“Not just a scooter, a way of life.” This is the slogan of the iconic Italian brand Vespa, most suitable for the world’s number one scooter producer.
The company was founded by Rinaldo Piaggio in 1884, and at first, it produced carriages, switching to aircraft production years later. In 1917, the company expanded their facilities by building a new plant in Pisa. In 1921. Piaggio acquired another factory in Pontedera, where they produced bomber plane engines. This factory became a strategic target during the Second World War, so on 31st August 1943, it was destroyed.
After the war, Enrico Piaggio, Rinaldo’s son, established the new Piaggio company in April 1946, in Florence, and built a new factory with the help of the Allied forces. Enrico saw the need of the masses for an affordable and small vehicle, which can be used on the damaged Italian roads. Inspired by the Cushman motorcycles, which were dropped by parachutes by the Allied Forces, in 1944 Enrico ordered the Piaggio engineers to design a scooter. They created a prototype named MP5, better known as Paperino.
Enrico was not satisfied with the looks of the scooter, so he asked the aeronautical engineer, Corradino D’Ascanio, for a redesign. In 1946, the MP6 model was created, and when presented to Enrico, it was immediately called “Vespa” by the owner himself. The Italian term “Vespa” means “wasp,” and its name was given due to the looks and the sound of the vehicle. On 23rd April 1946, the scooter was patented in the Central Patents Office in Florence, and the production began. The Vespa was an instant success, and it became famous soon after the launch. 13 years since the creation of the Vespa, there were one million scooters sold. Today, this number has increased to over 16 million. Many other manufacturers tried to copy the Vespa and produce their scooters, but none of them had the beauty and durability of the Italian scooter.
Vespa has had many models through the years, used for many purposes. However, there is one model which will remain known as the most dangerous scooter ever made: the Vespa TAP 150. Ordered by the French military in 1950’s, Vespa TAP 150 was produced by ACMA, the licensed French manufacturer of Vespa models. The model was first introduced in 1956 and enhanced in 1959. The TAP 150 was planned to be used in the Indochine and Algerian conflicts by the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP), hence the name of the model. Three companies entered the competition: Valmobile 100, the Bernardet 250 and the modified Vespa. The Vespa won, so approximately 500 pieces of this model were assembled by ACMA.
The TAP 150 had a reinforced frame, a 146 cm³ single cylinder, two-stroke engine and could develop a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour. The TAP was equipped with an M20, a light anti-armour cannon, which could penetrate an armor with 100 mm thickness, thanks to the HEAT warhead attached to it. The Vespa was supposed to serve only as a transport method for the cannon, although it was possible to fire the gun while mounted on the scooter.
This artillery was not very useful against the tanks in the Indochine conflict but proved itself as quite useful against lightly armored targets in the Algerian War. The TAP was constructed to be dropped in pairs from a plane with a parachute. The bikes were mounted on palettes and protected with haystacks. One of the scooters carried the cannon, while the other carried the ammo, so they were operated by two men teams. The TAP 150 was ready to be used instantly, and due to its mobility, it was a very effective weapon. A trailer carrying additional items was often attached to the moped, and it also had a tripod for the cannon. The Vespa TAP 150’s construction was very cheap, with an estimated cost of 500$, so it was the perfect weapon for anti-guerilla warfare.
The Bazooka Vespa was not the first military motorcycle produced by Enrico Piaggio. At the beginning of the 1950’s, he introduced Vespa Force Armate to the army. Although the bike met the NATO standards, Enrico Piaggio himself quit the negotiations in 1952, stating he does not want to deal with the state and the military. The Vespa TAP 150 was used only in Indochine and Algeria and, after that, it was dismissed from service.
Today, the Piaggio group is one of the largest producers of motorcycles in the world, with more than 70,000 employees and operations established in over 50 countries. Piaggio owns eight different motorcycle brands, but Vespa is the jewel in their crown, still faithful to their traditional design and incomparably beautiful to any other scooter.
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 AlphaThis 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.
