Vespa scooters are made in Italy by a company named Piaggio. They started out with one single model, and now they offer a full line of scooters. Piaggio owns seven companies now, and they are the largest European manufacturer of scooters and motorcycles. They rank fourth in the world in sales, by their number of units sold. From the start, the Vespa motor scooter has been recognized for its steel unibody construction, and it combines a full engine cowling with a protective flat floorboard and superior wind protection.
Vespa scooter design drew its inspiration from the Cushman scooters made before World War II. These scooters were olive green in color, and ordered by Washington, DC as a type of field transport for Marines. They were used to get around destroyed bridges and roads in World War II. They designed the vehicle that defined the post-war scooter, easy to drive for women and men alike, and also able to carry an additional person.
This designer created a revolutionary type of vehicle. The front shield helped to keep the rider clean and dry, as compared to motorcycles’ open front ends. The design of the leg area makes it comfortable for men and women both, since women found it difficult to ride a motorcycle in a skirt or dress. The fork in the front allows for easy changing of the wheel. Vespa scooters have an internal transmission that eliminates the need for a chain like a motorcycle has. Various features were designed on the same frame, which allows newer models to make it into production sooner. The basic design of the Vespa scooter allows various features to be found on the same frame.
The original Vespa motor scooter had a rear pillion seat for storage or a passenger. The fuel cap was found under the hinged seat, saving the cost of a fuel cap lock. This scooter used rear suspension and small wheels to give the rider plenty of leg room. The engine acted on the rear drive wheel directly, utilizing a three-speed transmission. The modern Vespa scooter is still cooled with air that is pushed over the cooling fins. The original mixture of oil in the fuel made for a lot of smoke, however, and the engine sounded suspiciously like a wasp – which was appropriate, since Vespa means “wasp” in Italian and Latin.
After the patent for the Vespa was filed in 1946, the company was on its way. The first thirteen scooters were released for review in the Spring of 1946, and they had the look that showed their aeronautical-inspired technology. The company planned to manufacture their scooter in mass quantities, and they had an efficient production line. Road tests proved to be encouraging, and the scooters were more comfortable and easier to maneuver than the traditional motorcycles.
In the 1990’s, crisis had descended on Vespa, and their scooters were only selling slowly. They needed a new model, and the ET model that resulted stayed true to the wasp design. The new models were lighter and more aerodynamic, and were a success in Europe and North America as well. By the 50th anniversary of the company, more than fifteen million Vespa scooters had been sold, around the world.