VESPA SCOOTERS by Piaggio
Vespa (meaning ‘Wasp’ in Italian) is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by since 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera. Evolving from a single model motor scooter manufactured after the end of the Second World War, it is one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio. 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.
Piaggio filed a patent for the Vespa scooter design in April 1946. The application documents referred to a “model of a practical nature” for a “motorcycle with rationally placed parts and elements with a frame combining with mudguards and engine-cowling covering all working parts”, of which “the whole constitutes a rational, comfortable motorcycle offering protection from mud and dust without jeopardizing requirements of appearance and elegance”. The patent was approved the following December.
Piaggio sold some 2,500 Vespas in 1947, over 10,000 in 1948, 20,000 in 1949, and over 60,000 in 1950. The biggest sales promo ever was Hollywood. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales. Vespa’s largest market by all measures globally is still Italy, but as a result of the Mod subculture that developed in the 1960s, the United Kingdom is still Vespa’s second largest global market—and at one point in the 1960s, its largest. The appeal of the Vespa to the style-conscious mods was the weather protection. Their counterparts, the rockers rode classic British motorcycles such as Triumph Bonneville and BSAs, and needed to wear leathers against the elements. Mods would modify their Vespas, adding lights, mascots, accessories, various racks and crash bars. A new lifestyle evolved in the UK, with thousands attending scooter rallies.