Vintage Vespa scooters
Vintage Vespa scooters are motorized scooters produced by the Italian manufacturer Piaggio, from the mid 1940s up until the 1970s. Models produced from 1980 onwards are ‘modern’, rather than ‘vintage’ examples.
Piaggio was established in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio, and initially found success manufacturing railway carriages and locomotives. The company adapted to build aircraft during the First World War, and continued to do so up until the end of World War II during which time one of its manufacturing plants was destroyed during a bombing raid.
In the aftermath of the Second World War Piaggio was faced with two important market factors – the Italian economy was weak, and a large percentage of Italian roads were in a bad state of disrepair. The company decided to develop an affordable mode of transportation to combat these factors, and asked designer Corradino D'Ascanio to assist them.
D'Ascanio created a scooter that met the main design criteria: a cheap form of transport for both men and women, that can carry a passenger and keep the driver’s clothes clean. Upon seeing the final prototype, company boss Enrico Piaggio (son of Rinaldo) proclaimed it to resemble a wasp, or ‘vespa’ in Italian. The scooter was launched in 1946, and made its debut to the public at the Milan Fair.
Popularity of the Vespa
After an initially slow start, the Vespa exploded in the public consciousness in the 1950s when it was featured being ridden by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the 1952 film ‘Roman Holiday’. By the end of the year the Vespa club had more than 50,000 members worldwide, and sales had hit the 100,000 mark for the year (rising from 60,000 in 1950).
During the 1950s Vespas were manufactured under license across Europe, and by 1956 1 million models had been sold. By 1960 this figure had doubles, and production was underway in South America, India and Asia. By 1970 the company had sold 4 million models, rising to 10 million by the late 1980s.
Vintage Vespa scooter models popular with modern collectors include:
- Vespa 98
- Vespa 125 Utility
- Vespa 150 GS
- Vespa Super Sprint 90
- Vespa 125 Primavera
Collecting vintage Vespa scooters
One of the rarest Vespa models ever built is the Vespa Super Sprint, a cut down factory racer built between 1965 and 1971. Due to the prohibitive manufacturing costs of these models, only 5309 examples were produced and today models in good condition can sell for up to £9,000.
One of the rarest and most sought after models is the original 1946 Vespa 98 scooter. Only a handful are known to still exist, and the best examples can sell for more than $50,000.
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