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Happy Birthday Vespa

24 Apr

70 years ago, on 23 April 1946, Piaggio e C. S.p.A. filed for a patent for a “motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part.” Hence, the Vespa was born.

In Italian, the word Vespa means wasp. Many think the name refers to the sound it makes, but actually the scooter’s name is derived from the vehicle’s body shape: the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist.

The Vespa was born of need. After the WWII, Italy’s economy was crippled and the state of the roads was disastrous. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio’s founder, decided that since the company was no longer building aircraft, he would  leave the aeronautical field and address Italy’s urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.

From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.

Perhaps the most known Vespa ride was that taken by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn around Rome in the 1952 film Roman Holiday.

A Paramount Picture, William Wyler's Production

A Paramount Picture, William Wyler’s Production

There have been many different versions of the Vespa and today, several series are in production.

According to,

The first sales of Vespa were managed through a small dealer network and the price of the standard model was 55,000 lire, [a bit over $200] while the deluxe version was sold for 66,000 lire. 

Here’s a brief walk through some of Vespa’s history. Photos from 1946 Original Vespa Original Vespa 98 1946

Vespa.vom VESPA 98 CORSA CIRCUITO 1947

Vespa.vom VESPA 98 CORSA CIRCUITO 1947 Vespa 98 II Seire-1947-1948 Vespa 98 II Seire-1947-1948 Vespa 150 Side-Car-1955 Vespa 150 Side-Car-1955 Vespa 125 (VNA)- 1958 Vespa 125 (VNA)- 1958 vespa rally 200- 1976 vespa rally 200- 1976 Vespa 50 S- 1985 Vespa 50 S- 1985 VespaET2ET41996 VespaET2/ET4 1996 2005_lx 2005_lx

And today’s anniversary models…

If it weren’t quite so hilly in Cortona, we’d have bought one already. So tempting.  Which is your favorite???




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