From indigenous people of the Arctic to Quadrophenia, by way of the US military and then indie bands, the parka has proved itself to be more than just a practical winter coat. Its name is the sole word in English derived from Nenets, the language spoken in the Arctic north of Russia close to where the parka originated. The Parka was originally designed and worn by hunters in the Arctic regions for protection against the freezing temperatures and wind.Typically made from caribou or sealskin and trimmed with fur, the hooded Inuit jacket is the model for today’s parkas, which first came to prominence in the 1950s when the US military developed the N-3B snorkel parka.In the 1960s the Fishtail Parka became popular with the Mods, wearing it to protect smarter clothes underneath when riding their scooters. As popular today as it was in the 60’s and manufactured by many of the top brands the Parka seems like it’s here to stay!
The Fishtail Parka
The fishtail parka was first used by the United States Army in 1950 to help protect soldiers from the elements in the Korean War. Following the end of the Second World War the US army recognized the need for a new cold weather system for fighting in as the existing kit was inadequate; the fishtail parka solution was the result of a concerted design effort.
There are four main styles of fishtail parkas: the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65. The M stands for military, and the number is the year it was standardized. The EX-48 model was the first prototype or “experimental” precursor to all of them. The M-48 then being the first actual production model fishtail parka after the pattern being standardised on December 24, 1948.
The name fishtail comes from the fish tail extension at the back that could be folded up between the legs, much like a Knochensack, and fixed using snap connectors to add wind-proofing. The fishtail was fixed at the front for warmth or folded away at the back to improve freedom of movement when needed.
The EX-48 parka is distinctive as it has a left sleeve pocket and is made of thin poplin, only the later production M-48 parkas are made of the heavier sateen canvas type cotton. The EX-48 also has a thin fibre glass based liner that is very light and warm, the M-48 has a thicker wool pile liner with an integral hood liner made of wool. Both are distinguishable from any other type of parka by having the sleeve pocket. This was dropped for the M-51 onward The fur ruff on the hood is also fixed to the shell of an EX-48/M-48 and is of wolf, coyote or often wolverine. The M-48 parka was costly to produce and therefore only in production for around one year. The pockets were wool lined both inside and out. The cuffs had two buttons for securing tightly around a wearer’s wrist. The later more mass-produced M-51 parka had just the one cuff button. The liner had a built in chest pocket which again was unique to the M-48 parka.
The next revision was the M-51, made because the M48 was so good and of such high quality it was just too expensive to mass-produce.
The outer hood of the M-51 Fishtail Parka is integral to the parka shell, an added hood liner as well as a button in main liner make the M-51 a versatile 3 piece parka. The idea behind this 3 part system was to enable a more customisable parka that allowed for easier cleaning of the shell as the hood fur was on the detachable hood liner, not fixed to the shell as in the M-48. It also allowed for both liners to be buttoned in or our depending on the temperature and hence warmth required. It was also cheaper than the M-48 to mass-produce The early M-51 was made of heavy sateen cotton, the same material as the M-48. Later revisions of the M-51 were poplin based. The later liners were also revised from the “heavy when wet” wool pile to a lighter woolen loop or frieze wool design that dried easier and were far lighter. The frieze liners were constructed of mohair and were designed using a double loop system which repelled cold weather.
The M-65 fishtail parka has a detachable hood and was the last revision. It features a removable quilted liner made of light nylon / polyester batting which are modern synthetic materials. The M-65 fishtail parka first came in to production in 1968. These parkas featured synthetic fur on the hoods after an outcry from the fur lobby. As a result, only hoods for these parkas made in 1972 and for one year later have real fur.
Designed primarily for combat arms forces such as infantry, they are to be worn over other layers of clothing; alone, the fishtail parka is insufficient to protect against “dry cold” conditions (i.e. below about -10 °C). As such all fishtail parkas are big as they were designed to be worn over battle dress and other layers.
