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Italian Scooters

Italian Scooters

For many people, the scooter is one of the most interesting kinds of vehicle that you can drive. Seen as innovative and minimalist, they are often the go-to choice for drivers who want simplicity, sleekness, and speed. A motorcycle can be an off-putting driving experience for anyone who is not used to fast speeds and breakneck pace. With the help of the scooter, you can often get a much more comfortable, friendly driving experience. That is why scooters have managed to grow to such popularity. Why, though?

The Italian vehicle of choice

As you might know, though, Italian scooters have long been the top name in the industry. Their illustrious history and their innovative nature helped to make the Italian scooter the starting point for so many. While in the UK the ‘Mod’ scene probably helped to popularise scooters more, Italians have been driving these vehicles around for many, many years. The scooter first came to be in 1947 as a cheap alternative to driving in post-war Europe.

With much of the continent left destitute and in poor financial health post-war, the scooter was made. Many people could not afford a card but wanted to get around and out of town. So, the scooter became the cheap, low-cost option for so many people. However, the scooter was mostly popularised by the work of a few particular people.

Let’s take a look at who made Italian scooters the part of automotive legend that they have become today.

The genius of Genoa

The scooter came to be in 1947, but its origins stared a fair while before that came to be. Thanks to Rinaldo Piaggio, we got the Piaggio company. Founded in 1884 in the city of Genoa, the Piaggio family would become major legacy names in the scooter industry. Rinaldo Piaggio worked with his team to build luxurious, stylish ship fittings. Alongside this, Piaggio was also working on things like vans, coaches, trams, and even truck bodies.

The outbreak of World War I brought a whole new range of products to be worked on. They started to get involved in the creation of aircraft, including seaplanes. They were growing all the time, with various factories opening up elsewhere across Italy – including in Pisa.

However, it wasn’t until after the Second World War that things really changed for the Italian firm. Post-WW2, they invented the Vespa.

Enter the Vespa

The Vespa, as you may know, is the Italian term for wasp. They came to be after the war as many people simply couldn’t afford to buy a car. In their massive Pontedera plant, they build stunning P108 four-engines, equipped with a whopping 1500BHP. This was for the use in their passenger and bomber aircraft. In 1943, though, major factories belonging to the Italians were bombed and destroyed.

With much of the grounds now under Allied occupation, it was left to Enrico Piaggio to find a solution. He and Armando Piaggio began to work hand in hand to rebuild their fallen empire. Working to restore plants in both Pisa and Pontedera, this opened up a unique opportunity for the family.

Entering into the light mobility business, they worked alongside Corradino D’Ascanio, and the motor scooter came to be a real thing. It was built on a small motorcycle that was made for parachute experts. The first scooter was affectionally known as the Paperino – the Donald Duck.

However, Enrico was no fan of the design and asked for a change. Despite not being a fan of motorcycles himself, D’Ascanio managed to solve issue after issue. The adjustments that made the scooter unique – like having the gear level on the handlebar – was included. It was also designed to help protect the driver from dirtiness as they rode.

The refinements were made, and the first drawings of the Vespa soon turned to prototypes. By April 1946, the first Vespa was produced. The name comes from the fact that Enrico Piaggio found it to have wasp-like features in its design.

An amazing opportunity

While it was seen as a touch controversial by the general public in Italy, it was soon widely seen as one of the best motor vehicles on the road. Two thousand Vespa 98 cc units were produced, and it was presented to the Allied military general, General Stone.

It was introduced via Motor magazine in March 1946, as well as in La Motor the following month. While some believed it was a ludicrous invention, others believed it was a stunning idea and one that was sure to take hold of the market.  By 1948, over 19,000 Vespa models were in production. By the 1950s, they exceeded 150,000 models produced.

While the Vespa is not the only major Italian scooter out there, it’s become the go-to choice for many when thinking about the history of scooters. Were it not for the hard work and planning of the Piaggio family, the scooter might never come to be.

The Vespa was soon sold across Europe, and then across the world. It was, without doubt, the leading name in Italian scooter manufacturing. Soon to follow would be companies as diverse as the Lambretta (now bankrupt), the Derbi, the Gilera and the Aprilia. Today, most of these companies now full under different banners, with Piaggio now owning both Derbi, Gilera and Aprilia.

Do I have to buy a classic Italian scooter?

Not at all! You don’t even have to stick with one of the classic Italian brands.

For example, today you can pick up many Italian scooter styles that are not made by the big brands. One fine example of this is the 50cc Milan scooter and 125cc Milan scooter sold by Direct Bikes. These are high quality, modern Italian scooters. They carry the look and style that you would expect of a modern scooter, without any branding to attract the attention of the wrong people.

If you are looking to invest in some Italian scooters, then keep in mind that you don’t always have to go for the ‘big brands’. While they have a rich and illustrious history, other brands have managed to capture that Italian style perfectly. If you worry that your budget might not stretch to a ‘classic’ Italian scooter, start with the above.

It might just help you to get your hands on an Italian scooter design that you’ll own for many years.