If you’ve never been to Italy or a few other European countries, you have probably missed out on the buzzing sound of a Vespa scooter going by. These neat little Vespa scooters give you a since of freedom in a world of closed doors and air conditioned rooms. Like the classic movie, a Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn, you too can pretend to ride around Rome on the famous two-wheeled scooter.
The Vespa scooter has been around since the mid 1940s, just after the end of World War II. It was during that time that Vespa realized there was a demand for cheap transportation. The first full production Vespa hit the market in 1946. The Vespa story begins after war-ravaged Italy started to come alive again. The war left people without jobs and little hope for a bright future. Most of Italy’s transportation resources were gobbled up by Mussolini’s wartime endeavors.
Two brothers Enrico and Armando Piaggio, who had manufactured airplanes during the war, were in a desperate situation to save the Piaggio company. The war had also drained their resources, so they had to get creative and come up with a solution that would turn things around. Their idea was to create a cheap form of transportation with the resources that had at their disposal. Namely airplane parts. If you look at a Vespa’s front wheel, you will notice it sort of looks like an airplanes landing gear, with the left side of the wheel exposed and not connected to the fork. In the beginning some of the first Vespas were actually built using parts of landing gear. The design was so successful that it stuck. The first engines used were starter engines used to start the prop airplanes. The engine design was extremely simple and only had 6 moving parts. The engines were situated towards the back of the scooter so that you could ride it like a motor cycle or with feet in front.
With the onset of cheap cars, Vespas popularity declined. Fast forward to the end of the 90’s and a resurgence of the elegant, fun loving design has come back. Cities like the one we live in, Austin Texas, has embraced the fun loving Vespa and all it has to offer.
Built by Piaggio, Vespa can found almost everywhere and it’s popularity has grown. The initial name of the scooter was not Vespa, which is Italian for wasp. However it was the noticeable buzzing sound the exhaust would make when the scooter was running, that sounded similar to the buzzing of an insect, that give it’s finally gave its name. Vespa eventually liked the name and began using it as their brand.
The most noticeable feature of the scooter has historically been the fact that the scooter body, with all its curves and sculpting of pressed steel, is also the frame of the vehicle as well. This unique approach to structure is not common; most motorcycles and scooters use a core frame and build body panels and parts around it. First used with the initial Vespa models, the same approach continues to be used today with modern Vespa models.
If getting an older model Vespa isn’t your thing, the LXV 150 I.E. might be up your alley. The LXV 150 looks a little different, but it still retains that vintage feel. It gets 75 MPG and has a top end speed of 59 miles an hour. Perfect for zipping around town in a small city or suburb.
Check out Vespa’s website, for more information.