In the 1960s UK, the fishtail parka became a symbol of the mod subculture. Because of their practicality, cheapness and availability from army surplus shops, the parka was seen as the ideal garment for fending off the elements and protecting smarter clothes underneath from grease and dirt when on the mod’s vehicle of choice, the scooter. Its place in popular culture was assured by newspaper pictures of parka-clad mods during the Bank Holiday riots of the 1960s.
OK, this is super-interesting, because it’s non-trivial.
When a fluid moves around a body, the fluid flows around the body in a predictable manner. In particular, at the point where the fluid first encounters the body there is a phenomenon known as the bow wave effect. This is the tendency of the fluid to move outwards and around the body in advance of the leading edge of the body:
Now, here’s the important thing: Most of the fluid is in what is called laminar flow, meaning that it flows along the surface at more or less the speed of the fluid. But at the boundary layer, in particular the leading edge boundary, the turbulence causes the fluid to create a small vacuum. So in the area in green above, there is almost no flow at all.
Now, what does this have to do with parkas and fur trim? Well, it turns out that the bow wave effect is proportional to the area of the leading edge of the object that the flow is around. Or, to put this another way, the fur trim on a parka increases the effective area of the leading edge, leading to a larger bow wave effect and hence the creation of a zone of calm area right in front of your exposed face.
I myself have experienced the difference between parkas with and without fur trim many, many times, and the the difference is startling. Particularly when the wind is head-on, parkas with fur trim make the difference between relative comfort and rapid frostbite.
So, what’s super interesting is that while I know the exact answer to this question, and this was widespread knowlege of this in the arctic, there does not appear to be any literature on the subject. This would make a great Masters (or even PhD) thesis, and best of all you could do it in Engineering, Anthropology, Fashion… the possibilities are endless. I can even see the title now: Percieved and Actual Cooling As A Function Of Fur Trim-Induced Bow Wave Effects in Traditional Inuit Garments: An Empirical Approach.
My recent jaunt to Turin for Euro Vespa brought back home the pleasure of riding a scooter abroad, and as more and more people are looking across the water we thought we’d give you some advice on scootering on the continent.
The other side
Of course there’s no denying that you can get beautiful scenery right here in Great Britain, but all too often many of us tend to take the same, direct and boring route to a regular rally venue and little else. Besides, it just doesn’t seem as exotic as it does abroad.
Now you may think that it’s simply a matter of crossing the Channel and riding on the wrong side of the road, which is true to a certain extent, Fingers crossed, and the Best of British, and you could read no further. lf however you decide to err on the side of caution, here’s few tips you may find useful should you decide to go continental…
Before you go
lf you’re going to do it properly, then there’s some paperwork you need to look at first. To begin with, to ride in Europe you must hold a full driving licence.
Next, although most motor insurance policies these days do include some sort of green card cover (for travelling abroad), it’s always best to double check this before you go.
Another thing well worth its weight in gold is travel insurance, as this can help iron out a whole load of problems should you have an accident or your baggage gets stolen. Again, check the small print to insure the policy covers you to ride a scooter abroad (many don’t).The Post Office do such a policy quite cheaply and they also have application forms for your E111, European medical card – another essential.
It’s always advisable to plan your route before departure too, although ignoring it does add an extra element to the adventure! Whatever you decide, sticking a list of town names to your scoot will alleviate the need to stop and examine a map at every major road junction!
Prepping the scoot
A GB sticker on your scooter and a spare set of light bulbs are compulsory in some countries, and do make sense, as does bringing your driving license, green-card insurance and vehicle registration document along with your passport (it could prove vital if stopped by the police). Then, according to certain websites like the AA (www.theaa.com/motoringadvice/overseas), you get into things like emergency triangles, fluorescent jackets etc, and basically you discover each country has its own laws. If you’re really worried, the best thing is to browse a couple of websites before you go.
Then make sure your scooter’s had a recent service. Regarding spares, well this is potentially a bottomless pit. Vespa owners should be able to buy most average spares from the vast amount of Piaggio dealers throughout Europe- in theory. Personally I take the obvious like cables, nipples, bulbs, common-sized nuts and bolts, inner tube, etc, and I’d consider taking parts like clutch plates and the relevant tools because even if you don’t know how to change them yourself, you may well find someone en route who does. Swarfega wet wipes and surgical gloves are a good idea too!
