The Vespa is a motorcycle scooter line first manufactured in Pontedera (Italy) in 1946 by Piaggio & Co, S.p.A.
The presentation of the first 15 Vespa motorcycles took place in April of 1946 in the Golf Club of Rome. The parents of the new motorcycle were the entrepreneur Enrico Piaggio and the aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio. At the end of World War II, Piaggio had the vision of a comfortable, easy-to-handle and cheap means of transport. Piaggio commissioned a first project to engineer Renzo Spoli, in which the new vehicle is called Paperino, which means duckling in Italian, with a design inspired by the folding motorcycles used by English paratroopers. The project of the first prototype did not convince Piaggio and turned to the aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio.
The engineer, who liked planes more than motorcycles, designed a vehicle of revolutionary aspect for his time: he put the engine on the rear wheel and devised the front arm thinking about the landing gear of an airplane.
Piaggio continues to manufacture the Vespa today, although the Vespa was a much more prevalent vehicle in the fifties and sixties as it was chosen by the UK youth culture known as Mods, and later Skin Heads. The classic Vespas had unicorporal chassis pressed steel sheets, with body covering the legs to protect them from rain and mud. The engine was completely covered by a steel hood to protect against heat. Piaggio revolutionized the two-wheeled industry with the Vespa and produced a model in which virtually all other scooters have since been based.
The older scooters (traditional models) have manual gear shifts, controlled by turning the left handlebar while pushing the clutch lever and choosing between 3 or 4 gears. These traditional Vespa always had two-stroke engines, requiring a mixture of oil and gasoline to lubricate the piston and cylinder. In the early stages of its production and until the development of better materials and more efficient lubricants, the mixture of oil in the fuel produced large amounts of smoke.
The Vespa in United States
Increasing environmental restrictions forced Piaggio to leave the US market in 1985. The Vespas would have completely disappeared from the American scene were it not for the enthusiasts who kept the classic scooters on the road, rebuilding and restoring them. Vespa returned to the American market in 2001 with a new style, more modern, and offers several models with automatic transmissions and use four-stroke engines. First came the ET2 (50 cc) and the ET4 (150 cc), then later the Granturismo 200 and now a reborn PX 150. The successors of these models are the current scooter like the Piaggio X9 250 cc or the Aprilia SR 50 cc (With 50 cc).