Stories > Congratulations - The Famous Vespa turns 75 years this year
Congratulations - The Famous Vespa turns 75 years this year

Congratulations - The Famous Vespa turns 75 years this year

Published 2021-07-19 by Zdravko Anticic

The famous Vespa turns 75 this year. The ever-charming scooter was born when the patent was filed on April 23, 1946, in post-war Italy.

The story began with two brothers. Armando and Enrico Piaggio, who headed an aeronautical firm during the 40s. Having had their original factory in Pontedera bombed to bits by the Allies, they decided to diversify after the war ended. The Italian market was in dire need of modern, cheap transport. And so the company initially produced a small motorbike named MP5.

The Original Vespa MP5

The patent spoke of a "practical model, with rationally placed parts" and a "comfortable motorcycle, protecting from mud and dust, without sacrificing appearance and elegance". All of which is still visibly respected by the modern day Vespas.

It wasn't well-liked by Enrico, and it was quickly nicknamed "Paperino" - Donald Duck, due to it's unsightly look. The engineer inside Enrico absolutely hated the motorbikes of the time, largely due to their lack of reliability, and a filthy and bulky nature. Subsequently, Corradino D'Ascanio was employed to redesign the ugly duckling.

Corradino D'Ascanio

He came up with a new iteration - the MP6. The scooter now had the 98cc two-stroke engine mounted alongside the rear wheel which, instead of being chain driven, was directly connected with the transmission. The idea of a scooter was now much cleaner, and more appealing.

It had both interchangeable wheels, and even a spare wheel. A very simple design, featuring a step-through frame, with stress bearing steel panels, and a single-side suspension in the front. It was also one of the first motorbikes with a monocoque design - which later became the standard on modern motorcycles.

The re-designed MP6

It didn't take long to take off, as the company sold sixty thousand units between 1947 and 1950.

In 1953, the adorable little bike got an enormous boost, when none other than Audrey Hepburn rode on Gregory-Peck's Vespa in the Hollywood classic - Roman Holiday. And just like that, the entire city, and its scooter of choice became associated with "la dolce vita".

By the end of the 50s, the Vespa was being manufactured all over Europe, under a licence, of course. Reaching two million sales by the end of the next decade.

As the meteoric rise in sales and popularity went further, the little scooter got upgrades in form of 50 and 125cc engines, much to the enjoyment of it's younger users.

With the design still loyal to it's original iteration, the Vespa is popular to this day Nearly two million units were produced in the 2010s.

To mark it's special 75th birthday, the company is releasing a 75th Special Edition Series. There will be two models available - Primavera and GTS.

The 75th Special Edition

Both will be made with a metalic yellow livery, a throwback to the popular color of the 40s, with a darker "75" across the engine cover. It comes with a nubuck leather saddle, with matching rims, and a number of chrome details. As well as a custom leather bag that is fitted in the back of the luggage compartment.

The special edition Vespa will arrie with a welcome kit, including an owner's book, with postcards from the nearly eighty years of it's history, as well as a steel Vespa plate, and a silk scarf to top it off.

If you are a fan of the scooter, there is a great museum in Pontedera - Museo Piaggio, which is also completely free to visit.

Zdravko Anticic
Zdravko Anticic
zdravko@granturismo.org

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Locations mentioned in the story

Museo Piaggio
It was here, in 1946, that the Vespa was invented.
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