As for vehicle recovery, make sure you’ve got some! Everyone has stories as to who is good and who is not, but whatever you choose, check the small print of any policy you may have to make sure it gives the cover you want with regards to the scooter’s size, location, destination and recovery costs.
Finally, minimalist packing is always better than including the kitchen sink. And remember when loading to evenly distribute your luggage around the scooter, front and back, rather than piling it all on at one end. This should have a less detrimental effect on handling and the carriers.Oh and wrap it all in plastic bags in case it rains, and consider packing some spare gloves too!
Crossing the water
There’s a variety of ways of getting across the water, although I noted with all ferry companies that you couldn’t book more than one vehicle at a time via the internet which is usually cheaper than booking by telephone.
Over the last few months I’ve tried three different companies, and these are my findings.
Sea France operates almost the same as P&O, Dover to Calais, but are slightly cheaper and with slightly fewer crossings per day. It seems a bargain on paper, but to be honest I’m not too sure now.
After being directed onto the boat we found the special motorcycle racks used by Sea France to secure bikes during the sailings were not suitable for our scooters, catching the Lambretta’s engine and fouling both front mudguards. This didn’t go down well with a couple of French staff and eventually we found ourselves parked in an alcove on the side of the coach deck with minimal straps to secure the scooters.
SeaFrance’s reply to these observations was: “Our existing facilities were designed with co-operation from motorcycling groups to suit their needs. They were not designed specifically with scooters in mind, as the demand for crossings from this form of transport is negligible. However, having had this matter brought to our attention, we will look at how the system might be improved for scooters.
“Whether for a car, coach, lorry or two-wheeled vehicle, all bookings are made for a single vehicle and its occupants. Internet booking facilities will not allow groups of any vehicles to book together because each vehicle is treated as a separate entity- as is the case with all cross-Channel operators.”
Speed Ferries operate a single faster ferry from Dover to Boulogne, a little further west along the coast from Calais. In a nutshell they can be commended on their speedy service which takes less than an hour, a journey made more pleasurable by the absence of hordes of foot and coach passengers, and indeed heavy freight vehicles. The price at the time of travelling (£9 to £19 per single crossing) was a bargain, though facilities on board are minimal. However with only five crossings per day, and the fact they only accommodate eight bikes per sailing (the bikes secured using cushions and ratchet straps), unlike P&O for example, if you miss your sailing or return earlier than planned there is no guarantee as to what boat you will get on.
Speed Ferries response to these comments were: “Regarding internet bulk bookings I do see your point and this is an area we are looking into. We are working towards changing the features of our booking system to allow customers more options and services online. Until we have such features in place though, customers are always welcome to contact our call centre to check availability on specific departures.
“Regarding the limitations of motorcycles per departure; we have eight spaces available for motorcycles, which do not interfere with the loading of cars. If we allow more motorcycles per departure it will slow down our loading process, as bikes do take longer to load because they have to be strapped down. As you yourself mention, Speed Ferries only operate one vessel so far, which means that turnaround times are tight. Carrying more than eight motorcycles could delay turnaround times considerably and cause delays in our daily schedule.”
I’ve also used the Norfolk line (Dover to Dunkerque), which is cheap, although the initial trip out was a farce regarding the loading of bikes. Two on at a time until secured it seemed, and it took ages. The boat was an older ferry and as such not as fancy as others, but that was reflected in the food prices too—a veritable bargain by cross-Channel standards. As rough as the crossing was (very!), the bikes remained upright (ratchet straps and padding again). The return sailing was on a more modern ferry — cleaner, brighter, and more expensive to eat and drink on. Norfolk Line have made no comment about these remarks.
Although not having used P&O recently myself, we did invite them to say something, which they did. “We count our two-wheeled customers in the tens of thousands so it’s very straightforward. Foam, straps and tender loving care take care of securing them. I prefer to fasten my own bike, yet my on-board colleagues will assist —and they’re doing this all the time with some machines that are worth a small fortune.
“Every category of vehicle is limited, although we had nearly 300 bikes on the Pride of Rotterdam going over for Assen last week. But we do have to work out a balance of traffic. Every person ticks one off the legal passenger capacity of the ship. To take it to the very extreme, we could fill a ship with scooter riders and their machines. That would leave the vehicle decks virtually empty, but we’d be unable to take a single truck (half our business) or coach, or car etc, because we’d be out of passenger space. There’s no hard and fast answer, but when it’s really busy we’ve a greater degree of flexibility for a scooter and a couple of people than say a coach and 52 passengers.
“This explains why you can’t just get on the Internet and grab half the ship for a particular type of traffic. But the tip is that once a decent size group travels, around the 20 mark, we’ll quote a group rate anyway.”
So there you go, and remember that whichever way you choose to get your scooter to Europe, booking as far in advance as possible will save you money as well as hopefully get you onto the crossing you want. Always check the small print too, as altering your ticket can cost quite a bit, although for a few extra pounds you can buy a flexible ticket to start with.
Thankfully the amount of mopeds and scooters in Europe meant that we had no problem find either semi or fully synthetic oil in French or Italian petrol stations. Granted, if you insist on slicking to a certain brand like Silkolene or Rock Oil you’re going to have to search, but even in a remote part of France we stopped at a small car dealership that had a couple of petrol pumps to fill up and found they stocked fully synthetic two-stroke.
And as we’re on the subject of petrol stations, there are plenty of them on the continent, although there are less 24 hour manned locations than here in the UK. Off the motorway, it’s not uncommon to find smaller stations closed for lunch and indeed on Sunday. Come the evening, some of the bigger stations close for the night as well. When darkness falls you are left with a number of options, and they vary depending on country and location. Many countries have automated pumps at night, which can be paid for in a variety of ways. In France for example we encountered payment by fuel cards only, while others accepted ordinary credit cards. In Italy we also found pumps into which you fed paper money (5,10, 20 euro notes) and then the pump dispensed that amount of fuel, so be prepared if riding outside normal office hours.
Regarding grades of fuel, both normal unleaded (95) and 98 octane petrol was available, it’s also worth noting that in Belgium we had trouble getting money from bank cash machines after hours, until a friendly focal informed us that many lobby services are only available to holders of local bank accounts.
Finally, in Europe they measure tyre pressure in ‘bar’ and not psi. 1psi = 0.06895 bar, and for example 18psi =1.24 bar and 32psi = 2.21 bar.
Passes and tunnels
We casually assumed that Col de l’ Iseran would be clear in June but were informed on reaching the peak that they’d only removed the last of the snow and opened it just 24 hours earlier!
And while we’re at the top of a mountain, the thin air almost 3km above sea level played havoc with the carburettor’s mixture on our two-stroke engines, We changed nothing on our standard Vespas and although they struggled towards the end, made it to the top. Other motors, especially those which are tuned, may behave differently, so it may be advisable to contact whoever built your engine with regards to altering jetting or airscrew mixture en route.
The same goes for tunnels through the mountains, check them all out before you go is the advice, and be prepared for them to cost; €20.20 was what it cost us per bike to use the 14km long Frejus Tunnel.
On motorways in Italy you are not allowed to ride on a scooter that is less than 150cc and the same goes for travelling through the Frejus tunnel, a bit hypocritical of course as a vintage 150cc Model D Lambretta is easily out performed by a 125cc Vespa T5, but them’s the rules. As a hint, the only time we were challenged was when entering the tunnel and then the two of us were on PX200s. Of course with no badges on the scooter it would be difficult for anyone to know…
Speed limits also apply in Europe, unfortunately, and they are approximately on a par with those in the UK, although those with tuned engines should note that in France the maximum speed on a motorway is reduced in bad weather conditions (and in France radar detectors are illegal). Static speed cameras can be found throughout Europe, though less so in Italy, and on our recent excursions it was only in France that we encountered policemen with portable speed guns. While rumours suggest that foreign police may not chase those who trip static speed cameras back to the UK, from personal and friends’ experience both Swiss and French police will happily relieve you of cash on the spot at a mobile speed trap.
