The Vespa is a line of motor scooters that was first manufactured in Genoa, Italy in 1946 by Piaggio & Co, S.p.A. Piaggio continues to manufacture the Vespa today, although the Vespa was a much more prevalent vehicle in the 1950s and 60s when it became the adopted vehicle of choice for the UK youth-culture known as Mods, and later Skinheads. The classic Vespas had unibody chassis pressed from sheets of steel, with bodywork covering the legs for protection from rain and mud. The engine was covered completely by a steel cowling to appeal to a broader market of people, often turned off by the dirty/greasy stereotype often applied to motorcycles. Piaggio revolutionized the two-wheel industry with the Vespa and provided a model on which nearly every other scooter made since has been based.

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"Skinhead and Scooter"

Most older Vespas have manual transmissions that are controlled by twisting the left handgrip while pulling the clutch lever and selecting between the 3 or 4 gears. They also have had two stroke motors, requiring a mixture of oil with the gasoline in order to lubricate the piston and cylinder. The mixture of oil in the fuel produced high amounts of smoke. Increasing environmental restrictions compelled Piaggio to pull out of the US market in 1985. Vespas would have completely disappeared from the American scene if it weren't for the enthusiasts who kept the vintage scooters on the road by rebuilding and restoring them.

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Bangkok: Vespa in transport business

Vespa returned to the US market in 2001 with a new, more modern style, and offers several models that have automatic transmissions and using both four stroke and cleaner two stroke engines. First came the ET2 (50 cc) and ET4 (150 cc) then later the Granturismo 200 and now a reborn PX 150.

The Vespa is recognized as the epitome of Italian design and with it's elegant lines and classic aesthetics, there is a dramatic increase in the number of urban commuters who have purchased new or restored Vespas. The difficulty with parking, the cost of gasoline are two fundamental motivators for this upswing in Vespa (and other scooter) popularity.

Vespa is Italian for wasp, and it was adopted as a name for the vehicle in reference to its body shape: thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod as the antennae.

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Piaggio was, and is today with Piaggio_Aero, an aircraft factory. After WW2, recognizing the need for conversion to civil market, it approached this idea using internal skill, expertise and spare parts: in the first exemplar one can recognize the typical aircraft technology of molded steel sheets riveted at the edges, the front wheel with lamp was actually a landing gear, the engine was derived from a starter of an airplane engine, attention to aerodynamics is evident in all the design, in particular on the tail.

Fictional people who own Vespas

Princess Vespa was a character in the movie Spaceballs.

Peter Moore's travelogue Vroom with a View, in which a '61 model Australian author tours Italy on a '61 model Vespa, gives some insights into Vespa culture.

See also

es:Vespa it:Vespa_Piaggio ja:ベスパ nl:Vespa


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