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IN PICS: The history of Vespa

Last updated on: May 1, 2013 13:14 IST

IN PICS: The history of Vespa

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Shubhananda Bera

Looking back at the legendary bike on its 67th birthday.

When the roads of Italy were left damaged and hurt after World War II, and the city was struggling with crippled economy, Enrico Piaggio came to the rescue. Enrico did not hesitate for a moment to leave his long term aeronautical expertise and jump into the well-being of the residents of Italy.

Piaggio was determined to do something for the need of the hour; and his venture resulted in the introduction of the Vespa in the mid 1940s. The first ever model of Vespa was the 98cc MP5 Paperino (Moto Piaggo 5).

Enrico was not very impressed with the current model. He wanted something which is smooth to run, comes handy and doesn't make a hole in the pocket. D'Ascanio, the famous automobile engineer, came up with a unique design that had initiated revolutionary changes in motor scooters.

Courtesy    


Image: Enrico Piaggio
Photographs: Wikipedia Commons

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IN PICS: The history of Vespa

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D'Ascanio

He came up with MP6 which had the engine placed near the rear wheel. This innovative designed made Enrico exclaim out of excitement "It looks like a Wasp" and that was the moment when Vespa got its name.
 
After the success of Vespa MP6 Prototype, the company never looked back. It kept on producing one splendid model after another. The trend continued with the models Vespa 98, 98 II series.

With the model Vespa 98 Corsa, Enrico introduced the first ever sporty looking bike that charmed and admired by people for its versatility. Piaggio introduced Vespa Circuito 125 in the late 40s. This model doesn't only look sporty; the powerful 125 cc engine won the race for Joseph Cau in 1950.

Piaggio had confidence in changing the way scooters were. Vespa 125 became the role model for riding and romancing around!

After watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck together enjoying the rides on the Vespa two-wheeler, it became quite a trend to ride a Vespa. Available at $110, the Vespa 125U model became the most selling Vespa ever. The U in the model stood for utility.


Image: Corradino D'Ascanio
Photographs: italiainnovatori.gov.it

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After the stardom, Piaggio planned to bring a scooter which not only looked better but made lesser noise and better performance. Then came the Vespa 150GS, with a quieter engine and much better performance.

When Piaggio had success on its feet, the company planned to bring a car under Vespa. The hard work and dedication of D'Ascanio brought the Vespa 400, a small car with two stroke engine, which became popular instantly.

In the 1960s Vespa became extremely popular; everyone loved it. Vespa 50 came with an attractive slogan 'Young, Modern and Without Documents'.

Under the legal act, it was fine to drive a two wheeler for anyone above the age 14. Vespa 125 Primavera was the model which actually stuck the cord in the young. It was made for those youngsters who didn't want to miss the party because of the lousy traffic.

The Vespa Rally 200 was the model which made people go gaga after it's extremely powerful engine of 200 cc. More than 41,700 bikes were manufactured and sold. People went for pre-booking and though it took months to get the delivery still they waited, because it was a Vespa.

Vespa 50 Special Revival was a special edition bike. Only 3,000 units were manufactured. This limited edition bike was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Image: Vespa GS 3 150ccm
Photographs: ChiemseeMan/Wikimedia Commons

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IN PICS: The history of Vespa

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In 1996, two bikes were introduced -- Vespa ET2 and Vespa ET4.

These masterpieces still hold that old delicate charm, but the comfort and performance have gone way too higher, compared to those in the old times. The ET4, new generation bike comes with four-stroke 125 cc engine. Both the models were introduced with FAST (Fully Atomised Stratified Turbulence).

In 2007, Vespa introduced the MP3, which was a concept vehicle with two front wheels and single rear wheel, which also supported advanced suspension, while fuel injection was computer controlled. When Vespa celebrated its 50th anniversary in the year 1996, it had already sold over fifteen million units of Vespa.

It's not only about those old days; even today if you roam around the streets of Italy you will get the buzz from Vespa scooters almost everywhere. Vespa reminds of Italy, and sometimes, it becomes the symbol of romance after Audrey Hepburn made us fell in love with the city and the bike.


Image: Vespa ET4
Photographs: Infrogmation of New Orleans/Creative Commons

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Vespa never really thought about investing money for promoting the brand through celebrity endorsement... In fact, the bike was a celebrity in itself; it needed no introduction. Even though critics says it could have earned greater repute and reached a different dimension if it had some celebrity brand ambassadors, Vespa chose to keep its popularity by its demand and performance instead of celebrity endorsements.

Riding a Vespa is sheer joy, a feeling of being young again and letting yourself go. Vespa faced financial crisis in the '80s and '90s and it made the company switch ownership several times. The best part is, despite the changes in ownerships, the name of Piaggio and Vespa still stand strong.


Image: Models at the launch of Vespa LX 125 in Mumbai
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
Tags: Vespa , Piaggio

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