Fixing a flat on a scooter is an easy project. The design of both wheels on a Vespas and the rear wheel on a Lambretta makes it very easy to remove the tire and rim to change it. On a Vespa both wheels are single sided meaning the forks or engine is on one side and the other side is free. On a Lambretta the rear tire is single sided but the front has fork connections on either side – click for a link to the Lambretta front tire change page. Also both scooters halve split rims which allows you to get access to the tube without having to get the tire off the rim like a car.
Tools – You will need:
A 13mm socket & driver or a 13 mm wrench (Vespa)
Two spacer blocks (or a deep sockets)
The first step is to remove the wheel and rim from the hub. The pictures below show this being done on the front wheel of a pre P-range Vespa. To remove the front wheel find the five wheel nuts on the hub side of the wheel and remove them. The tire sometimes takes a little wiggling to get it clear of the body work.
Once the wheel is removed remove any extra air from the tube by pressing in the small needle at the center of the air valve stem.
Flip the tire over and remove the five 13mm nuts which hold the two steel rims together. Be aware that the two halves are different widths and the wheel must go back on the bike in the same direction. The final step in this guide shows the correct wheel/rim/hub installation.
Usually the tire will have a very strong grip on either side on the wheel rim halves. There is no need to remove the tire from the rim as the rims can be separated with spacer to allow removal of the old tube. I use deep sockets as shown in the image below but anything would do.
Remove the old tube by pulling it out. You can patch the existing tube but I usually use a new tube. To find a leak in an old tube, inflate it slightly and put it in the kitchen sink. Rotate the tube so that every part of it goes underwater. The leak will be evident by bubbles in the water and it can then be patched.
Before reinstalling the tube, carefully run your hand around the inside face of the tire to make sure that whatever gave you the leak in the first place is not still lodged in the tire. Sometimes glass or a nail can remain punched through the tire and do the same thing to the new tube.
The valve stem is the best place to start feeding in the new tube. It is helpful to put a bit of air in the tube prior to this because it is more easy to handle. The valve stem needs to be pushed through the wider side of the rim so that the valve head protrudes on the thin side of the two rim halves.
Carefully close the two rim halves and be sure not to pinch the inner tube. Tighten the five nuts to secure the two rim halves. Inflate the tire to 18 PSI for the front or 25 – 35 PSI for the back. If you regularly ride with two people use the higher number.
Below is a shot of the correct way a Vespa rim should be mounted to be sure the wheel will be centered properly. If it reversed the wheel will not fall on the centerline of the bike.
Gang fights have gone on in Britain for centuries; but in the mid-1960s a tribal element arrived on the scene in the form of Mods and Rockers.
Mods were cool: they wore Italian-style suits beneath badge-bedecked parkas; they had carefully coiffed hair; rode Lambretta and Vespa scooters; and listened to new bands like The Who and The Small Faces and ska greats like Prince Buster. Rockers were grungier: they wore leathers as befitted ton-up bikers; had long and often greasy hair; and were fans of Elvis, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent.
The two tribes went to war first – at least in a large scale fight – in Clacton over Easter 1964. But the Whitsun weekend of May 18 and 19 saw things escalate hugely. There were battles in Broadstairs , Bournemouth , Hastings , Margate , Clacton again, and most notably in Brighton . Thousands from each side had gathered in theory for a seaside break that turned into turf battles: deckchairs were a weapon of convenience; flick-knives favoured by many Mods; bike-chains by Rockers. As ever the poor police stood between the factions and had bottles thrown at them.
Middle Britain panicked into thinking civilisation was coming to an end. It didn’t; but hundreds of teenagers were fined, and some had short prison sentences for their part in the violence.