooters to follow.

By 1949, over 35,000 scooters were produced and by the mid-1950s Piaggio was producing the Vespa in Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Indonesia and India. In Britain the Vespa became a cultural icon and in the early 1960s it was the preferred transportation for the young people who defined themselves as 'Mods', compared to the 'Rockers' who rode motorcycles. This period was captured in the 1979 British cult film Quadrophenia. The Vespa's most famous movie cameo was in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, in which journalist Gregory Peck gives princess-in-disguise Audrey Hepburn a tour of the Italian capital on the back of his Vespa.

After losing ground to Japanese competitors, the Vespa has made a major comeback over the past five years or more thanks to the introduction of new models which are easier to drive and are more environmentally friendly. This reopened the door to the lucrative United States market, where they had been banned since the 1980s because of their poor emissions ratings. Over 120 different Vespa models have been produced since 1946 and more than 16 million scooters have been sold.

As the Vespa turns 60, Piaggio has presented two new models: the Vespa GT-60 and Vespa LX-60. Through a clever re-interpretation of some of the typical design and technical elements of the past, particularly the 1950s and 1960s, these bikes evoke the romance of the past in timeless Vespa fashion. The Vespa GT-60 and Vespa LX-60 are a tribute to this legendary product, the result of purely Italian creativity and design.

Vespa GT-60

Developed on the base of the Vespa GTS 250, the GT-60 pays homage to the very first scooter, the 1946 Vespa. The latest step in the Vespa's evolution, the 140th Vespa model - the GTS 250 i.e. - offers the perfect base for this design exercise.
 

VESPA LX 60

Developed on the base of the 2005 Vespa LX, the LX-60 has been conceived as a tribute to the 1960s Vespas. The 1960s: a legendary decade that witnessed the social and cultural revolution that shaped contemporary society, marked by the emergence of youth for whom the Vespa symbolised individual mobility and freedom.

VESPA GT 60
VESPA GT 60

Developed on the base of the Vespa GTS 250, the GT-60 pays homage to the very first scooter, the 1946 Vespa. The latest step in the Vespa's evolution, the 140th Vespa model - the GTS 250 i.e. - offers the perfect base for this design exercise. The Vespa's fundamental strong point, an all-metal chassis, has been left untouched. The changes concern all the details that have been modified over the years to keep up with technological and design trends in various periods.


The Vespa's fundamental strong point, an all-metal chassis, has been left untouched. The changes concern all the details that have been modified over the years to keep up with technological and design trends in various periods.

On the very first prototype in 1946 the headlamp was positioned on the front mudguard, moving to the handlebar in the mid-1950s. By placing the headlamp on the front mudguard once again, the Vespa GT-60 makes a clear reference to the origins of the Vespa, while the size and the lamp surface are suited to the modern styling of the Vespa GTS. A similar change has been made to the handlebar, a simple, visible metal tube on the very first Vespa prototype. This typically motorcycle/cycle feature could be seen on each early Vespa series. The GT-60 also uses a 'naked' handlebar, but one of modern motorcycle inspiration. The round analogue speedometer-mileometer has relatively retro graphics, plus an up-to-date ride information display and electrical system.

The saddle has been comprehensively redesigned. The Vespa started out as a single-seater that could be changed into a two-seater and remained this way for quite some time. On the GT-60 the saddle goes back to being split into two distinct parts, one for the rider and one for the passenger. Upholstered in leather with stylish stitching, it emphasises the skill of Italian leather craftsmen. The paint on the vehicle also recalls the Vespa's unique history. Like all the early Vespa prototypes, painted an aeronautic grey, the GT-60 is grey, albeit a warm, modern shade of iridescent metallic grey to flatter the design of its all-metal body.

Vespa LX-60

Developed on the base of the 2005 Vespa LX, the LX-60 has been conceived as a tribute to the 1960s Vespas. The 1960s: a legendary decade that witnessed the social and cultural revolution that shaped contemporary society, marked by the emergence of youth for whom the Vespa symbolised individual mobility and freedom. As on the Vespa GT-60, the changes concern the accessory parts to the metal body, recently renewed on the LX series.

The headlamp remains in its original position on the handlebar, like the 1960s scooters from which the Vespa LX-60 is derived, but in a slimmer, more minimalist version to emphasise the unfaired handlebar and make the front of the vehicle a more lightweight look. The analogue instrumentation is placed in a chrome-plated frame while the unique graphics resemble those in vogue in the 1960s. The 'naked' handlebar is a metal tube ending in fine leather handles, also used on the saddle that separates the rider and passenger seats as on the early models.

Reports: ANSA & Vespa
 

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2006 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed