First launched over 50 years ago, the ever-so stylish two-wheeled vehicle Vespa remains at the cutting edge of modernity and fashion.
Born as a low-cost product for the masses, this utilitarian scooter has became a style statement in itself, able to influence fashion in successive decades since its birth in 1946. More than 16 million Vespa motor scooters have been made to date in thirteen countries and sold around the world. After Italy, Britain has remained the second largest market for the Vespa.From the very first 98cc model in 1946 to the 2003 Granturismo and the Vespa S in 2007, Piaggio has produced over 144 models, versions and variants of the Vespa (marked by different chassis codes): 144 models that trace the technical evolution of the world's most famous scooter.
By the time the Vespa ET4 was launched in 1996, over 20,000 modifications had been made to the original 1946 product and over 1,500 parts replaced.
It is difficult to pick out the most representative Vespas in an evolution that has lasted over 60+ years. Some Vespas are sought after by collectors because they belong to a special series, or because they were rapidly replaced by subsequent versions, and are highly priced in the period scooter market, which is extremely active all over the world.
Others, which were produced in greater numbers or stayed on the market longer, are classic scooter models that have left their mark in the history of two-wheeled mobility.
Vespa Models 1946 to 1976
Vespa 98, 1946 - The first Vespa. It was powered by a 98 cc engine that delivered 3.2 bhp at 4,500 rpm with a top speed of 60 km/h. It was in production for two years: in 1946 vehicles no. 1 to no. 2,464 were produced, and no. 2,465 to no. 18,079 in 1947.
Vespa 125, 1948 - The first Vespa 125 cc. It differed from the 98 not only in engine size, but also for the introduction of rear suspension; the front suspension was also modified.
Vespa 125, 1953 - This marked the first important change to the engine: bore, stroke and timing gear were modified. Power output increased to 5 bhp at 5,000 rpm, and top speed to 75 km/h. The design of the fairing at the rear was also new.
Vespa 125 U, 1953 - The "Utility" version with spartan styling, which sold at 20,000 lire less than the more modern 125. The headlamp appeared high up on the handlebar for the first time in Italy (it had already been introduced on a number of exported models).
Vespa 150 GS, 1955 - Experts called it "the most popular, imitated and remembered model". There were numerous innovations: the 150 cc engine, 4-speed gearbox, standard long saddle, "faired" handlebar-headlamp unit, wheels with 10" tyres. This Vespa could reach 100 km/h. The design also changed, with a much more aerodynamic body.
Vespa 160 GS, 1962 - This was born to continue the market success of the first GS, with a completely new design. The exhaust silencer, carburettor and suspension were also new. The power output was 8.2 bhp at 6,500 rpm.
Vespa 150 GL, 1963 - Another new design for what has been called "one of the best-looking Vespas produced by Piaggio designers". The handlebar, trapezoid headlamp, front mudguard and trimmed-down rear lids were all new.
Vespa 50, 1964 - The first Vespa 50 cc, created to exploit the new Italian Highway Code, which made a number plate obligatory on larger engines. Extremely versatile and reliable, the engine featured a new layout, with the cylinder inclined 45° instead of horizontal. It was the last design to leave Corradino D'Ascanio's drawing board.
Vespa 180 SS, 1965 - It marked a new milestone in the growth of the engine (181.14 cc), with 10 bhp for a top speed of 105 km/h. The 180 SS (Super Sport) replaced the glorious GS 150/160 cc. Piaggio modified the front cowling, making it more aerodynamic and significantly improving comfort, handling and roadholding.
Vespa 125, 1966 - Unofficially known as the "new 125", it featured radical innovations in the design, frame, engine (inclined 45°) and suspension.
Vespa 50/90 cc and the "new" 125, the hold-all was positioned between the saddle and the handlebar for a more "laid-back" riding style. The handlebar was narrow and low, and the mudguard and cowling were streamlined. With an engine capacity of only 90 cc, it could do 93 km/h.
Vespa 125 Primavera, 1968 - Together with the subsequent PX version, it was the most durable version of the Vespa. It derived from the "new" 125, but with considerable differences in the engine, which raised the top speed by 10 km/h. Great attention was paid to details, which included the classic, practical bag hook.
Vespa 180 Rally, 1968 - With this new vehicle, Piaggio extended the rotary timing fuel feed system to its entire production. The engine was new, the front headlamp new and more powerful, the frame, derived from the Vespa 150 Sprint, narrower and more aerodynamic than that of the Super Sport.
Vespa 50 Elestart, 1970 - It featured the great novelty of electric ignition, but the design was also completely revised and embellished compared to the 50 Special.
Vespa 200 Rally, 1972 - The Vespa with the largest engine. This model, with 12.35 bhp at 5,700 rpm, could reach 116 km/h.
Vespa 125 Primavera ET3, 1976 - The name stood for "Electronic 3 intake ports", and included important changes to the engine, which had more power and sparkle. Even the styling was changed from the standard Primavera (which remained in the range).