When it comes to scooters there are two main classic European names – Vespa and Lambretta.
The differences in design at first glance seem to be small but the two vehicles are poles apart. Two significant differences between the two scooters are:
- The Vespa has a pressed steel chassis, Lambretta a tubular steel sub frame
- Lambretta’s are chain driven, Vespa’s have a direct drive engine.
Two scooters, one design – same designer.
Not many people realise both scooter designs come from the same creator. The brains behind the design was (General) Corradino D’Ascanio an aeronautical engineer, who not only was the father of the scooter but was the engineer behind the first production Helicopter.
This design of scooter was born at the end of World War 2. Italy needed to mobilise their people to get the country back on it’s feet, the need for a low cost mode of transport was essential. It had to be a low cost vehicle for men, women and young teenagers to use.
D’Ascanio at the time was an unemployed aeronautics designer, previously he’d worked for Piaggio (Vespa) designing helicopters. The Piaggio factory had been heavily bombed during the war and Itally was banned from making any military equipment once the war had ended. Ferdinando Innocenti (Lambretta) owned a engineering factory who specialised in rolled steel tube. Eager to hit the ground running after the war, Innocenti approached D’Ascanio with the brief to design a vehicle for the masses. D’Ascanio took hold of the challenge and with his hatred for motorcycles started to create a new vehicle.
The sum total of his efforts in fulfilling the brief was a brand new scooter design. The new design nodded to the Cushman pre-war scooter from America brought over by the GI’s in World War 2. However the styling of the D’Ascanio designed scooter was in a totally different league.
D’Ascanio took his design to his employer Innocenti who insisted the scooter be built from rolled tubing. D’Ascanio whole heartedly disagreed, rolled up the design and headed off to see Piaggio.
“Sembra una vespa”
When Enrico Piaggio, owner of the Piaggio Factory saw the designs he simply said “Sembra una vespa”. The sentence “Sembra una vespa” literally means “It looks like a wasp!” and so the wasp like vehicle was named Vespa.
The design D’Ascanio came up with, for me is the perfect fusion of form and function. Low cost build costs coupled with features and styling rarely seen before. The step through pressed steel chassis with all the strength in the shape, concealed engine to keep riders clean, leg protectors, you name it. It was small, economical, easy to start engine, plus it was very light too.
With curvaceous lines and full bodywork the scooter was destined to not only get Italy moving, but to become a style icon across Europe. Over the years this much loved machine has almost become a by-word for Italian style, seen in moves, advertisements and on art to this day and of course still on the road.
With well over with 16 million units produced in 130 different models the Vespa still remains the brand that says – scooter!
Still long for a classic Vepsa, then why not start visiting the Scooter Trader website.