As we all know, the Piaggio Vespa is the ultimate emblem of what Italians call ‘La bella vita’ (translated as: the good life). However, Vespa was not always as elegant and trendy as we have come to know it today. In fact, the engineers of Piaggio built many prototypes with different chassis and frames, that experimented with the scooter’s versatility. Quicky read on to discover the examples.
Toy-like, yet ingenious, the Vespa motor scooter made its public debut in 1946 at Milan Design fair. The first 100 were very difficult to sell but, in 1953, when Audrey Hepburn made her big screen debut alongside Gregory Peck in the Hollywood flick Roman Holiday that Vespa got real world fame. In the film, Hepburn’s character in search of excitement, hops on board a Vespa and runs fearlessly through the streets of Rome. From that day, Vespa got an increase in sales of more than 100,000 units just after the screening of the movie.
Vespa 125 Corsa “Alloy Frame”
In 1949 Vespa was first built with a race chassis which was made from the same aluminium alloy used for the construction of aircrafts. A technology which was highly advanced during the 40’s. The fuel tank and steering position gave the rider more autonomy, which resulted in the optimization of high speed riding. Vespa 125cc Corsa participated to many competitions and celebrated many prestigious victories in 1950.
Photo credits: Vespa
Vespa Monthlery To promote the sporty image of Vespa, Piaggio shifted the focus towards breaking new records. On April 7th 1950, at the French circuit of Montlhery, during 10 hours of testing, Vespa won the world record for the 100 mile race (average speed 129.7 km/h), 500 mile race (average speed 123.9 km/h), and the 1,000 mile race (average speed 124.3 km/h).
Vespa Siluro In 1951 Vespa broke its most prestigious record: the flying kilometer. On February 9th, between the 10th and the 11th kilometer of the motorway of Rome, Vespa Siluro ran the flying kilometer with a record time of 21.4 seconds with an average speed of 171.1 km/ h (106.25 mph).
Vespa Alpha This vehicle was used in the movie “Dick Smart, Agent 2007” starring Richard Wyler, Margaret Lee and Rosanna Tapados. This is the Vespa 180 Super Sport transformed by Piaggio and the English Alpha Willis. This scooter in the movie was capable of running on the road, flying like a helicopter as well as being a submarine.
Vespa 150 T.A.P. The French Ministry of Defense, in the fifties, commissioned Piaggio France to develop a vehicle for military use. The result was a very special Vespa of which there were only about 600 produced from 1956 to 1959. Used by the Foreign Legion and the Parachute Corps, the Vespa TAP was equipped with a 75mm gun, capacity for additional ammunition, two cans of fuel and a small cart. It was produced in two camouflage colours: green and sand. Despite the weight of 115 kg the Vespa TAP could reach a speed of 66 km / h, with a range of 200 km.