FROM THE ORIGINS TO MYTH
Seventy years of history since 1946.
In April 1946, this amazing new, functional and innovative mode of transport was presented to the general public for the first time in a Golf Club in Rome. The shield was embossed with a new logo which replaced the previous Piaggio Aircraft emblem. Vespa was an immediate success and gained extensive media interest as well as public curiosity, surprise and even skepticism. The first sales of Vespa were managed through a small dealer network and the price of the standard model was 55,000 lire, while the deluxe version was sold for 66,000 lire.
VESPA 98 II SERIE
16,500 models of the second series of Vespa 98 were ever produced. This model offered significant improvements over its predecessor both in aesthetics and technical specifications. As well as this it now featured a spare wheel just in case the rider got a puncture, which was highly likely due to the awful post-war road conditions; this highly-functional element soon became one of Vespa’s most recognizable design features. The Vespa 98 was introduced with a new and improved headlamp and a metallic silver color which reminded of the Piaggio aircraft business.
In 1948 Piaggio launched a new Vespa. Between 1946 and 1947, 1183 Vespas 125cc were sold and marketed abroad (particularly in Switzerland). At the end of 1947 Enrico Piaggio decided to completely stop the production of Vespa 98cc and to only continue with the 125cc for the Italian and international markets. Some other model adaptations included the front suspension arm and the engine hood, which was lifted up to permit an easier access to the engine and to other mechanical components. The next series of the 1949 Vespa, which is today on display in the Piaggio Museum, looked even better with the new cooling system and the renewed gearbox controls.
To promote the sporty image of Vespa, Piaggio shifted the focus towards breaking new records. On April 7th, 1950, at the French circuit of Montlhery, during 10 hours of testing with three drivers alternating riding, Vespa won the world record for the 100 mile race (average speed 129.7 km/h), 500 mile race (average speed 123.9 km/h), and the 1,000 km race (average speed 124.3 km/h). With a very similar vehicle to the 1949 Vespa 125 “circuit” with alloy frame, Mazzoncini achieved brilliant results in circuit racing, with a victory in the scooter class at the Circuit of Genoa, holding off the challenging Lambretta.
Very similar to the pattern of 1948, the sales during 1951 were on the increase due to improved technology and aesthetics. The model of 1951 even became famous in its cinema debut in the romantic and unforgettable movie Roman Holiday which told the love story of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Rome.
VESPA 98 CORSA CIRCUITO
The Vespa 98 Corsa was built specifically to show the world that the capacity of the small scooter could be competitive in races. The great swarm of Vespa which was growing in the streets and squares of Italy, motivated Enrico Piaggio to produce an aggressive vehicle, which could be an on-track winner. The Vespa 98 Corsa (Circuit) was built for speed and stood for innovation. The body was hand-built with a steel frame. The brakes were drum, equipped with rear air vents for cooling. The gearbox was a three-speed unit, which enabled throttle control and cooling happened through a forced air ventilation.
VESPA 125 CORSA “ALLOY FRAME”
In 1949 Vespa was first built with a race chassis which was made from the same aluminium alloy used for the construction of aircraft and was assembled with rivets, alloy wheels and technology which was highly advanced during the 40’s. The fuel tank and steering position gave the rider more autonomy which resulted in the optimization of high speed riding. Vespa 125cc Corsa participated to many competitions and celebrated many prestigious victories in 1950. Worldwide only six copies of this model along with some prototypes were ever produced by Piaggio.
VESPA CIRCUITO 125
In the late forties the major motorcycle manufacturers considered the best way to advertise their vehicles to participate to several races. The aim was to bring the motorcycling industry to the general public with the hope of creating new potential customers. Also the Piaggio scooters took part to races in a series of circuits; this was for the purpose of advertising the motorcycles, but the 125 circuit also proved to be an useful arena for testing new solutions ,which led to adaptations of the standard models. Vespa racing scooters were completely handmade and built by specialists within Piaggio and were used in races by lots of major riders.
VESPA SILURO (TORPEDO)
In 1951 Vespa broke its most prestigious record: the flying kilometer. On February 9th, between the 10th and the 11th kilometer of the motorway of Rome (near to Ostia), a Vespa engine with two opposed pistons (17.2 hp and 9500 rpm), designed by Corradino D’Ascanio, and led by Dino Mazzoncini, run the flying kilometer with a record time of 21.4 seconds with an average speed of 171.1 km/ h (106.25 mph).
VESPA 125 “SIX DAYS”
Aesthetically very similar to Vespa 125, the “Six Days” differed due to the fuel tank benefiting of a wraparound shield and the right side bag which accommodated a larger carburetor. The name came from the participation at the Twenty-sixth International Six Days in 1951, where nine gold medals were won. The Vespa 125 “six days” also won the trophy of the Italian Motorcycle Federation in 1951.